Substitute Tripod

Photo Tips Podcast: Substitute Tripod #22

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Substitute Tripod

There are often times when you are not carrying a tripod simply because they are not allowed or you were caught unprepared or you were simply being lazy and didn’t bring one. If this is the case what can you do? Strangely enough, one of the most creative and yet unlikely answers is to simply use a regular table lamp. You heard me right, a lamp! Like the ones with a shade on it. If you unscrew the little round metal cap at the top and take that shade off you will find that the thing holding up the shade has exactly the same thread as the tripod socket on the bottom of your camera. So all you have to do is screw your camera onto that and off you go. I will admit that it’s not the most stable thing in the world, but in a pinch it can definitely work wonders!

If you don’t have a lamp readily available, the next easiest thing to do is simply find some place to put your camera down. Like a park bench or a picnic table. Most of the time these are a little bit low and you’ll need it to be higher, so you can do this by putting your camera on top of your bag. Because most camera bags are a little bit squishy you can also use it to help prop the camera into position. You can also use a jacket or sweatshirt to help out too. Often I find that I just need to point the camera upwards just a little bit. In that situation I’ll put my lens cap or a wallet under my lens and this is just enough to point the camera upwards and in the right direction. Now, none of this will won’t allow you to do vertical shots very well, if at all but you can only do so much if you are lacking equipment.

Don’t forget the reason that we actually need to do this to begin with is because we are either doing a selfie or more often than not, because we need a long exposure. But all these methods are kind of precarious to begin with, so if I do have to prop my camera like this, I find that using a wireless remote shutter release or the timer function on the camera to be really helpful. Because I don't have to press the shutter button and possibly knock the camera out of place. If you are also shooting dslr I would recommend you shoot in live view as well. When you are shooting in live view your mirror is locked up, reducing any potential vibration or movement when the shutter is fired. Sometimes my set up is so precarious that the little bit of movement from the movement of the mirror will make my camera slip out of place.

Given what I just said, please be careful and make sure that if your camera moves that it won’t drop of a cliff, into a pond or onto the floor.

Lastly, the bean bag or sand bag thing. If you were unwilling to carry a tripod why would you be carrying one of these items? They are heavy and significantly less useful than a tripod for the vast majority of shooting conditions. Although I know there are reasons for using a bean bag or sand bag for your camera, these are not the situations I’m referring to. And to be clear a tripod is not a sand bag and a sand bag is not a tripod. Both can be very helpful depending on the type of shooting that you do.

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