Best Practices when using a Tripod

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I thought a discussion on best practices for a tripod would be helpful Maybe it could be pinned if moderators think it's valuable later on.

Here's an article on some recommendations for stability.


What tips would you offer that others would find useful?
 

bags27

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Great: thanks!

My contribution about tripods is: buy the best, probably most expensive tripod you can buy the first time. Because if you go cheap, odds are you'll keep buying them until you finally buy the one you never thought you'd spend that much on.
 

MattKing

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Keep one in your car that uses the same quick release system as your main tripod.
And have an extra quick release plate with each camera.
 

wiltw

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An excellent article! Things I would add...
  • If you have a variable-spread leg set, spread each leg out wider, to 45 degrees or more
  • If using long FL lens, as best you can, center the 'length' of camera+lens in locating the tripod mount point, to minimize the lever arm distance of wind acting upon the telephoto lens, and provide an equal and offsetting lever arm on both sides of the tripod pivot point
  • Sometimes, what is better (than a swinging bag hanging low from the center of the tripod when it is really windy) is to connect a metal cable to the tripod and drop it to the ground and plant a foot on the end
 
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Sirius Glass

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  1. Buy a carbon fiber tripod because tripods increase in weight by the cube of the distance in meters or yards.
  2. Use a quick release plate for convenience.
  3. Set up the tripod first.
    1. The center leg forward and one leg on each side of you. That way the camera will not fall forward if it gets unbalanced or knocked over.
    2. Setting up includes making the platform level so that the axes are vertical and horizontal.
  4. Then attach the camera.
 

madNbad

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Get a bag that attaches to all three legs. You can put a sand bag in it or stash some extra gear to keep it handy and add weight for stability. If they are available, retractable spiked feet are useful.
 

Down Under

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My uses for tripods aren't like most other photographers. In the GOD (if anyone's religious sensitivities are offended by this, it stands for "Good Old Days") we all carried brick load-weight tripods with us for our big cameras. In the '80s I went to Indonesia with THREE different cameras and an old Linhof tripod I had somehow acquired when I (very briefly) owned one of those beasts, a 6x9" kit I thought suited me best for architecture, silly me.

Nowadays I'm much older and I like to think, more sensible. My cameras are also smaller. For the wee ones I have a small German-made (not a Leitz, how I wish!!) collapsible tripod(ette), one I can easily fold up and put in my backpack. I use it now and then if I need it, usually on a table or another flat surface.

I also have two old (1920s or 1930s, I reckon) Kodak-type tripods with Leitz heads. These can easy support the weight of my heavier Nikon DSLRs or my Rolleis on the rare occasion I still take architectural images that require a "stand" of some sort. I have somewhere in the house, a sack-like setup I can hang from the bottom of one of these two relics (the tripods, not the photographer), but I can't recall the last time I made use of this odd thing. Or the tripods, for that matter.

Somewhere in my cupboard lies at rest a 1980s Velbon in pristine condition, resting quietly in its original carry bag.

As much as I would love one of those newfangled Manfrottos, my days of carting around a tripod are long past.
 

ic-racer

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Don't forget tripod maintenance. I have had my main tripod for 8x10 since 1989 and did a complete overhaul a few years ago. I replaced all the nylon lock nuts, got a new lever that was broken. I replaced the broken bubble level on the base (found one from China that fit perfectly) tightened the head and other loose screws, etc. Big improvement. Zeroed the bubble levels (non broken after all these years!) on the head plate. All legs lock as they should and the head is steadier and locks better.


bogen .JPG
 

4season

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I use the center column sparingly - it can be useful for fine height adjustments, but for many situations, I'd just as soon eliminate it.

Much prefer twist-type leg locks versus levers, as the former automatically compensate for wear. I like Gitzo best of all.

Speaking of Gitzo, unfortunately, the old USA "Lifetime plus reincarnations" warranty offered by Karl Heitz no longer applies, at least until the reincarnation of KH.

Gram for gram, carbon fiber offers better rigidity and damping than aluminum, but there are some too-flexible CF tripods out there, so try before you buy.

Probably don't want to use magnesium alloy around salt water.

If you shop carefully, more $$ = more rigid yet lighter.

For many applications, Arca-type quick-release is best due to ready availability of custom camera plates which don't twist when attached to the camera body. I don't have a particular brand preference, but prefer tool-free designs that don't block access to ports, battery, etc.
 

markjwyatt

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...Set up the tripod first.
  1. The center leg forward and one leg on each side of you. That way the camera will not fall forward if it gets unbalanced or knocked over.

