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Camera tripod – Exposure without blurring: Tripod or monopod

Many photographic situations require longer exposure times. A good tripod is a useful tool for those who are looking for a safe position for their camera. But there are tripods for different purposes and in all possible shapes, sizes and weights. It is not only important to use a suitable tripod for shooting, you also need to know how to use a camera tripod correctly. Here are some basic information you should keep in mind when buying and using a tripod.

Which camera tripods are there at all?

No ambitious photographer can do without a good camera tripod. Especially for longer exposure times, such as fireworks, or star photography, tripods are indispensable aids. Tripods are used outdoors as well as indoors. In the trade there are simple plastic tripods, which are suitable at most for light digital cameras and stable tripods from aluminum, carbon, or wood for the heavier DSLR cameras and elevated requirements. It is obvious that the price level of professional tripods is higher than that of the simple plastic alternative.

Basically, a camera tripod (also called a tripod) consists of a tripod head, a centre column with levelling device and three adjustable legs. The tripod head is a ball or tilt head on which the camera is screwed. The required pivoting, tilting or tilting movements can be carried out easily on all axes. The first photo tripods were all made of wood, a design that can only be found in studio cameras today for weight reasons.

In most cases, photographers nowadays prefer tripods made of aluminium or carbon fibre reinforced plastic (carbon), which have sufficient stability despite their low weight. The legs consist of three to four segments, which can be extended and retracted as desired. To ensure stability and stability, some manufacturers use hinged fasteners, while others rely on twist locks. At the end of the legs there are rubber feet from which a metal spike can often be unscrewed.

When should a tripod be used?

Even if you are not a fan of rules, you should keep in mind when it makes sense to use a tripod. A tripod helps to hold the camera steady, which is especially useful for long focal lengths and long exposure times. As a rule of thumb, the shutter speed should not be higher than the focal length of the lens. You can find some examples here:

Examples: 

  • If the lens has a focal length of 50 mm, the shutter speed should not be less than 1/60 second.
  • At a focal length of 100 mm, the shutter speed should not be less than 1/125 second.
  • If the focal length is 200 mm, the focal length should not be slower than 1/250 second.

If the shutter speed is slower than the above values, it is essential to use a tripod to shoot sharp images. For landscape photography, tripods are also very useful for ensuring that the photo and landscape have the same horizontal line. For macro shooting, a camera tripod helps align the lens with small objects. Photographers also like to use a tripod for portraits if they want to photograph several people from the same perspective.

Alternatives: monopods and camera clamps

Monopods consist of a single variable length column with a tripod screw at the tip. A rubber foot or a thorn provide a secure footing. Monopods are useful tools often used in conjunction with a camera tripod to stabilize heavy telephoto lenses.

On the long lenses there is a tripod ring to which a monopod can be attached with a screw. The advantages of monopods are their low weight, fast assembly and good transportability.

Camera clamps are usually made of aluminum and are designed to attach cameras to tables, doors, or other surfaces with a clamp thread. A ball head provides the necessary movement options. Camera clamps can be used universally as an alternative to a tripod.

Result: With long exposure times, a tripod is unavoidable

Camera tripods are available in countless sizes, designs and applications. For heavy DSLR cameras, care should be taken to ensure sufficient stability and weight. As alternatives monopods or camera clamps are available.

Portrait photography: Light, shadow and colour conditions around the main motif must be right

The famous painter Rubens knew this as well as photographers do today: the high art of pictorial representation are portraits. Technically there are different tricks in modern camera times, in order to set faces with successful portrait photography advantageously in scene.

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Portrait photography – Only the literal moment

Light and shadow, the background and special features of the model influence the quality of a portrait shot. These details must be checked and balanced as perfectly as possible before the actual recording:

  • Tip One: The Smallest Things

The lens of a camera sees the smallest details – even those that nobody likes to find in a portrait photo. A cup still standing on the back of the table can make the entire portrait unusable. A pitchfork next to the model is just as little a part of a nature portrait as a wilted leaf on a windowsill is of an interior photograph.

Distracting distractions are more noticeable:

First, the image section for the camera recording is determined. Now the photographer zooms as close as possible to the person to be portrayed. During this process, the smallest details suddenly become much more visible. This can already be a window through which the daylight falls unfavourably in the direction of the model. Only now follows the next step to prepare a really good portrait photo.

  • Tip Two: Looking in all directions

Some of the mentioned side issues change the mood of the portrait advantageously. So it is worth the effort to have a close look at the model from all sides in the planned photo environment. From above and below, from all sides and from behind – if necessary, helps to kneel and bend down, to sit the model down or to change his head posture.

Thus the panoramic view improves the portrait effect:

Leaves, a piece of sky with a nice cloud formation or a park bench can influence the effect of the portrait advantageously. It depends with this selection on which statement from the later portrait photo is desired.

The interplay of sharpness, light and shadow in portrait photography

The actual motif can only be created by carefully checking all light, shadow and colour conditions around the main character. Further tips improve the recording quality:

  • Tip Three: Bokeh

In photography, the Japanese term stands for photographic blurriness of backgrounds. But instead of shaking, it’s exactly this focusing game with the lens of a camera that comes into being for a good reason: it emphasizes the advantages of the portrait model. Technically, this shooting goal is achieved by changing the aperture and focal length and the photographer gets close to the model. The prerequisite for a desired blurring of the background is that the model is removed from it.

  • Tip Four: The Exposure

Shooting in the dark will be different from shooting in bright daylight. For optimal exposure, the camera should determine the brightness of the model. The previously required exposure measurement is based on this criterion. No matter how bright or dark the background is: Only the exposure number of the model leads to a really professional portrait photo.

Result: Apart from all technical tips, patience is the most important aspect

There are many aspects to consider to get a really successful portrait. With patience, these four basic tips and other criteria such as distance, glare spots or the eyes of the model, every portrait can be perfectly photographed. One tip that hasn’t been mentioned here is patience. Because even the most beautiful model is only flawless if every detail in this millisecond of the recording is right.

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