The tripod is one of the most essential tools in a photographer’s arsenal. It ensures maximum stability, enables experimenting with low shutter speeds, and allows you to stage photographs better.
But tripods can be heavy and bulky, not something we want while traveling.
So what’s the deal? Is it worth it?
Read on to find out why.
Get those sweet, sweet selfies
How will anyone know you travel all the time if you’re not in your pictures? You could have gotten that landscape photo off of Google Images!
Tripods make it easy to snag a picture of yourself without sacrificing your dignity as you would if you opted for a selfie stick.
Balancing a nice camera or an expensive phone on rocks or furniture to get a timed shot is dangerous and difficult. Tripods are really your only option here.
Tripods facilitate low-light shots
Few of the best shots are taken during the bright midday sun. Golden hour is the best time for photography, as we all know.
In order to take a low-light shot that isn’t grainy, you usually need to slow down the shutter speed.
Buuut, low shutter speeds and hand-held photos are a bad combination. Unless you have the hands of a surgeon, it’s unlikely you can keep them still enough to maximize your shot. 1/30th of a second is pretty much the slowest shutter speed you can get by hand, and that’s assuming you are holding your breath, leaning against a stable object, and you have 5-axis image stabilization built into your camera….
That’s why we use tripods! Easy solution.
Long exposures are in right now
C’mon, who doesn’t love those starry night swirls?
Fact is, if you’re trying to get a long exposure of anything you need a tripod. Unless you’re a statue, I guess?
Jokes aside, long exposures are really valuable for photographing landscapes with water features. They’re also critical in capturing a city at night. Both of those photos are something travel photographers will encounter frequently.
Tripods are necessary for any decent video
If you’re doing travel photography, I assume you aren’t planning on just uploading the results to your Instagram feed.
This is art, not a Snapchat story. Shaky videos are a no-no.
That’s what a tripod is for – removing shake, enabling smooth panning, and keeping your field level.
Tripod vs Monopod
You’ve probably encountered monopods if you’ve ever done photography while hiking.
They’re an interesting option – worth entertaining certainly. They telescope much better than tripods, so they can ultimately be quite small. A lot of them double as trekking poles, which is cool if you use those (I’m an old-fashioned walking stick kind of man).
The downside is that you usually still have to hold it up and hold it still. Some of them do come with a little base made of three legs… but then that makes them a tripod, doesn’t it? Actual monopods, with one leg, do still depend on the photographer.
My opinion is that if you’re going to use it as a trekking pole, then it is a good investment and dual use tool. Otherwise, a tripod still beats out a monopod.
What to look for in a good travel tripod
There are 3 key features we want in a travel tripod: light weight, compact, and durable.
If you’re gonna be carrying this thing all over the place, save yourself some sweat. Get one that doesn’t weigh a ton.
Certain materials, such as carbon fiber or aluminum, often make for great equipment that feels like a feather.
How small can that tripod fold up? Will it fit into your backpack? Does it have its own carrying case?
These are important considerations for anyone moving around a lot. Carrying extra baggage though airports and such is difficult, not to mention expensive.
However, you don’t want to sacrifice utility just for ease of packing.
While you could just get one of those mini-tripods, there are often better options.
Here’s a tripod that folds down to a mere 14 inches, while still extending to a respectable 57″.
Let’s be real: camera equipment gets beat up.
That’s doubly true for equipment used while traveling. It’s simply impossible to protect everything during the chaos of travel.
We’ve all broken a really expensive lens at some point. That’s tragic. We don’t want to repeat that.
So a travel tripod needs to be the same – able to take a beating. A bent leg will prevent it from folding up.
A Google search for “durable travel tripod” might not bring up the results you want, so here’s a tip:
The camera’s carrying capacity, or load, is a proxy for how tough it is. If it can carry more, it’s made of a stronger material.
Get yourself a tripod and get traveling!
What kind of travel tripod did you end up with? What awesome photos did you take with it? Share it with everyone here, or on our Instagram!