3 Elements of Buying a Tripod

Sunpak Tripod

More often than not, blur in photos is a result of movement in the camera.  This means that you are likely shooting with your shutter speed set to open and close more slowly than you can hold it in place to freeze the image in place.  So, it may make sense to think that all you have to do is increase the shutter speed to one where you can hold it long enough, right?  Well, maybe, but there are many scenarios where that option may not be available.

Shooting in low light is often a time when we find ourselves compromising our sharpness by trying to hold our camera slower than what we are capable of in order to capture an image.  Another example would be where you want to smooth the water of an ocean view, a waterfall, or some other water scene.  You may also want to introduce blur in one area of an image (say a race car), while keeping everything else sharp to convey the sense of speed and motion.  In these scenarios, you can do one of a several things to increase the stability of your camera.  One of the most popular is:

Add a monopod or tripod to the equation. 

The reason why the tripod route is popular is because it is also one of the best ways to stabilize a camera, because let’s face it… a stationary object is better at holding our camera steady than we ever will.  If you can’t use a tripod though, monopods are excellent secondary devices at minimizing the movement that may happen when shooting at slow shutter speeds.  Choosing a tripod is a matter of personal preference and there are many things that can tie into your decision including budget, weight, and portability. Let’s consider each of these independently.

  1. Budget: When it comes to budget, a tripod can be as cheap as $20, and can run upwards of $2000! Factors that will come into play include the weight element – carbon fiber is very sturdy, and very lightweight, but very expensive too.  Aluminum counterparts are heavier, and while equally sturdy, you can save money by going with an aluminum equivalent.

Snith Victor

  1. Weight: As just mentioned, weight can have both upsides and downsides.  If you are a landscape shooter, lightweight tripods can easily be blown over by even a slight breeze.  You can ensure stability by going with a heavier tripod, or by weighing it down (some folks use sandbags, camera bags, or other gear to help stabilize a tripod even further), but nothing is 100%.  As you get heavier weights, it also can be a detractor, because now that’s additional weight that you have to carry with you (or maybe it’s your photo assistant, but someone is carrying it!)

Sunpak Tripod

  1. Another factor that comes into play is size.  If you want something small and lightweight, then a tripod that has only 3 collapsing legs might not fit with an on-the-go lifestyle.  You can opt for something smaller and more compact, but stability will be compromised.  For instance, take a look at the popular Gorilla-pods  (I own one and love it).  These are super small, the legs can wrap around anything, but they are not the most stable tripod in the world.  The legs can be contorted, but it also means that striking that perfect balance can be trickier.



It’s all about trade-offs when you go to choose a tripod.  Invariably, people will consider budget first and foremost in their decision (I know I did)… for which tripod to purchase, but I can tell you from experience, that you will quickly migrate from the $20 Wal-Mart one to a $100 one from elsewhere, and ultimately upgrade to a $300-$500 one from one of the big guns out there (i.e. Bogen, Gitzo, Vanguard, etc.).  My one recommendation would be to just go in to the more expensive class first, because you will save yourself a lot of frustration and money in the end.  Ultimately, your photos will be sharper and you’ll get much more gratifiying results because you got the right tool for the job – a tripod!

April Contest Winner, Summer Schedule

April Contest Winner - Sue90CA

Many of you have patiently been awaiting the winner of the April contest winner announcement, as well as the details for the May, er…Summer Contest Announcement, so today is going to answer a lot of questions for these folks!  I am happy to announce first off, that the winner of the April contest is…..(insert drumroll):

April Contest Winner - Sue90CA
 Thanks to all for their contributions – and Sue, you are the winner of the Lightroom 4 DVD from Laura Shoe!  Please drop me a line via email or Flickr msg to have the details coordinated on getting your DVD set to you!
And now, for the Summer schedule….here’s the details you all have been waiting for!
1. Two photos per person
2. Must be work-safe/family-friendly
3. Posted to the Flickr thread
4. Largest side must be no more than 800px or less than 600px (this is only so that the winning image can be displayed well…)
5. Taken within the contest Window of May – July
6. Images must be done by Sunday, JULY 29th!  (Yes, you have nearly 3 months on this contest!)
7. Theme is SUNNY
8. And most importantly, have fun!
So, some special notes for this contest – the winner will proudly claim the DVD prizes I mentioned earlier in the week – a DVD from Ibarionex R Perello and one from Chris Orwig!  The Flickr thread will go live this weekend, but that’s no excuse for starting to take your own shots now!  Any shots from May 1st through July 29th are eligible (and yes, we will continue using the honor system there…)
Good luck to all, and thanks to Laura for the April donation!  See you next Monday!  Happy shooting!

December Bonanza Winner!

Pan Shovel - December Contest Winner

As promised (though a day late, I know…), the winner of the December Bonanza giveaway has been selected, and the annual honors go to PanShovel for his well-thought out image of sharing and cheer during the holiday season:

Pan Shovel - December Contest Winner

Thanks so much to all the participants for your wonderful images of Cheer!  It really did bring a smile to my face going through all the images and selecting a winner!  As always, the decision was quite difficult, but ultimately, the nod goes to Pan Shovel for the annual holiday giveaway.  As you all may recall, the prizes this year were donated by the good folks of Craft & Vision (David DuChemin), Thinktank Photo, and Photojojo for the books, bags and lenscap holder respectively.  So if you get a moment to check out their respective product lines, you can say thanks to them in your own way too!

The downside after all this excitement is that the January giveaway does not have a sponsor (same as last year), so this means the prize will be the ability to choose the theme for the February contest giveaway.  Think of January as a practicing month to take your own shots of whatever you find appealing.  No themes to restrict your creativity, but the rest of the standard rules apply:

1.  One photo per person

2.  Must be work-safe/family-friendly

3. Posted to the Flickr thread

4.  Largest side must be no more than 800px or less than 600px (this is only so that the winning image can be displayed well…)

5.  Taken within the last 60 days (preferably during the contest window)

6.  Images must be done by Feb 3rd (Friday).

7.  Theme is open (no theme)

8.  And most importantly, have fun!

Congrats again to Pan Shovel, and good luck to everyone in the coming months for the 2012 giveaways – keep the great shots and creativity churning!