Do you need a tripod? If you’re Ben Long, you need a few of them. In this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer, Ben admits to being a tripod fan: he owns three along with a couple of different tripod heads and a monopod.
And yet he admits to employing this arsenal of stabilization only occasionally: for macro work, for low-light scenes, and for product photography. As Ben points out, the high-ISO capabilities of today’s cameras, combined with the vibration-reduction features found in most lenses, make carrying around a tripod less essential than it used to be. A tripod remains a big help when you’re shooting with slow shutter speeds—keeping you in crisp focus when there’s little light in a scene, or when you’re shooting at a small aperture setting to increase depth of field (sharpness from front to back).
But Ben says a tripod can be a burden when you’re shooting in the field; it’s yet another thing to carry around. And a camera on a tripod isn’t exactly ideal for fast, responsive shooting—for those scenarios where you want to move around and recompose quickly.
As for me, I use my monopod a lot more often; it fits in my suitcase and provides just enough extra stability to make the difference in low-light scenes. I also use it to add some stability when I’m shooting video with my DSLR.
One last monopod tip: They’re great for getting high point-of-view shots. Fully extend your monopod’s leg, then activate your camera’s self-timer mode. Press the shutter release and then hold the monopod high over your head until your camera takes its shot.
Interested in more? Check out the Practicing Photographer archive at lynda.com.