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Tips for Using a Tripod

Is your tripod strong enough for your gear?

Make sure your tripod can adequately support the weight of your DSLR and lens combined - see our Tripod Buying Guide here. That new lens you just added to your kit may be too heavy for your existing tripod.

When to use a tripod

• to get crisp images when shooting long exposures - such as the night sky and when using Neutral Density filters

• to ensure your landscapes and sunsets have a level horizon line - once you've leveled the tripod and set it up correctly, you won't need to worry about your camera tilting as you compose an image.

• for shooting still life - a tripod makes it easier to keep every different object at the same point in the frame, and it helps with stability when focusing on small objects.

• for shooting a succession of identical portraits or group shots (wedding, reunion, etc - the photographer can keep the camera in the same position with same lighting for each person or group

How to use a tripod

1. How high should you go?

The higher you set up the tripod, the more wobbly it will be. Use the minimum height you need to capture the shot without compromising on stability.

2. Adjust the leg height

If you’re shooting on level ground, extend the legs before you position the tripod. The only way you’ll know for sure that the legs are all the same length is to lengthen them before you actually spread them out.
Tripods have either three or four sections nested inside each other. Extend the thickest upper legs first followed by the thinner ones next and the thinnest ones only if needed. Lock each leg into place once you have extended it.

3. Spread out the legs fully

Wherever possible, spread the legs fully. If you want to get a shot that’s low to the ground, you might have to adjust the legs as far out as possible, so they’re almost flat to the ground. This still guarantees more stability than any other method.

4. Use the centre post last for additional height

If you've extended your tripod to its full height, and you still need more extension, you can raise the center column. Since the central post is not as solid as the legs, it’s best to only use it for fine height adjustments rather than to hold up the camera.

5. Point the front tripod leg at your subject

Many photographers prefer to point one tripod leg towards their subject and keep two legs behind. Since you’ll be doing a lot of the work from behind the camera, having two legs creates a bit more stability. It also helps you stand close to the camera without being obstructed.

6. Put two tripod legs forward on downhill slopes

Naturally, you should place two of the tripod legs wherever the tripod needs most stability. On a downhill slope, make sure two tripod legs are pointed forward to add more stability to the set-up.

7. Is it level?

If your tripod comes with a spirit level attached, use this to check that your tripod is level. Otherwise check the horizon or vertical lines in your image. Make adjustments if not level.

8. Attach the camera

Screw the tripod's quick release plate firmly into your camera's tripod thread (located on the bottom of your camera), and click it into place on the tripod head. Remember to lock this! Adjust your tripod head to the position required and tighten all screws so that the camera doesn't slip or move during shooting.

9. Keep your tripod steady with a weighted bag

Windy conditions often pose a strong threat to knock your tripod down. Adding a weight as simple as a small bag of rocks (you can even use your camera bag) to the centre post in your tripod can help give the contraption more stability.

10. Balance out heavy lenses with a tripod collar

Sometimes, a heavy lens is enough to throw off the centre of gravity and topple your tripod. A tripod collar is a simple tripod accessory that helps redistribute the weight and ensure your camera is protected.

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