In this quick tutorial we demystify this specialist form of support for your camera and explain how to use a monopod correctly.
Most people think of the monopod as a one-legged alternative to a tripod. But the monopod is a very specialist form of support that is more useful in some situations than others.
The first thing to realise is that monopods only give your camera a minimal amount of support. You can’t use them for slow-shutter speed seascapes, or for shooting cityscapes at night.
At best, a monopod allows you to use a shutter speed that is one or two stops, slower than you could manage with a handheld camera. It’s no use for long exposures.
But there are places where even this small amount of support can minimise camera shake. In low light or when using a particularly long lens, they come into their own – but only when using a tripod is impractical or impossible.
One reason they are favoured by sports photographers is that they can be used in crowded places where there is not enough space for a tripod, or in venues where tripods are banned. They also fold up small, and let you move around quickly to follow your subject.
Monopods come into their own with big heavy lenses. They are not primarily for stabilising your camera kit when taking shots. It’s more about giving your arms a rest in between shots, with the monopod taking the weight as you wait for the action.
How to use a monopod correctly
01 A collar is better than a head
Most monopods come without a head, as they are mostly used with big lenses that have built-in tripod collars. You screw the monopod into this rather than the SLR base. You can then quickly switch from upright to horizontal-format shots.
02 Are you an archer?
The classic stance [top] is to place the monopod just ahead of you, with your feet slightly apart. On hard surfaces, where it may slip, try the archer stance [bottom]. Stand side on to the subject, resting the monopod base against your back foot.
03 Reach for a better view
Monopods can be used to get unusual viewpoints. Hold them above your head for a bird’s eye view, or to shoot over fences. You can’t see through the viewfinder and fire the shutter with the self-timer, intervalometer or wireless remote.
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