people taking photos using tripods
A good tripod can improve the quality of your photos exponentially. Ubeesize

No one single piece of equipment will improve your photography skills like a tripod. These unsung devices hold your camera level and motionless to provide the best possible image. Whether you fancy yourself a shutterbug or just want to commemorate your time outdoors as best as you can, you should pick up a tripod. Even if you’re only using a smartphone camera, a tripod can help you take your pictures to the next level. If you’re not sure what to look for, here’s a primer on the basics.

Size & Weight

Tripods with rubber feet are suited for indoor use, while tripods with spikes are better for outside. UBeesize

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If a tripod is too big or heavy, you’ll end up leaving it at home. Look for a model that easily fits wherever you intend to stash it. If you plan on keeping it in a blind bag to get a trophy photo at the end of a day afield, you’re limited to a compact model. This is fine but might not be the best choice for shooting landscapes where the added height of a full-size tripod is useful to capture the horizon line.

Load Capacity

Pick a tripod with a head that’s strong enough to hold a heavy camera. Ubeesize

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A tripod can only hold so much weight before it becomes unsteady or the head starts to tilt. Think of how much your camera weighs before selecting a tripod and make sure it’s not close to the tripod’s load rating. Even though the manufacturer may state it can handle heavy cameras, the tripod will start to get shaky when you approach the top end of the weight capacity. Stay within the lower two-thirds of the stated weight capacity for the best results.

The Head

Make sure the tripod head tightens enough to keep your camera pointing in the direction you need. Mactrem

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The connection where the camera interfaces with the tripod is called the head. This component is responsible for keeping your camera oriented the way you set it. There are a few different ways of doing this, but the ball head is likely the most popular. To use it, you simply point the camera where you want it to go and tighten a thumbscrew.

Get a Grip

If you’re already packing a lot of gear into the field, a condense, lightweight tripod might serve you best. Ubeesize

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Most tripods have non-slip rubber feet designed to stay in place but not damage indoor surfaces. These work well in their intended environment but can slip on rugged outdoor surfaces. If you’re shooting photos outside, look for a tripod with spiked feet for the ultimate in traction. For the best of both worlds, look for a tripod that has rubber feet with retractable spikes for indoor and outdoor use.

Other Considerations

If you want to cover all your bases, a tripod that also functions as a monopod or selfie stick is a great solution. LEKNES

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A tripod is the most traditional way to support a camera, but it certainly isn’t the only one. Many photographers have started to use monopods, which offer a faster setup time than their three-legged brethren. Monopods have the advantage of also being used to extend your reach to shoot over obstacles or can double as a selfie stick (if you must).