Tripod Pan and Tilt Techniques

If you are using a camera with a pan tilt tripod head, then you are probably using one of the 3-way devices which allow you to move the position of the camera when it is placed on the tripod. These pan and tilt heads mean that you can move the camera in a certain direction and then lock it into place, removing the worry that it might fall off of the axis that is present when you use a ball head device. Using the pan tilt system is not very difficult, and you should be able to manage it once you understand a few simple principles of movement within the pan and tilt device.

Using the Locks

The basic method of controlling the pan tilt tripod head is through the locks which are positioned below the camera plate. Clamp your camera into position on the plate, and then you can adjust this position using the locks. One will move the aim of the camera upwards, and the other to the side. These locks are adjustable, but you will need to have some practice in the privacy of your own home before you start using it in public, as it is easy to make a mistake and photograph the ground when you were trying to catch a plane in the sky. Use an old camera, and stick a straw to the lens, pointing outwards; this will help you to judge the position of the locks.

Time and Patience

While the 3-way is often used by professionals, it can take an awfully long time to get the position just right using the locks. You may also find that, while you are adjusting one position, the camera moves slightly from the other axis (for example, you could be adjusting the up-down direction, and find that the camera is pointing towards the left when you have finished). The solution to this is to move your locks in a very gradual adjustment, rather than in one quick change, as this can prevent the locks from sliding out of place.

You may also find that the locks do not allow sufficient movement, and you have to reposition the tripod and then go back to moving the locks. This can be very frustrating, but the photographs your camera takes will be sharp and clear. You may find that greasing the locks slightly helps to make the movement smoother, but in most cases, it is just a slow process.

Lock the Tripod

Once you have got the camera into the right position using a pan-tilt tripod head, there is nothing more annoying than forgetting to lock the tripod, and watching it move to a different position while you are trying to take a great picture. Once you have finished positioning the gears, put them into the off position recommended by your particular pan tilt head's manufacturer.


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