There’s more to using a tripod than attaching the camera and firing away. Whether you’re using a budget model or an all-singing, all-dancing carbon-fibre tripod, there are some simple techniques you should use to get the best possible results.
One of the key ways to make the tripod as stable as possible is to use the strongest, most stable parts first. So use the thickest leg sections when initially setting the height. You should only raise the tripod’s centre column once you have used all of the leg sections.
Next, make sure that the feet aren’t going to slip or move during your exposures. When using a tripod on soft ground you can press the feet into the earth to make sure they are solid, but on rocky or hard ground it’s a little more difficult to prevent them from moving. On these surfaces you’ll find that keeping the legs as vertical as possible will keep the tripod more stable.
Finally, add a weight to keep your tripod firmly rooted to the ground. Attaching your bag to the bottom of the centre column is often the easiest way. On lighter tripods, watch out for overloading the legs, and in windy conditions make sure that the bag doesn’t sway and cause additional shake.
4 tips for sharper shots when using a tripod
Tip 1: Size matters
When you’re setting up your tripod and don’t need to extend it to full height, always make sure that you use the thickest sections of the legs first. These are stronger and offer more stability than the thinner, lower sections, which you should only use if you really need the extra height.
Tip 2: Avoid the centre column
When you are adjusting the height of the tripod, make sure that you use all of the leg sections first to avoid using the centre column if possible. Even the thinnest leg sections will be more stable than extending the centre column, as this is usually the tripod’s weakest area.
Tip 3: Find firm footing
Even the sturdiest, strongest tripod is useless if the feet aren’t on stable ground and securely positioned. On grass or soft ground, push the feet down into the surface to give it extra stability, while on rock or hard ground make sure that the feet aren’t going to slip or slide.
Tip 4: Weigh it down
If your tripod still isn’t stable enough to use very long shutter speeds, add some weight to the set-up by hanging your camera bag from the central column. Some models have a handy clip designed for this purpose, but simple bungee straps will have the same effect.