Unless you are photographing oscilloscope screens, then to get closer put the two legs forward to allow the camera to be closer to the screen. :smile:
 

McDiesel

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Great: thanks!

My contribution about tripods is: buy the best, probably most expensive tripod you can buy the first time. Because if you go cheap, odds are you'll keep buying them until you finally buy the one you never thought you'd spend that much on.

I wish someone said this to me 20 years ago :smile: I have a graveyard of tripods and I'm still not happy. My most expensive one is only $700 after all these years.
 

guangong

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I have and sometimes use, a variety of tripods for different cameras: a Minox pocket tripod for Minox cameras, a Leitz tabletop tripod, a small tripod that is rather stable and about a foot long given to me by my friend Bernie Boston, dean of WH photographers after his retirement, Tiltalls and Gitzos. All serve respective uses quite well. Gitzo adequate for my 4x4. Quick releases on Tiltals and Giizos. For movie cameras I have an ancient heavy wooden tripod with a friction head which works well for me. Has a hook for sandbag but never use it. This monster was given to me by Ken Hansen.
However, for the most part I am a hand held shooter, but too often have a film that is too slow in camera and that’s when tripod can come to rescue, especially Minox, Leitz, and Bernie’s because they are easy to carry along.
 

mgb74

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Tripods are based on the principle of 3. No, not 3 legs. It's that you need 3 tripods. One small, short, light one for when your away from your car and think you may need a tripod but aren't sure. One knockaround tripod for the trunk of your car and when you have the legs in water. And the third for when doing serious work.
 

Bill Burk

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Keep a tripod easily accessible, such as in your hand. There’s no worse feeling than seeing unsharp slides on the light table having carried a 6 pound tripod 25 miles but not having used it because you just liked the way the lupine filled the viewfinder….
 

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The only comment I’d add is to do your best to level the tripod, before touching the head or leveling base, especially on very uneven terrain. The further you are off from level, the less stable the tripod will be.
 

Sirius Glass

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Unless you are photographing oscilloscope screens, then to get closer put the two legs forward to allow the camera to be closer to the screen. :smile:

My ass.jpg
 

Sirius Glass

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Don't forget tripod maintenance. I have had my main tripod for 8x10 since 1989 and did a complete overhaul a few years ago. I replaced all the nylon lock nuts, got a new lever that was broken. I replaced the broken bubble level on the base (found one from China that fit perfectly) tightened the head and other loose screws, etc. Big improvement. Zeroed the bubble levels (non broken after all these years!) on the head plate. All legs lock as they should and the head is steadier and locks better.


View attachment 305270

I carry Allen wrenches for mine.
 

Sirius Glass

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Tripods are based on the principle of 3. No, not 3 legs. It's that you need 3 tripods. One small, short, light one for when your away from your car and think you may need a tripod but aren't sure. One knockaround tripod for the trunk of your car and when you have the legs in water. And the third for when doing serious work.

I disagree. One carbon fiber tripod, with multiple quick release plates, short enough to fit into a suit case for overseas flights, and can hold your heaviest cameras stably and safely even in a moderate to strong wind.
 
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Ready for some tripod heresy? Here goes:

Get the lightest tripod you can that will do the job (i.e., support the camera without being flimsy or collapsing). You'll use it more. Unless you're working in a windstorm or an earthquake, lighter is better. Stability just means your tripod and camera have to be motionless for whatever time you need for the exposure. Bring a bag to fill with rocks when extra stability is needed.

Am I the only one here who hates quick-release plates and locking systems? The plates are a PITA attached to the cameras and get lost if you remove and store them somewhere. I've caught a camera on its way to the ground more than once from 1) quick releases releasing when the shouldn't 2) accidentally actuating the release lever when I didn't want to. I don't think they save that much time, either. I can mount my 4x5 camera onto my tripod head in 10 seconds flat; that's fast enough.

You don't have to obsess over leveling the tripod if you have a good 3-way head that you can level things with later. Just make sure you don't have the center of gravity of the whole set-up in an unstable place. It's so much faster leveling the camera with the tripod head than fiddling with tripod leg locks, sliding legs in-and-out over and over to get things level.

