Consider the following image opportunities:
– a night time shot of the moon
– a beautiful church in the evening
– a stunning landscape
– making running water appear fluid
You won’t get very far without a tripod with any of these shots. You will have an image, but it will be inferior to what you could have produced.
A tripod holds your camera steady and allows you to do the following
– take long exposures without camera shake
– use maximum depth of field (smallest aperture) for landscapes
– allow movement in your shots whilst keeping the background steady
Imagine you have a wonderful building in your local town. In the evening it is beautifully lit and there are trees and bushes surrounding it giving you a perfect opportunity for a gorgeous shot when there is still a bit of light in the sky. Even at full aperture you are thinking of perhaps half a second or more for the shutter speed.
If you don’t use a tripod, whatever you do, your shot will be blurred.
Get out your tripod. The you can choose a long enough exposure not only to take the initial shot you were anticipating but an even longer one to enable you to close down the aperture for the best depth of field.
Which tripod should you buy?
There are tripods to be had which cost only a few dollars. They look great (in the adverts). Don’t buy one! You will regret it. They are often made of inferior materials from obscure companies. The leg locking mechanisms are rough and prone to failure, the heads don’t move smoothly and the locks slip and wear out. They don’t easily take the weight of even a standard SLR camera and in unsettled conditions they will buckle, vibrate and warp. All of this will affect your final image.
A tripod is as important as the camera on it. It needs to be secure on uneven ground and weighty enough to take the camera and windy or inclement weather. The legs should lock positively and there should be no movement when they are extended. The head should be firmly seated and with positive and secure locking mechanisms. Always try one out in the store before you buy or borrow one from a friend. My golden rule is: spend as much as you can afford.