A tripod is not a tripod when it’s another stabiliser!
I suggest everyone use a tripod for the sharpest image. Of course they are not always practical. However, there are alternatives. Here are ideas for stabilised working without tripod.
Working with a tripod is perhaps evidence for careful attention to detail. After all the use of a tripod does require some persistence. They can be heavy, they certainly take up space and take a little time to put up when you want to take a shot. On the other hand, they definitely increase the sharpness of the shot and allow longer exposures. They also provide a firm platform to work with when working a scene, giving the photographer flexibility to walk around. They also provide a vantage point for the camera during the shot – a solid holding point for the camera in difficult situations.
Using different versions of tripods extend their usefulness. The Joby Gorillapod series of tripods are excellent. They provide a solid platform for taking photos which can be adapted to almost anything as a holding point. So instead of a long set of three legs, the existing bendy legs can be used to grip fences, poles, furniture, walls… well pretty much anything you can think of using. They are light and practical and can be used in most situations as long as you can find a place to anchor them. They do not work at their best with a very heavy camera and lens setup. So they do have their limitations. However, for most entry level DSLRs, medium sized DSLRs and most normal lenses they are great.
The other possible tripod-alternative product to consider is the bean bag. There have been a number of different types of bean bags made over the years. The idea is that you can use a bean bag to bed down your camera on a variety of surfaces. Wall tops, rocks, the ground, cars, even furniture are all perfectly acceptable for using the bean bag. The one that I recommend is the Maxsima – Professional Camera Bean Bag – ‘twin bags’ 262×162. Lens support Bean Bags for Wildlife photography etc.. also Designed for use on a Vehicle / Car door . It provides a solid and adaptable way to put your camera on a hard surface to prevent damage to the camera (from abrasion, chips and dirt). This is, in effect, a cheap and efficient way to make a solid stand-point from which to make a shot. It is not as accurate as a tripod – you may have to massage the bean bag into the right shape to get the camera pointing exactly where you want it. In general however, it is a great way to work when you have limited options, especially at ground level or when working with other surfaces.
Another, simple option!
The final option you have is somewhat surprising. Its simplicity is also its flexibility. And because it is so simple, a lot of photographers forget to use it as an option. Try rolling up your jumper, jacket or even your coat! If you make a ball or cushion on which to put your camera you have a way to protect it from the ground or abrasive surfaces. But it provides a simple and solid surface for your camera. Lots of photographers forget the simple answer. They often think of the high-tech solution. But sometimes it pays to work smart when you are in a situation and you are caught out.
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