More tips:

Tripods with legs that have provision for changing the angle are much more useful in the field. Manfrotto 3-position legs are an example. In practice, I could have one leg in each of the three possible positions; one on the ground, one out to the side more on a rock or similar and one almost horizontally extended, resting on a tree trunk or cliff face.

Three times I've had lock knobs rattle off and get lost when transporting my tripods in rough terrain or on my bicycle carrier, regardless of how tightly I though they were locked. I now carry spares, as well as spares for my leg lock knobs.

Find your exact camera position before you set up your tripod. Close one eye, walk back and forth, do a deep knee bend, whatever you need. Then set up the tripod with the platform under your chin. I rarely need to pick up my tripod and move it and the camera around after setting up.

When on uneven ground, extend the tripod leg that needs to be longest first. Plant that in its place and then extend the other legs, while keeping the tripod eyeball-level, to their respective positions.

When mounting your camera (without the pesky quick-release plate!), flip the platform up 90° so it's perpendicular. Then you can easily mount the camera and then return it to it's horizontal position.

Don't get lax about tightening lock knobs well. Re-check them all before making the exposure (especially the pan lock on the tripod head if you use LF and are inserting filmholders).

When going around to the front of the camera, e.g., to mount filters or, for us LFrs, to make aperture/shutter-speed settings, watch your feet. That way, you won't kick a tripod leg inadvertently and have to start everything over.

It defeats using a tripod if you don't use a cable release (or self-timer). And, learn good shutter-release technique with your cable release too.

I see people carrying their tripod with camera mounted all the time. While this makes for quicker set up, and might even be advantageous for smaller cameras, with 4x5 and larger it's asking for trouble. Unless I'm only moving a short distance, I pack up everything. It's too easy to get expensive things snarled up in branches or whack them on a tree trunk or whatever otherwise.

I've covered the upper segments of all my metal tripod legs with foam pipe insulation. Really nice in both hot and cold weather.

When packing things back into your car after a long day (or more) of hiking and photographing, especially when you are dead tired, double check to make sure your tripod is actually in the vehicle (don't ask me how I know this :smile: )

Best,

Doremus
 

MattKing

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Am I the only one here who hates quick-release plates and locking systems?

Could be :smile:.
They are absolutely wonderful if, like me, you have to do most things mostly with one hand.
Prepare the locking system, use the good hand to move the camera and plate to it and, like the Apollo shuttle, when the plate is positioned correctly, the locking system snaps closed - to be followed with a simple securing further push.
 
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The thing about using a quick release plate is that mine allows attachment to both the 3/8" and 1/4" shareholders on the base of the camera adding more stability (maybe). If I was to attach the camera base directly to the tripod, I could only use one screw connection. Of course, the QR is only using the one screw. But that's locked down more or less permanently.
 

Sirius Glass

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Ready for some tripod heresy? Here goes:

Get the lightest tripod you can that will do the job (i.e., support the camera without being flimsy or collapsing). You'll use it more. Unless you're working in a windstorm or an earthquake, lighter is better. Stability just means your tripod and camera have to be motionless for whatever time you need for the exposure. Bring a bag to fill with rocks when extra stability is needed.

I agree.
 

Sirius Glass

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Ready for some tripod heresy? Here goes:

...

Am I the only one here who hates quick-release plates and locking systems? The plates are a PITA attached to the cameras and get lost if you remove and store them somewhere. I've caught a camera on its way to the ground more than once from 1) quick releases releasing when the shouldn't 2) accidentally actuating the release lever when I didn't want to. I don't think they save that much time, either. I can mount my 4x5 camera onto my tripod head in 10 seconds flat; that's fast enough.

This maybe camera dependent. I find the quick release plate are faster, safer and more fool proof with the Hasselblad. Yes I double check that the quick release plate is firmly in place before I do anything else.
 

JerseyDoug

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My recommendations when people see me using my tripod and ask about buying one for their own work:

(1) Buy a good wide comfortable strap for carrying the tripod. I like the OP/TECH USA strap.

(2) Buy the heaviest carbon fiber tripod (a) that you can carry comfortably with the strap, (b) that has no center column - if it has a center column you will eventually extend it and vibration will ensue - and (c) that is tall enough to look at the ground glass or through the viewfinder while standing straight up - your back will thank you as you get on in years.

I am 5'11" tall, about to begin my ninth decade, and use my Gitzo GT2542LS with a GH2750 offset ball head for everything from a Leica IIIc to a Hasselblad 500C/M with a 180mm f/4 lens.
 
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