Imagine professional photographers and you’ll picture a tripod, whether they’re into nature photography or anything else.
To take excellent pictures, from panoramic shots to portraits, you need to know how to use a tripod correctly.
It’s a good thing we’ve got you covered in our guide on how to put a camera on a tripod.
Do Tripods Work on Any Camera?
Yes! The mechanism that attaches the tripod to your camera is the head. The great news is tripod heads have been standardized to work with ALL cameras.
We recommend getting a tripod with a removable or exchangeable tripod head so you can upgrade it in the future to a sturdier one.
Make sure the particular tripod you’re getting can handle your camera because there are some that can only handle small cameras.
It’s also convenient to get one with a quick-release plate that lets you easily remove or attach the mount.
Guide to Using A Tripod Properly
Step 1: Decide and Fix Your Camera Shot
Look, there’s no sugarcoating the fact it can take a while and a bit of trouble to set up a tripod.
Before even starting the process, you need to know what picture you’re shooting and have the right framing and composition in mind already.
Don’t just start setting up your tripod in a haphazard way (been there, done that).
Picture the image in your mind [pun intended]. Walk around and look at your subject from different angles.
Test it out by looking through your camera’s viewfinder. Make sure you’ve figured out the following
- Right location
- Proper camera angle
- Good background
- Desired photo direction
Select a flat surface to position your tripod on to MAXIMIZE the balance and weight distribution.
You don’t need to extend the legs to their maximum length here. It’s best to keep it between shoulder to eye-level height.
Step 2: Release the Legs
Now it’s time to start setting up the tripod itself.
- First, unlock and release the legs so you can start adjusting them.
- Make sure you extend from the top down and not from the bottom leg up. This lets you maximize the more rigid upper leg sections that have a wider diameter and achieve a more stable position.
- Now you can start releasing each leg until you get the height you want.
- Avoid extending the center column as much as you can. You need to keep the center post vertical and perpendicular to the ground to get a more even weight distribution among the legs.
- If you need help figuring out whether the center post is straight, use the built-in bubble level or small level that attaches to the center post.
Depending on your model, these either come with the tripod or can be purchased as an additional accessory, though you’ll need to ensure you get one that’s compatible with your tripod.
Step 3: Positioning Your Tripod
Now that you’ve released the tripod legs, it’s time to get it into position. Make sure you have one leg pointing towards the camera.
This gives you more room to stand BEHIND the tripod between the other tripod legs.
This also keeps you from accidentally tripping on your tripod (you’re welcome) and keeps your camera steady when you point the camera towards the ground.
Step 4: Level and Adjust the Tripod Legs
You’re halfway there. You must keep your tripod level to:
- Get a stable base for your camera on the tripod
- Make it easier to level the camera later on
- Keep your camera level no matter how much you move it
Remember the bubble level we mentioned? This is when you need it. It determines whether the three legs are good as they are or whether you need to adjust them.
Start with the lower section of the three legs. Adjust the length so you get a properly leveled tripod base plate body.
You’ll know you’ve done it right if the bubble level that’s built into the tripod body is centralized.
Step 5: Mount the Camera to the Tripod
We briefly mentioned the base plate or tripod head in an earlier section of this article. This is when it comes to it.
Some models have the traditional screw type:
Others will have a mounting plate with a quick-release lever that your tripod will come with or you’ll have to buy separately:
Every tripod comes with a base plate that has a quarter-inch thread made to bolt directly into the base of your camera or lens.
You’ll be clipping or clamping this onto the top plate of the tripod’s head.
- Attach the base plate of the mount (aka mounting socket) to your camera.
- Mount the base onto the tripod. – Depending on your tripod, this may just involve a ball head that you screw directly onto the tripod or a clamping mechanism. Some require you to tighten screws to ensure the camera’s securely attached.
- You can use a coin to add extra torque on the screw or attach the camera to the tripod and turn it in the direction needed to tighten the screw until it’s secure.
- Mount the base on top of the camera head. It should easily clamp on. Check to see if it’s properly mounted.
- If your tripod comes with a release bar, lock it.
Make sure the mounting is secure, but DO NOT overtighten the plate. Otherwise, you can ruin the threading or damage either your camera or tripod.
If you have a model with a quick-release lever, it’s better to remove the mounting plate first, connect it to your camera in the same way we talked about above, then re-attach it to the tripod.
How to check if the lens or camera mounting is correct: Hold the head still and turn the camera. If it rotates on its own, you’ll need to tighten things or re-do this step.
Step 6: Adjust and Shoot
Now that the camera’s properly mounted and securely locked onto the tripod, check the composition through the viewfinder to see if you need to finetune anything.
This may mean making small adjustments to extend the legs, finalizing your positioning, moving the entire rig, or adjusting the tripod head to level out the composition so you get the sharpest image possible.
Related: how to use a monopod
How to Get the Sharpest Image With Your Camera on the Tripod
Adjust Your Camera’s Settings
Turn off the image stabilization in your camera so you can check if everything’s level later on.
Also, double-check the shutter speed (which should be between 1/100th of a second to 2 seconds) and the background light.
Get A Camera Plate That Fits
We mentioned how different tripods have standardized mounting, though there are different kinds. Ensure the mount is compatible with your camera since some use clamps and others just need a screw.
In the latter case, check that the tripod and camera plate have the same size screw head.
If they don’t, you will either have to check for a replacement screw or get a new camera plate that can firmly attach the camera to the tripod.
When to Use An L-Bracket
If you’re using a shorter lens, use an L-bracket because it lets you mount your camera in a portrait orientation while still keeping it at the center point of your tripod.
This means you can keep the center of gravity in the middle so you get balanced shooting. You also get a few inches of additional height, which makes a big difference in any photo.
Using a Tripod Collar for Longer Lenses
Long lenses can get bulky (and expensive). The effect?
It shifts the center of gravity from the middle/body of your camera to the front where the lens is.
A tripod collar lets you even out the weight to keep your lens and camera safe and prevent it from pointing towards the ground every time you let go.
Camera Bag Trick
If you’re into outdoor photography or any situation where you need added stability, use your camera bag to add extra weight to your tripod.
Attach your camera bag by hanging it onto the center post. Most tripods have a hook in this spot. If not, go to a hardware store to purchase a hook you can attach to your tripod.
BUT take note: if the winds are strong enough to make your camera bag sway a lot, this may not be a good idea.
The bag may sway too much that it hits one of the tripod’s legs and everything comes crashing down!
Carry Your Tripod Correctly
If you need to move your setup around, it’s dangerous to hold everything horizontally and with one hand.
Instead, keep the camera strap around your neck and hold the entire tripod vertically. In this position, the lens should be on your shoulder while your hand holds the legs.
If you follow our tips, you’ll surely get the perfect shot and become a pro in whatever photography you want to perfect. We hope to see your works in photography blogs and exhibits!