Three Tips for Pin Sharp Shots with a Tripod

Making sure you get pin sharp results

The ultimate goal is a pin-sharp shot. Photographers use this term to describe how well defined and clean edged your shots are. You will gain sharpness by using a tripod. But beware, even while using a tripod there can still be movement.

Use only what you need

Here is a quick tip for a steady tripod. If you extend the legs of your tripod fully you will notice that the lower sections of the tripod are thinner than the upper leg sections. This is so they can slide into each other when packed away. Unfortunately the thinner sections on the lower legs are more flexible. So, if you want your tripod to be steady then try not to extend the legs out fully. Instead extend the upper leg parts before extending the lower leg parts. Use the thinnest sections last and only if you have no choice.

You should put on weight

Another way to steady the tripod is to weigh it down. Tripods move or vibrate easily. Slight breezes create a slight vibration. Stronger breezes might even cause the tripod to move. Both affect your photograph because of tripod movement. You can minimise this using small a weight. There is often a hook on the bottom of the central column of your tripod. This hook is for the purpose of hanging a weight. You can use your camera bag or a plastic bag with a rock in it. The weight will create a downward force keeping the tripod steady on the ground. The free-swinging weight also helps dampen vibrations caused by movement. About 2 Kg is ideal. This will not work in very strong wind. You will need to get out of the wind or come back another day.

A moving experience

Many people are surprised by how much movement there is in the ground. If you put your tripod where vibration comes through the ground you will not get pin-sharp pictures. This vibration can be quite significant. So here is a list of places to avoid ground vibration…

  • Bridges (very high vibration levels possible)
  • Artificial mounds or features like railway elevations
  • Near railways while trains are passing, railway stations
  • Tall buildings – vibration and movement increases the higher up you are
  • Wooden floors in houses – almost any movement on the floor will affect the shot
  • Motorways/freeways – or any busy road, especially if used by commercial traffic
  • The ground over subways, underground roads or underground traffic
  • Landing places (airports) – aircraft noise and landings both cause tripod vibration
  • Road works
  • Heavy machinery

As you see from the list any place where there is loud noise can create ground vibration. It also creates vibration in the air. Many of you will have felt that horrible deep vibration in your chest when a low-flying aircraft passes over-head. Yep, that will affect your picture if you are using a tripod.

Beware everything…

Don’t assume the tripod will protect you from movement. You need to think how it is being used and where. Getting pin sharp pictures is about developing awareness of where you shoot, your equipment and how it is used.
Have fun with your camera!

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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