I would safely say that the biggest hurdle I have in my online class with the PPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet, is to get my students to use a tripod. The digital era has brought with it a new class of photographers that think the only way to take a photo is to always hand hold their camera; and that’s fine a lot of the time. When I’m walking around, either when I’m traveling or just taking snapshots around my hometown, I’ll carry my camera over my shoulder. That’s when the photos are for a record of where I’ve been, or possibly for planning out my next shoot, or for showing a family member something or someone I might have seen, or perhaps for a teaching aid.
However, when I’m going out to take serious photos, I always use a tripod…why you ask?
Because I’ll never let my camera tell me when and where I can take a photo. I’m going to be the only one that decides if i can shoot something or not…certainly not a machine. Ok, I know you can jack up the ISO to a degree, but I wish I had a dollar for every time a student explained that the reason the photo they submitted looked weird is because they forgot to change the ISO back to the normal range. I’ve also been told that they don’t shoot when the light is toooooooooo low because they can’t hand hold their camera during that time…YIKES!!!!! Tell me it ain’t so!!!!!!
All this is predicated on the idea that early in the morning or late in the evening is going to be the best light, and therefore that’s when I’m going to shoot; it’s the only time I shoot when I’m serious. I want to be able to shoot at any shutter speed I want, and with any aperture setting…and any combination of the two. This is how I maintain control of my photographs.
If you like shooting after breakfast right after lunch, and before dinner and your goal is to take “half way decent pictures” and be a fairly good photographer, then by all means hand hold your camera. If you want something more, then get a tripod. The key is to get a tripod that’s simple to use and lightweight. So many students of mine have inexpensive tripods that are only good for putting hanging plants on. It’s a life time investment and one of the best you’ll ever make. Buying one and occasionally using it won’t do you any good. It takes practice…a lot of practice. When you get use to it you’ll find that it’s going to open up soooooooo many creative doors for you. It’s going to free up your hands…why is that important you ask?
To me, I think of a camera on a tripod like a canvas on an easel. When I’m on a tripod, I can leave the camera and adjust something in my composition and know that when I take a look at whatever changes I’ve done, the camera will be in the exact same position. If you’re hand holding your camera and you make a change, you’ll never be able to go back to the same position. When I’m designing the Negative and Positive space for example, or moving something into or out of my frame, I want to be able to see the exact change in my viewfinder.
But that’s just me! When I eat breakfast, I want to be hungry and happy from all that beautiful light I shot in at sunrise. When I eat lunch, I want to be planning my next shoot (probably at sunset that day) over a glass of White Bordeaux and a Cobb Salad.
Take a look at some of my photos that could not have been taken without a tripod. Not necessarily because of the light and shutter/aperture combinations, but having my hands free to ‘arrange‘ things as well.
Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2012 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot the sunrise and sunsets with me. You might want to bring along a tripod!!
Don’t forget to send me a question and a photo to: AskJoeB@gmail.com