Beginner Cat Photo Skills

Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Tripods

This week’s photo workshop as part of my photo course was an eye opener. Like many of you I would love to take those dramatic pictures of car light trails at night. They look so cool, but how do you do that? I want to do it NOW!

The answer? You learn to use your tripod like I did. The results were SO exciting I just had to share what I did!

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Questions About Tripods

Why and When should you use a tripod?

  • For nature and cat (OK pet) photography. Your camera may be held in position for long periods of time. Tired arms take shaky photographs.
  • Following on from this: A tripod lets you focus totally on your cat and pose instead of dividing your attention between your cat and the camera.
  • If you have a remote control for your shutter, even better!
  • For night time shoots and sunsets. You will be using a longer shutter speed and need to keep your camera stable.
  • Closeups of small items. Endless tiny adjustments mean your arms will get tired and your camera shakes. Setting up even a small tripod like a Manfrotto Pixie makes life easier.
  • If you have a nice telephoto lens you need a tripod. These lenses are heavy. [I shoot like a girl because I am one, my arms are not strong enough to hold up a telephone lens].
Learn to Use Your Tripod to take car light trail photos.
Settings: ISO 200 F/11 2 Kit Lens
The longer two second shutter speed catches the bus lights and the distant building.

Learn to use your tripod

You need know how to do three things without fussing:

  • How to attach the camera to the tripod.
  • How to adjust your tripod.
  • How to transport your tripod.

Middle Earth by Night

The pictures I am sharing here were taken on a recent photoshoot outdoors in Wellington, New Zealand. Middle Earth has its share of magic and Lord of the Rings characters but it also has its share of bright lights.

How do you attach your camera to a tripod or monopod?

Tripods and monopods have a detachable plate that you attach to your camera. This is often called a ‘quick release plate’. It’s a rectangular shape with a screw in the middle that attaches into a thread underneath your camera.

[Yes, it’s there, turn over your camera and take a look!]

Once the plate is attached to your camera, attach the camera to the tripod with the tripod’s quick release lever. The lever pivots out and then clicks back to hold your camera in place.

  • TOP TIP: Practice attaching and adjusting your camera to your tripod, and changing the height before you leave home.
Learn to Use Your Tripod to slow motion like this bus coming to a halt.
Settings: ISO 200 F/5.6 1.6″ (50mm lens)
I adjusted the vibrancy of this photo to bring out the red/green contrast and used a shutter speed of about one and a half seconds.

How do I know if a tripod will fit my camera?

Tripod have ‘quick release plates’ that can be used by most cameras.

I have a cheep and cheerful tripod because I don’t carry it far and there is a simple plate that is easy to attach to my DSLR. If you are not sure ask a camera shop or online forum.

The one thing camera manufacturers got right was agreeing on a standard 1/4-20 thread for 35mm and digital camera tripod attachments. There are numerous good tripods available. Slik, Benro, Manfrotto, Velbon, Gittos, Gitzo.

Yahoo Answers

Can I use a tripod on my Smartphone?

You bet you can.

There are plenty of models from cheap and cheerful to the more robust and versatile Gorillapod. There are even tripods for iPads. All of these work for still photography or video shoots.

If you want something lightweight such as carbon fibre, or quality aluminium which can make a real difference if you are taking a tripod to a cat show, reputable names to look out for include Manfrotto and Joby Gorillapod.

joby official

Tripods for Compacts?

Compact camera tripods are often the same models as those for smartphones. Check a product details to see if it is ‘compact friendly’.

Settings: ISO 200 F/16 4″ Kit Lens
Note the timing for this photo – 4 seconds. With the tripod keeping the background stable, I captured a pedestrian as a ‘ghostly’ presence.

Essential Tripod Tips

  • Never walk away and leave your tripod. It can fall or be pushed over. The only exception would be for a short trip in front of the camera for a selfie.
  • If you are on a slope you may only need to adjust a single leg on the incline. It seems obvious but it easy to forget you can adjust each leg separately.
  • Lengthen the legs of a tripod first, only use the central column for extra height if you really need it. Your camera will become top heavy.
  • Your tripod should allow you to take ‘portrait’ mode photographs by pivoting the camera on to its side at the top of the tripod. Check your own model so see if this is an option.

How to I move a tripod?

Yes, there is a proper way!

Always gather the legs of your tripod together and then pick it up. Never EVER pick up and move a tripod with its three legs spread out. Safety first for you and your camera.

Now, that was a fun and fast tour through your tripod and what it can do. Have you used a tripod, or do you want to get one now? Let me know in the comments.

‘Learn to Use Your Tripod’ Resources

8 thoughts on “Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Tripods”

  1. I have an old tripod I ‘inherited’ from my Dad, it gathers dust in the closet, but maybe I should invest in a remote control for my camera, and get out that tripod…it could help me take better pics of the ever reluctant Pipo, MOL!

  2. I have a small tripod, a “gorilla grip” one, and a monopod. I don’t usually have them with me, but they are definitely helpful for the reasons you point out, Marjorie!

  3. We have a couple tripods and a unipod as well as some small ones. Mom should learn to use them.

    Thank you for your kind words about Allie. We miss her so much.

    The Florida Furkids and Mom Sharon

    • I am a bit of a convert Timmy. I aim to also get a small tripod they are easy to carry and set up.

  4. We do have a nice tripod but hardly ever use it because it seems cumbersome but we will try again. Thanks for the tips! Thanks for joining our Thankful Thursday Blog Hop!

    • Sometimes they are a lumpy pain in the butt 😉 But they might be useful for photographing ferals (especially if you have a remote so you can slip out of view.

  5. Our mom just bought a tripod, and she has only used it once! She needs to keep it out so it’s available.


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