How to know when you should use a tripod

Tips and techniques to make your photos look their best

Have you ever looked at a photo on your camera screen and thought it was okay, only to open it on your home computer and find out it's all blurry? Don't worry, it happens to everyone -- even me, and I'm a professional photographer!

We humans, with just two legs, are notoriously shaky. Even when standing dead still, we waver a little. It only gets worse as we move up the body to the hands, too. Try holding your hands out in front of you; notice how they shake ever so slightly?

That wavering, plus those minute hand shakes, transfer to your camera. Even when you're sure you're holding a camera steady, you still have to push the button to take a photo -- and then it shakes! The only real solution is to use a tripod.

When a tripod is the right choice
The less light there is, the longer the shutter on the front of the camera must remain open. If the camera shakes even the tiniest bit while the shutter is open, your image will be blurred. In short, if it's not a clear, bright day, you should use a tripod. 

Here are some general rules of thumb:

  • If it's early morning, you need a tripod.
  • If the sun has started to set, you need a tripod.
  • If you like zooming in on your subject, you should use a tripod (zooming amplifies your movements!).
  • If you want to take photos of fine details, like the petals of a flower or the writing on a sign, you should use a tripod.
When it comes down to it, most professional photographers always use a tripod. While you can't always carry a tripod with you, buy one and keep it in the car -- you might be surprised at how often you get to use it. If you do get caught without a tripod, try a trick like balancing your camera on a wall or fence post!

[Image credit: William Warby]