When do use tripods?

Started 4 months ago | Discussions thread
jonby Regular Member • Posts: 302
Re: When do use tripods?

Most of the reasons for using a tripod have been covered very well here - and I agree with all of them. Absolutely no doubt that once you have found your subject, having the camera on a tripod offers many benefits - sometimes fairly minor, sometimes huge.

I used to be a 'must use a tripod' person, but more recently, I have discovered some of the benefits of not using one, from my perspective:-

  1. Not taking one reduces the 'threshold' for going out and doing photography - both due to the reduced physical constraints/effort and also because I feel less self-conscious. So I do more, resulting in more good images, in a wider range of situations.
  2. The reduced physical constraints mean that I can walk further, try out more locations, get over more obstacles, more quickly.
  3. Once a subject is found, I am more likely to try out an alternative camera position/angle if it doesn't mean re-positioning a tripod, because I can do it quicker and with less effort, sometimes resulting in a better image.
  4. I sometimes find that between 'visualizing' a composition, and getting a tripod into position, I lose some of the key elements that attracted me to shoot it. The position ends up not being exactly the same as my initial visualization, and not as good, though I don't notice it at the time.
  5. Despite the accepted perception of landscape being 'static', allowing a slow and deliberate approach, I would say that time is mostly very short, and indeed critical to many shots - things change quickly. So the additional time spent setting up a tripod can be enough to lose some elements which were critical for the initial composition decision.
  6. A tripod can't always get my camera into the right spot, due to a steep slope, a fence, limited space for the legs etc. , or it takes so long to get it into the right spot that something changes in the subject and I lose the moment, or end up compromising on the camera position.

So I find that I do gain a number of freedoms through going out without a tripod, and these can be very beneficial to my images. Sometimes images are compromised by having to use sub-optimal settings, focus/exposure not being absolutely optimal, or through inaccuracies in composition, but sometimes the benefits outweigh the negatives. It's a compromise.

Certainly some of the features of newer cameras do help to allow hand-held shooting more viable - high ISO performance, IS, fast shooting of brackets etc. The one which has made the biggest difference for me is auto focus bracketing, which is something I find makes a big difference in image quality consistency. Shooting a focus bracket hand-held is very difficult if you have to do it manually. So having focus bracketing automated has removed one of the technical barriers to working without a tripod, for me. Sadly it's still a fairly rare feature.

Anyway, I just wanted to highlight some possible benefits to hand-held shooting in landscape work, which I have become more aware of in recent times. These don't in any way negate the benefits of using a tripod, which are real and substantial. If my aim was to produce gallery prints, I would definitely use one. For small prints, I would consider working without one.

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