Updated: Nov 13, 2020
So you've got yourself a nice camera, you're enjoying the increased quality and scope that comes with it. Why would you need anything else?! Let me tell you, a tripod is well worth buying. It's guaranteed to unlock photographic gateways, to new places you've always dreamed of. When I first started out, I took a while to buy one and regret doing so. I'm going to talk you through some of the uses of tripods, so that not only will you have a better understanding of why you should get one, but also how to use it too!
Possibly the number one reason to get a tripod. Long exposures are awesome, so much fun to play with. You can get seriously creative with long exposures too, it unlocks a whole new realm of photography. Yes, it is true you don't technically need a tripod to do one. But you do need your camera to remain perfectly still for the duration of the long exposure to make the image sharp. So I don't know about you, but I can't hold a camera perfectly still for 20 seconds, go ahead, try it! You will see exactly what I mean.
Generally photographing anything at night is a lot easier with a tripod. You can try free hand but you will be forced to use a disgustingly high ISO, meaning you're going to have some serious grain in your images. I honestly don't think I've ever got a nice shot at night time without one.
If you would like some further, more detailed information on this topic here's the links for two of my videos on YouTube;
For accurate, high quality photo stitch ups a tripod is a must. What do I mean by stitch ups? Not the kind where you set someone up- nothing quite as crazy as that! I'm talking about combining photographs together to achieve a certain effect. There are many different reasons that people do this- I'm just going to be talking about the two most popular- HDR stacking and focus stacking.
HDR stacking is basically where you stitch two or more photos together to get a nice exposure for each part of the shot. You've probably been in that classic situation; the sky being brighter than the foreground, and balancing the two is a nightmare right? All you need to do is put your camera on a tripod, this makes the shot identical in everything but exposure so it will be way easier to combine later. Then, simply take one shot exposing the sky correctly, and one exposing the foreground. Bam! You have a perfectly exposed shot through and through.
To the more experienced bunch, I know you can use a graduated filter for this. Graduated filters usually add a colour cast, and even the most expensive ones don't look as good as shooting through that fresh glass you have paid so much money for in your lens. I've found much better results using this technique. I used this exact technique on the image below.
Then you have focus stacking- a new favourite with landscape photographers! Focus stacking is basically where you put your camera on the tripod (Again! Noticing the theme here...). Then taking the same photograph numerous times, moving the focus point around on your camera. If don't know what that is/ how to move it then just google your camera model with focus point.
Why would you do this? Well, you can combine all these shots together using software like photoshop (thats what I use) to get pin sharp images, that are completely, 100% in focus everywhere. Looks really cool, honestly! The image below is focus stacked (bear in mind that for the website you have to reduce resolution from 80mb to 1mb so the quality is lot less- you still get the point though!).
Technically photo stitching I know! Just had to make this a whole point in its own right because they're so cool! The fact that you can get pin sharp, awesome panoramas with a tripod is a good enough reason to get one on its own! You can take them free hand but they just won't stitch well together. With the tripods I'm going to recommend at the end of this you can take awesome panos just using the heads as guides. Take multiple photos from left to right or top to bottom (depending on whether you want a vertical or horizontal panorama) then you can merge them together using software (I use Lightroom).
Including yourself in the shot
Just a short and sweet one really. When you are out with a group of friends/ family or whatever. You want to take a group photo with you in it. Well if there's no one around - even if there is they might not get a great shot! You can set the shot up yourself, line it and everyone up nicely. Then put the camera on a timer (every camera will have one built in just google your model if you don't know how to do this). Then jump into the shot!
Increased interaction with subjects
Perhaps you are more in the business of photographing people- so long exposures don't interest you as much. If that is the case, or maybe you just like doing both! You will soon come to see (if you haven't already) that the interactions you have with the people you are photographing is key. This is definitely possible, albeit harder without a tripod. If you want to go for that perfection and get some incredible natural shots, giving yourself a better chance to interact with your subjects then a tripod is the way to go.
You can set up your shot with the tripod, settings, and get your subjects into position so thats already done. Then you don't have to concentrate so much on the photography aspect and have a much better uninhibited interaction with your subjects. This is better with a shutter release too but you can still go without. Making proper eye contact, and just not having a camera in-front of your face is a huge bonus.
You know all those stars and planets? Pretty cool right? Be awesome to get some great photos of them. I honestly haven't heard of any astrophotographer that doesn't use a tripod. They are an essential piece of kit for those kind of shots. Being able to do longer exposures with your camera is key to getting sharp astro shots. Not to mention star stacking, which again you will need a tripod to do. I'm not going to go into too much detail with these techniques as I could write a whole other blog on this topic. There are plenty of great astrophotography resources out there, heres a video to get you started.
So there's a nice list of reasons you should go out and get a tripod, there's probably a load more I haven't even thought of that you will come across when you get yours! When I first got into photography I didn't want to spend loads on a tripod with the reasoning that they all effectively do the same thing. Which is true. However, the cheaper ones are harder to use (like much harder), won't keep your camera safe (they're very lightweight and likely to fall) and they break so easily too. I went through about 5 tripods before I got a half decent one. So yeah I wouldn't make that same mistake if I was you.
The first tripod I'm going to recommend to you won't actually break the bank. This is a fantastic starter tripod, and one that I've recommended to many friends and family who have asked the same question. It's a nice compromise between price and quality. This will also last you a while, so you don't have to go out buying new ones all the time!
The second tripod I am going to recommend is a professional tripod. This is my tripod. I honestly love it and just upgraded from my last one which was the previous model. The previous model lasted me 5 years. Honestly the only reason I got rid of it is because I foolishly lost it. So yeah, thats my testament to how reliable these are. The height and precision you can get with this tripod is amazing. It also keeps your camera very stable and safe.
I personally wouldn't bother getting anything more expensive unless you own a studio.
There you have it, all the great reasons to buy a tripod, and some personal recommendations for you to check out. If you have any more questions don't hesitate to get in contact via my facebook group here. Thank you for reading!