Must Have Accessories

Erica Robinson talks about tripods

As a photographer, knowing our tools is vital and is something we can only gain from. Just like any other craft - a painter you need to know what brushes make the proper strokes, and as a mechanic, which tools to connect and disconnect the right parts. Well, as a photographer there are certain pieces of equipment that without, we simply cannot create the images we want to create. A tripod is absolutely at the top of this list, especially when we want to be creative!

Now, let’s get a little technical. When it comes to shutter speeds, the general rule of thumb is that your shutter speed when hand held, can only be as low as the millimeter distance you are shooting at. For example, at 200mm you would shoot no less than 1/200 and for a 35mm no less than 1/30 for your shutter speed. Of course, this number has now changed greatly with technology such as VC (vibration compensation), allowing us to hand hold at much lower shutter speeds. However, it is still impossible to hand hold for 30 seconds when trying to photograph the milky way, or 1 minute when you’re using a neutral density filter photographing a long exposure of a waterfall, and of course impossible to hand hold for a 1 hour exposure when you’re trying to photograph a star trail. As much as we want to believe that we can balance steadily on the hood of a car or a boulder in the foreground, we cannot. A simple movement as even taking a breath or the vibrations of an underground train in the city can nudge our camera showing shake in an image. Not only can we not balance properly on those objects but how can we then get the angle that we need to control our composition? The only way to take the proper photograph when leaving our shutters open for longer periods of time, is with a tripod.

Tripods will definitely vary in style, function and price. The more functions that are built into the tripod, such as the removable center column, a monopod attachment, the length of the legs, fold up size, and weight, all will have an effect on the cost as well as the material used to manufacture. Tripods are often built out of carbon fiber, aluminum, or plastics, where the pricier are in the carbon fiber category. Now what do each of these functions do exactly? A removable center column, allows you to be as low as the ground you are on, for the lowest possible angle. A monopod attachment, which is usually either the center column itself or a leg that detaches from the tripod base, allows you to have convenience of a monopod built in. The length of the legs, allows you to get as tall or as short as you need, again for that desired angle. And the weight and fold up size are exactly what they sound like. Either convenience of a lightweight and travel friendly tripod, or the thickness and strength in heavier tripod to hold up those larger camera bodies and larger format systems.

With that, the cost varies quite a bit, ranging anywhere from around one hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. Although this may seem a bit drastic, this is a piece of equipment that can make or break you image, as important as your camera or your lens. And this is also a piece of equipment that can last for the majority of someone’s photography career if purchased right and cleaned properly. Be creative, explore, and happy shooting!