How to Use a Monopod 101: A Beginner’s Guide

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Ever wonder why and how sports photographers use a monopod leg?

The answer is SIMPLE: using a monopod is a great way of staying mobile while still improving your camera’s stability.

This article will discuss the following:

  • The steps on how to use a monopod
  • Why do photographers choose to use a monopod?
  • What technique works for taking excellent photos?

How to Use a Monopod Properly: A Step by Step Guide

So you’ve decided you need a monopod but want to find out the best way you can shoot with it. Below are some great tips you can try out yourself.

#1: Hold the Monopod Over Your Head

Best For Photography in a Crowd or From Above

When you first imagined using your monopod, this is probably how you thought of it.

The simplest way you can use a monopod is by holding it over your head.

It’s a great way of taking wide shots from up high, ESPECIALLY when you’re in a crowd and you want to capture what’s going on ahead of you.

It’s also a great way of seeing above the head-level of people.

You’ll need a way to remotely or wirelessly trigger your camera to make use of this technique. To do this:

  • Get a Bluetooth remote or wired trigger,
  • Connect it to your phone
  • Set your camera self-timer to shoot at intervals.

Once you have that, be sure to follow these steps.

  • Attach the camera to the top of the monopod.
  • Extend the legs as long as they can go.
  • Lock the monopod and the foot.
  • Hold it high above your head.
  • Start shooting.

Just note that the length of your monopod limits your camera angle, so you should invest in one that can extend a long way if you plan to make use of this technique frequently.

#2: The Human Tripod

Best For Taking Stable Photos Outdoors

The only difference between a monopod and a tripod is the extra two feet, which you can replace with your own legs! Kidding aside, this is essentially how this method works.

It’s simple. Just make sure you’re on the grippy ground with a lot of traction (i.e., gravel or grass). Otherwise, your tripod may slip, thus causing damage to your camera.

  • Attach the camera to your monopod.
  • Adjust the legs so that it’s a few inches above your eye.
  • Face your subject.
  • Stand straight and comfortably with your legs comfortable width apart (usually shoulder width).
  • Place the base of the monopod in front of the center between your open legs.
  • Lean the monopod back towards you to make an imaginary “third leg.”

Congratulations! You’ve successfully transformed yourself into a human tripod!

Just a few tips for this method.

  • Use the wrist strap to give your monopod better balance.
  • Let your wrist exert downward pressure to push the monopod foot into the ground.

#3: The Straightforward Method

Best For Using a Heavy Telephoto Lens

This technique is very similar to the 2nd method we just told you about. The main difference is the monopod WON’T LEAN BACK towards you in this position.

It simply stands in front of the center point of your legs.

  • Attach the camera to your monopod.
  • Adjust the height so that the camera’s viewfinder is level with your eye.
  • Stand in a comfortable position (legs shoulder-width apart is a good starting point).
  • Place the foot of the monopod IN FRONT of you.

We recommend widening your stance for a more comfortable experience if you will be shooting for long periods.

#4: The Archer Stance

Best For Slippery Surfaces

This technique is great when you’re shooting on slippery ground, though it works well on other surfaces too. It may not be as popular as the other techniques we presented, but it’s still worth trying.

  • Attach the camera to your monopod.
  • Extend the legs.
  • Face your subject.
  • Stand with your hips at a slight angle to your shoulder (just like a boxer).
  • Position your two feet so that you have one foot in front of the other (If you’re right-handed, put your left foot forward and right foot back.)
  • Place the foot of your extended monopod against the instep of the rear foot.
  • Lean the camera forward UNTIL the stand firmly rests against the inner thigh of your front leg. If you’re right-handed, this should be your right leg. If you’re left-handed, this should be your left thigh.
  • Use your hand that’s on the shaft to push the monopod into the ground. Let the wrist strap push it down as well.

 

Bracing the foot against the instep of your rear foot lets you act as the monopod’s extra two legs.

Some choose to position the foot of the monopod against their heel, still with one leg and one foot in front of the other.

So, it would be the right heel if you’re right-handed and the left heel if you’re right-handed.

#5: The Pan

“Panning” refers to a technique where you move the camera on a level plane, usually at the SAME SPEED as your subject that’s in motion. This is a traditional technique used in movies.

Some examples are in sports photography when the pros shoot athletes passing IN FRONT or crossing the finish line.

When doing this, it’s best to use a monopod or tripod to stabilize the vertical motion of your camera. That way, the shot is smooth and straight.

A monopod is your best friend in sporting events, especially if you’re standing in the middle of a huge crowd with little space.

Here’s how to use a monopod to pan like a pro:

  • Firmly attach your camera to your monopod.
  • Keep the wrist strap on for added stability.
  • Look for your subject and anticipate when they’ll pass in front of you.
  • Twist the monopod in your hand so that the camera matches the speed of the subject.
  • Make sure your subject remains in the viewfinder.
  • Click the shutter button and take the shot.

#6: The Resourceful One

We’ve given you fantastic tips on using your own feet, leg, and body as a makeshift tripod. For better stability, lean back against anything that will keep you stable as a rock or wall.

But sometimes, that just doesn’t work.

If your photography idea or need at that very moment just needs that extra stability, use your environment (and your head) and look for something to brace or set your monopod on or against.

For example, if there’s a fence, tree, chair, building, or anything else that can support your monopod and act as its extra feet.

These will greatly reduce blurs and camera movements.

What’s the Point of a Monopod?

When you think of taking photos, you’d probably imagine a person holding a camera or using a tripod for more stability.

After all, most wildlife photographers or Youtube video content creators do this ALL THE TIME.

So Why Use a Monopod? What’s a Monopod Good For?

Think of it as a good middle ground between a handheld camera and a tripod.

You may not get as long exposure or as big a reduction in camera shake as when you’re using a tripod, but using a monopod is still a GREAT ALTERNATIVE to just holding your camera.

Plus, it’s easier to move around and is compact enough to use in a crowded area where you don’t have the space to stretch out a tripod’s legs.

Using a 200mm lens on a 1.6x crop body, you can reduce your shutter speed from 1/320 sec. to 1/2 or even 1/5 sec! You just need to have good technique.

So When Do You Want to Use a Monopod?

Use it when you want:

  • Extra stability
  • A sturdier shooting position
  • To give your arms and back a break
  • Great photos in a crowded or low-light situation
  • To move around quickly
  • To hold heavy gear for a longer period
  • Try travel photography

As a pro tip, some tripods can double up as a monopod giving you the best of both worlds (Hopefully, you liked that Hannah Montana reference)!

Make sure to read up on monopod reviews to find one that is highly rated like this 2-in-1 stand.

However, we do not recommend using a monopod for long exposure times. You’ll need a minimum shutter speed of at least 1/(focal length of the lens) here.

How to Attach the Camera Body to Your Monopod

Depending on the type of lens you’re using, or how you plan to shoot, there are three ways you can attach the camera to the monopod.

  • If you’re using a smaller lens that’s light, you can screw the monopod directly onto the camera.
  • If you want to keep your camera straight but your monopod will be slanting, use a ball head (aka swivel head). This is also great for landscape shots with wide angles because the ball head lets photographers easily adjust the angle.
  • When using a heavy lens, use a tripod mount ring (aka lens collar). This attaches the monopod to the lens and not the camera to increase stability and balance while reducing the strain from the lens mount.

The Final Shot

So now that you know the best method for how to use a monopod, you’re already one step ahead of most photographers who are just starting.

Now, you can embark on fulfilling your dream to become an expert at sports or wildlife photography.

If you just want to have fun using your monopod or shooting whatever you want, this set of methods should bode well for you!