Use a Tripod for Better Landscape Photographs
by Sarah Ehlen
If you want to improve your landscape photos, my biggest piece of advice is to use a tripod. Why are tripods so essential for landscape photography? There are several reasons:
Low Light Photography
Anytime you want to shoot in low light situations such as sunrise, sunset, or twilight, you’ll be dealing with slow shutter speeds. If you try to hand-hold your camera at slow shutter speeds, you’ll likely end up with a blurry image from camera shake. Since sunrises and sunsets are staples of landscape photography, stabilizing your camera is a must.
Using a tripod inherently means slowing down. And while that might be frustrating at first, taking a little extra time allows you to be a lot more intentional with your composition which is a huge plus.
Once you have your camera on a tripod, you can step back and review your photo on the back of your camera to see if there are distractions sneaking in along the edges of the frame. Sometimes just small adjustments is all it takes to greatly improve an image.
A tripod opens up opportunities to play with longer exposures. For example, I wouldn’t have been able to take either of these blurred water shots without a tripod:
The photos above were taken at shutter speeds of around one to two seconds in order to blur the moving water. Since it’s pretty much impossible to hold your camera perfectly steady for that amount of time, this is where your tripod becomes invaluable.
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Last but not least, using a tripod is the most sure-fire way to create a tack sharp photo. Typically for landscape images, we’re looking to have every detail as sharp as possible.
There are times where your camera’s autofocus system will struggle, particularly in low light conditions. When this happens, if you’re using a tripod, it’s easy to switch over to manual focus. This works particularly well if you view the image on the back of your camera so that you can see exactly where you’re focusing. Use your camera’s magnification feature to zoom in on the screen if you’re having trouble eyeballing your focus.
Here are a few additional tips for using your tripod:
- Practice, practice, practice. You won’t like using your tripod if you’re unfamiliar with how the knobs work. It’s best to practice setting it up and adjusting it at home until it becomes second nature.
- Arrive early to prepare. Using a tripod obviously takes more time than simply pointing and shooting. For example, if you’re trying to photograph sunset, be sure to arrive early to give yourself plenty of time to find just the right composition and get your tripod set up without being rushed.
- Don’t shake the camera. Use your camera’s self-timer mode or a remote release to trigger the shutter. This way, you won’t inadvertently shake your camera and tripod while trying to take the picture.
- Use a quick release plate. Most tripod heads are compatible with a special plate that attaches to the bottom of your camera. This allows you to quickly take your camera on and off your tripod, saving time and eliminating a lot of frustration.
- Find your composition first. Do yourself a favor — before putting your camera on a tripod, find your composition first. Once you know the shot you want, then dig out your tripod. It’s a lot easier to find creative angles if you start out with your camera off your tripod.
- Get a sturdy tripod. Make sure that your tripod can properly hold the weight of your camera and heaviest lens. It’s well worth it to invest in a sturdy, high quality tripod since it’s something you’ll have for many years.
I hope that this inspires you to get to know your tripod better! Rather than thinking of it as a heavy and clunky piece of gear, consider it a creative tool that will help you take the best landscape photographs possible.