As a photographer, you always need the help of a few accessories. No matter what niche you belong to – travel, wedding, sports, landscape, or astrophotography – a little help goes a long way. Of course, your niche will determine which accessories are of more importance to you, but which one is essential across all niches? The tripod.
Tripods are generally the one photography accessory that photographers cannot live without. As technology advances, we’ve gotten new alternatives to tripods such as monopods and even drones, as some would say.
However, the tripod is still as popular as ever. It’s cheaper than a drone and provides more stability than a monopod. Whenever you need to use a long exposure or slow shutter speed, a tripod will help you ensure that no handheld shake ruins the picture.
It’s also great to use if your camera body or lens is sturdy and heavy, saving you the trouble of holding a heavy object. For example, sports photographers usually have large bulky zoom lenses. Holding a camera like that for the duration of a whole sports event can be tiring, but luckily the tripod saves you from that hassle.
However, one thing about tripods stands true – they’re a bit bulky and thus annoying to carry around. If your photography work requires you to travel a lot, you’d know how annoying it is to pack up your tripod and travel with it.
They take up a lot of space, but they’re still an essential item to have for most (if not all) photoshoots. So, we’ve come up with the best tips for traveling with a tripod in the hopes that your next trip will be a bit easier!
Buy A Good Quality Tripod
When you’re traveling with a tripod, you want to be at ease. What you don’t want is a low-quality tripod that’s always giving you problems. We get it, traveling is expensive, and you may want to buy the cheapest tripod possible to save up some cash. After all, all tripods are the same, right? But when you’re continually dealing with loose locks and wobbly legs in a place where you can’t purchase another tripod, you’ll be in trouble.
A good quality tripod will also remain intact no matter how you travel. Whether you’re on a plane, train, or even your car – you won’t have to worry about it getting damaged in the luggage. You’ll also be able to take it with you to different kinds of locations, whether you’re off to the mountains or the forest.
This doesn’t mean that you stress out and try to buy the best tripod you can. Stick to your budget and buy the best one you can, but don’t cheap out.
Big Is Not Always Better
With tripods, people always tend to think that size matters. Bigger tripods are generally considered to be more durable and sturdier; they can also extend up higher, which makes them desirable.
However, if you’re traveling with a tripod, we recommend choosing something that’s more compact. Compact tripods are smaller, but they’re so much easier to travel with. They don’t take up too much space in your luggage, and they’re also more comfortable to carry manually on the day of the shoot.
Don’t worry about quality either. You can find excellent compact tripods that are sturdy and capable of supporting bulky DSLRs and lenses. We recommend going for a carbon fiber model when it comes to a compact tripod because they’re the sturdiest.
Don’t Be Scared Of Water
If your traveling brings you to a shooting location with a waterbody, don’t be scared to set your tripod in the water. Many photographers ditch the tripod and choose to step into a river or sea themselves in order to take the shot.
If you’re going to do that, you run the risk of getting blurry photos due to handheld shake. If you’re investing in a tripod and traveling with it, it only makes sense to use it. And a little water isn’t going to hurt your tripod.
Just set up your tripod on the land, and then place it in shallow water. Then, you can peacefully take all the shots you want. If you’re shooting in the ocean, just watch out for any rogue waves and keep a hard grip on your tripod to ensure it doesn’t topple over.
Always remember to thoroughly dry your tripod after placing it in water too! If you don’t do this, your tripod may rust easily – especially if you were using it in saltwater.
Expect The Unexpected
Picture this, you’re shooting a landscape shot out in a high field. You’re all done, you take off your camera, pack up your tripod, and head back to your car. On your way, you see a spectacular shot of a wild animal, but by the time you’re done setting your camera and tripod back up, the animal’s gone.
Has that ever happened to you? Chances are that it has, and that’s why we always recommend expecting the unexpected when you’re photographing while traveling. You don’t always have to pack up your tripod to move.
Having a compact tripod means that you can move it around even with your camera attached to it, and you should! When you’re done shooting at a place, just pick up your tripod and move somewhere else. This ensures that you don’t miss out on any shots. Only pack up when you’re ready to go home!
Learn To Be Patient
Taking the perfect picture requires a lot of patience. You have to wait for the right light, the ideal composition, and the perfect pose. When you’re traveling, it’s easy to get impatient and want to quickly move on to a new location.
However, doing so will only do you more harm than good. When you find an excellent spot to take pictures from, set up your camera and tripod and then wait calmly for a good shot. With a tripod, you’ll be able to wait effortlessly, too, since you aren’t holding the camera yourself.
Extend The Legs Smartly
A lot of photographers don’t know how to properly use a tripod. They extend the tripod to its highest and then attach the camera and start taking pictures. However, doing so doesn’t always guarantee the best shot.
The higher you extend your tripod, the more unstable it is. It becomes incredibly difficult to shoot with a tripod drawn out to the maximum when you’re in an unknown terrain or in difficult weather conditions. Hence, you should only extend the legs as much as needed.
An excellent tip to keep in mind when extending your tripod is to extend the top legs first. These are larger and thicker than the bottom ones and thus offer more support. If needed, expand the middle one afterward. Only extend the last ones if you really need to do so as those are the thinnest!
The neck of your tripod, which is at the top, should only be extended if you absolutely need to. This is the thinnest part and hence the most likely to cause any shake.
Use The Front Tripod Leg
A good trick to always incorporate when traveling with a tripod is to use the front tripod leg smartly. When shooting in a new or unknown location, you’re in unfamiliar terrain, and it may be challenging to place the tripod correctly.
If this is something you struggle with, you can use this front leg trick. Just point your front tripod leg towards the subject and the two legs behind, where you are. This will give your tripod excellent stability and allow you to stand closer to the camera too.
Account For Weather
When you’re traveling, you’re likely to encounter different weather conditions. Hence, you should know how to use your tripod in various types of weather. If the weather’s clear, you’re good to go – just use the tripod as you usually would.
If you’re shooting somewhere windy, your tripod could topple over. The chances of this happening are higher if you have the tripod extended on its thinnest legs. A good trick for a tripod in windy weather is using a weighted bag.
Empty out your travel bag, fill it with rocks, or any heavy object you can find, and add it to the center post in your tripod. This will help make the tripod more stable.
Another circumstance you should be prepared for is rainy weather. You can take some excellent shots in rainy weather, but it’s essential to protect your tripod. In rainy weather, your tripod can slip, which can damage both your camera and the tripod.
So, what do you do? Attach rubber grips to your tripod legs. This will add more resistance to your tripod lens and make your tripod less likely to slip. You should also cover your tripod with an umbrella or plastic sheet. Exposure to too much water can cause your tripod to rust.