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Camera Tripods

Camera tripods are essential equipment for still-life and outdoor photography.

A camera tripod offers the photographer increased stability while taking pictures. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
A camera tripod offers the photographer increased stability while taking pictures.

Camera Tripods

Photographers use camera tripods to stabilize a camera while in use, and prevent photographic images from appearing blurry, jittery, or shaky, especially in low light conditions. Typical causes of unintended camera movements include lens and camera position adjustment movements as well as the simple act of pressing the cameras shutter button.

Camera Tripod Pros and Cons

Although tripod-mounted cameras lack the spontaneity of handheld cameras, planned compositions with meticulously focused slow speed exposures in low light conditions are well served by tripod-mounted cameras, according to Photography Monthly. Slower speed exposures best capture motion blur actions of images such as a waterfall.

Camera tripods are also useful when adjusting for depth-of-field control. (Depth-of-field is the level of sharpness desired for foreground images in contrast to background images, especially in a landscape image format.)

Tripod-mounted cameras lack the portability of handheld cameras, especially in uneven terrain. Most camera tripods are made of steel, but higher-end camera tripods are available in lightweight carbon fiber composite materials.

Certain camera tripods help to steady and lock cameras shooting in unusual positions, such as low angles.

Hybrid camera tripod heads are available for both photography and video use.

Features of Camera Tripods

There are a variety of tripod heads that serve as mounts for cameras. Some tripod heads include joints that allow the camera to be tilted up and down, or allow for 360-degree panning movement.

Ball heads are popular because they provide fluidity for fast camera movements, as well as the ability to quickly reposition a camera for image format adjustments (i.e., from portrait to landscape and vice versa). Some higher-end ball heads have hydraulic locking systems that lock smoothly moving heads into a solid part of the tripod head. Other heads include a lock for vertical camera positions and a separate lock for tilt and pan movements.

A rubber bellows system is found in some tripod heads in order to prevent dirt and debris from entering the ball head parts.

A quick release plate is a camera tripod mounting device that allows for quick attachment and detachment of the tripod head.

Camera tripod legs can be shortened or lengthened for locked height positioning.

Adding a remote shutter release can prevent undesired camera movements made when pressing the shutter button.

Selecting a Camera Tripod

A variety of criteria are used to select a camera tripod:

  • Heavier camera tripod materials, typically steel, accommodate a heavy cameras weight including the lens
  • Lighter camera tripod materials accommodate minimum desired camera weight for portability
  • Maximum or minimum tripod heights accommodate photographer shooting styles. Heights include compact level, standard level, eye level, and over-head level
  • A camera tripods ease of height adjustability can be determined by the number of adjustable tripod leg sections, typically three, four, or five sections
  • A removable center tripod column and separately articulated legs that spread out beyond 45-degrees and can be mounted between the tripod legs can accommodate low angle camera shots
  • Tripod head types accommodate specific camera image formats such as portrait, landscape, or close up
  • Shorter tabletop camera tripods are for close up photography
  • Spiked camera tripod feet help grip the ground in uneven terrain

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