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In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.
I really love a good tripod and I can go on and look there's a giant bug flying around. I can go on at length about really nerdy details about tripods from the advantages of particular kinds of latches, to my preference for some materials and let's not even get started on heads. I currently own three tripods, a really nice monopod and a couple of different heads. So, if I'm such a tripod maniac, how come in most of the courses you see, here on lynda.com, I'm not using a tripod, I'm not even carrying one, I'm going handheld.
Yes, I do love my tripods and I use them for some macro shooting and definitely low-light shooting, product shooting. Anytime where shutter speed needs to go long either because of lighting conditions or depth of field needs, absolutely I want the best tripod I can find. But for most of the shooting I can do I find that I can work handheld, even landscape shooting. Because of a couple of different reasons. First of all, in a modern SLR and even a lot of smaller point and shoot cameras, high ISO response is so good, that I can crank my ISO up without suffering a noise penalty to get those faster shutter speeds that I need for good handheld sharpness.
So between, high ISO capability and stabilized lenses And good technique. I find that I can simply get away without using a tripod for most of the everyday shooting that I do. Carrying a tripod adds more bulk to my kit. It means that if I carry a tripod I might be less inclined to carry an additional lens. I really want as much lens flexibility as I can in most situations, so I tend to leave my tripod at home. Also my shooting style is not so much about going into say a landscape location and trying to pull out just three or four really refined, finicky perfect images.
I want to stay on the move. I want to be seeing as much as I can. I want to be trying as many different things as I can. I will confess that I am not a sharpness maniac, I feel like digital technology and advances in lenses have gotten us all to this point where maximum sharpness is what we're, we're after all the time. And yet, some of the greatest images in the history of photography. Some of the best photographers who've worked over the last 150 years. When you look at their shots, they're not super sharp. But those images still work. Now, if I knew that my output needs demanded a particular level of sharpness.
Then I might be a little more careful about always working with a tripod. And I sometimes print very big, but honestly it's very rare that in normal situations I find that I'm coming back with a compromised image, because I don't have a tripod. Now you can go to tripods that easier to carry. Maybe some that aren't as tall and so on and so forth. So there are ways of splitting the difference. And I will do that sometimes, I will go backpacking with a small tripod because I never know. That's the problem with going with a handheld only situation. Maybe I think eh, I'm not going to need one and then some incredible night time situation shows up and I can't shoot it.
But, in general I find that with careful use of ISO lens, stabilization, good form and camera holding, I can get away without using a tripod. If you want to know more about your own capabilities in this regard and whether you should be lugging a tripod or not, take your tripod out and do some experiments. See if you can get the same shot handheld as you can with your tripod. Try this in a low light Try this in regular daylight. Try it with different depth of field needs, and learn try to assess your own capabilities at hand-held shooting.
because if you find out that you've got a little more stability and a little more capability than you realized, you may not have to carry this thing around.
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