One of the best ways to improve your pictures is to put your camera on a tripod. A tripod holds your camera stable unlike holding it yourself. Everyone has pictures that has double or triple images on them. A tripod allows you to take longer exposures in low light without blurring the image.
A tripod is one of the most stable structures you can make. You will find tripods holding all kinds of devices from cameras, telescopes, a pot over a fire, a rope bridge, lights, and even sheet music. It consists of three legs joined at a single point. A tripod can be stable on flat or uneven surfaces making it ideal to use.
Tripods come in different sizes and can be as small as one that will fit in your pocket. Other camera “tripods” come in different forms like bean bags, a strap, or a lid that will screw onto any water or soda bottle.
For small cameras the tripod does not have to be heavy duty. These small, inexpensive tripods often feel flimsy and not very stable. However, once a tripod is open it will be very stable platform for the camera it is supporting. The caveat that heavy cameras with a long lens will not be suitable and will cause this type of tripod to fall over.
Your tripod doesn’t have to be very expensive. In some cases cheaper is just as good if not better. You won’t care if your less-than-$10-bucks tripod goes missing. Or if somebody gushes about how cool it is, you can give it to them and get another. You might find that your first choice of cheap tripod isn’t that good. But your experience with less than perfect will help you make a better choice the next time.
A “tripod” does not have to have traditional legs to work. The Joby Gorrillapods have legs that can bend infinitely. These legs can wrap around fence posts or tree limbs allowing anything to hold your camera. Be careful when purchasing a Gorrillapod as there are different models that are designed to up to a specific weight.
There are also “clones” of the Gorillapod that cost quite a bit less money. However, the old saying of “you get what you pay for” comes into play here. So far all the “cheap tripods” we’ve mentioned are good enough and if you have one on you, small cheap tripod is better than no tripod.
The Pod is a bean bag that has a tripod mount built into it. there are 6 different sizes that will hold the largest to the smallest camera. The small Yellow (center mount) and Blue (off center mount) weigh just shy of half pound. Which light enough to keep in your pocket but is enough weight hold your camera stable on any surface like a car, tree, table top, or uneven surface.
One thing to keep in mind is that ANY bean bag can do this job. It doesn’t have a to have a 1/4” screw built into it. the bean bag is providing a cradle for the camera. If you are worried about your camera falling off you could mod the bean bag with a strap or an elastic as a hold. Velcro could be another way to save the day. Although it’s hard to know what is better to stick on the camera: the hoops or the fuzz.
A tripod with just one leg is a Monopod. It can be useful some situations. But for small cameras you may find the effort to carry it not with the end result. The secret to a monopod is how small it can telescope and how heavy weight it is. Too light and it will feel unstable but if it’s too heavy you won’t want to carry it.
1/4” this is the standard size thread for all small cameras. You can find this size bolt at any hardware store. For less than a dollar you can make your own camera mount. In the show we describe how we took a long bolt, washers, nuts, a wing nut and a short PVC to a make a mount that screwed together to hold a camera on a C-Stand. link to the DIY.
Using the same parts you can easily make a mount that will screw onto any water or soda bottle. You need a 1/4 bolt that is 1/2 long, a washer and a nut. Cut a hole in the bottles lid, then tighten the bolt, washer and nut together. Screw the lid onto a full bottle then put your camera onto the bolt. it is not recommended using a NON-full bottle as the camera will tip it over. link to the DIY.
If you are buying a larger “full sized tripod” check the head before you buy. Lots of inexpensive tripods are made with a mount for a video camera. That is, that have a guide in front of the screw that aligns the camera straight with the fluid head. The guide often makes it impossible to mount your still camera. You have two choices for fixing this: one buy a different head bracket or grind off the plastic (it won’t be metal on the cheap tripods).
You can always put a camera on any flat surface to get a stable shot. But if you need to tilt up or down found objects like forks, knives and tooth picks can do in a pinch. Speaking of pinch, on the show John describes making a “tripod” out of some salt and a paper napkin. Essentially pouring the salt onto a flat surface, covering it with the paper, then pushing the camera onto the pile so that it holds the desired position. If you need a way to tilt a camera up to get a better picture this one of the ways to do it. Don’t do this if you can get your shot by setting your camera on the table. It makes a mess.
If you plan on doing lots with Macro or Continous a tripod is a must.