We often see people reaching out and asking questions similar to “Do you need a tripod for night photography?” due to the lack of light available on night photography sessions increasing the importance of image stabilization. With the recent spike in popularity for night photography, we have noticed more and more people reaching out and specifically asking for advice on this.
As we doubt that the popularity of night photography will decrease anytime soon, we have decided to publish this article to try and help as many of our readers as possible. We know that we have a large number of readers who are beginner photographers and just starting out on their photography journey so want to keep their costs as low as possible too.
Is A Tripod Essential
The short version is that although a tripod is not an essential camera accessory for night photography, it is definitely able to help improve the image quality of your photographs on your night photography sessions. That said though, depending on the specific night photography niche that you are working in, you can still get some excellent photographs when holding your camera in your hands, especially if you have a decent camera lens with a nice and fast aperture.
For example, something like urban or street photograph at night, there should still be enough ambient light from the street lights and store signs to allow your camera sensor to capture a decent photograph while holding your camera in your hands. Although having some image stabilization available for this type of photograph can improve your image stabilization, the improvement can be minimal and a tripod can restrict what you can do for any run and gun style photography too.
On the flipside of this though, there are a large number of night photography sub-niches that definitely work better when using a decent cheap tripod. Anything like astrophotography, moon photography, or landscape photography at night will be a nightmare when holding your camera in your hands so a tripod is highly recommended for these niches.
This is due to the superior image stabilization provided by a tripod keeping your camera body still to allow it to capture the frame without having any blur due to vibrations. No matter how still you think you are holding your camera in your hands, there will be natural vibrations and even movement from when we breath than ends up working against you and ruining your image quality.
What Kind Of Tripod Is Best For Night Photography
Well this one is going to depend on your budget and what you are actually trying to do with your photography sessions as well as your future goals for your photography. If you are aspiring to become a professional photographer then something like Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 is going to be an excellent option.
Our regular readers will be fully aware that we feel the MT055CXPRO3 is one of, if not the best tripods ever made. It has one of the best reputations amongst both the photography and videography communities due to it offering you some of the best image quality possible during use. That said though, it does have the price tag to match so is often not the best choice for an entry level photographer or anyone who is one a tight budget.
If you are on a tighter budget but still wanting to pick up a decent tripod for your night photography sessions then Zomei z699c is an excellent, cheap little tripod that will serve you well. So many people instantly dismiss tripods around the one hundred dollar price point but advancements in the manufacturing process of tripods over the last few years have resulted in some excellent, cheap tripods being created.
Are There Alternatives To Tripods For Night Photography?
When we see people asking for an alternative to a tripod for night photography, we often see them follow it up with something like how they rest their camera body on a wall to ensure it is stable for the photograph. Although this can definitely work, it is extremely situational and there is no guarantee that you will have a wall or other stable object on location for all of your night photography sessions.
This is why we highly recommend that our readers pick up Zomei z699c at the very least as you are able to take it anywhere that you may need it. A tripod also offers you additional benefits too such as being able to tile or smoothly pan the head if required where as trying to pan your camera when resting on a wall will ruin a panoramic photograph due to the vibrations that it will cause.
How Do You Take Pictures At Night Without A Tripod?
We know that a large number of our readers are absolutely brand new to photography and may not have any budget at all for camera accessories such as a tripod. Due to this, we wanted to include this section in our article to try and ensure that you are still able to capture the best possible photograph at night without having access to a tripod.
Other than the points covered above such as try to rest your camera body on something firm and safe for your camera such as a near by wall, there are a few other things that you are able to try. Although these will not be anywhere near as effective as using a tripod, they may be able to help you.
The first is to use a very high ISO setting on your camera. Although you should be using a high ISO setting for night photography anyway, if you play around with an even higher ISO setting than normal, you can sometimes capture better photographs without having a tripod to use.
The second tip is to use a fast shutter speed on your camera. This one will depend on the specific niche of night photography you are working in as something like star trail photography simply wont work with this. The faster your shutter speed, the less chance you have of any vibrations or movement when holding your camera body in your hands ruining your photograph so it is well worth trying out.
The final tip is actually one that we have seen a number of people on Instagram use and have not actually tried it ourselves but it may help you on your night photography sessions without a tripod. Essentially, they make a sling for their camera and then hand it from something like a tree branch of a street lamp.
Although this may sound random, the work we have seen photographers publishing on social media is actually surprisingly good. The downside of using this method is similar to trying to use a wall for your image stabilization. There is no guarantee that you will always have access to a tree or a street light for your night photography sessions so it is very situational.