The smartphone tripod is one of the most essential tools in a mobile 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.
You Need a Phone Tripod for Travel Photography
Creating quality content in 2020 means going above and beyond to stand out. Here’s the thing though, a smartphone tripod is going above and beyond anymore – it’s a necessity. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing travel photography with a smartphone or vlogging from your parent’s basement, if you want to succeed you’ve got to get yourself one.
Reason You Need a Smartphone Tripod for Travel Photography #1 – To 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.
Reason You Need a Smartphone Tripod for Travel Photography #2 – 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.
But, 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.
Reason You Need a Smartphone Tripod for Travel Photography #3 – 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.
Reason You Need a Smartphone Tripod for Travel Photography #4 – 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 for your Smartphone
There are 3 key features we want in a travel tripod:
Buying a Smartphone Tripod Tip #1 – Light-Weight
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.
Buying a Smartphone Tripod Tip #2 – Compact
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″.
Buying a Smartphone Tripod Tip #3 – Durable
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 smartphone tripod’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 Smartphone Tripod for Traveling (and do it)!
What kind of travel mobile phone tripod did you end up with? What awesome photos did you take with it? Share it with everyone here, or on our Instagram!
The Best Smartphone Tripods for Travel Photography
You’re spending a lot of money when you travel, so make you’re capturing it adequately with a smartphone tripod. We’ve broken down three of our favorites below.
Most Durable Smartphone Tripod – Peak Design Travel Tripod
Peak Design Travel Tripod Weight – Alloy: 3.44 lbs + Carbon: 2.81lbs
Peak Design Travel Tripod Durability – 4.75/5
Peak Design Travel Tripod Minimum Size – 15.4” x 3.125″
According to Peak Design, their travel tripod is, “the most portable, packable, and easy-to-setup professional tripod on the market.” So, how true are their claims?
Well, they’re pretty true. For the durability, weight, and collapsed size, the Peak Design Travel Tripod is the best option on the market for smartphone travel photography. While you’ll have to shell out a pretty penny to get it, the Travel Tripod will pay for itself in performance again and again.
Peak Design created this tripod from the beginning with travel photographers in mind, and the fact that it has built-in mobile compatibility makes it perfect for smartphone photographers too. If you want to get the most memories out of your next trip, then you need to get yourself a Peak Design Travel Tripod.
Best Compact Smartphone Tripod – Manfrotto Mini Tripod with Universal Smartphone Clip
Manfrotto Mini Tripod Weight – 0.47 lbs
Manfrotto Mini Tripod Durability – 3.75/5
Manfrotto Mini Tripod Minimum Size – 6″ x 2″
Yes, the Manfrotto Mini Tripod is small. But, it packs more punch than meets the eye. For example, you can switch between handle and tripod mode. Use handle mode for vlogging and other forms of video and tripod mode for everything else. Getting both capabilities in one smartphone tripod at this price-point is a steal.
Another interesting feature in the Manfrotto Mini is that when placed on uneven surfaces you can use a sort of built-in level. Just push the red button in to release the ball head and adjust your angle. You can then use the push-button locking mechanism to secure everything in place quickly and easily.
Best Light-Weight Smartphone Tripod – MeFoto BackPacker Tripod
MeFoto BackPacker Tripod Weight – 2.54lb
MeFoto BackPacker Tripod Durability – 4.5/5
MeFoto BackPacker Tripod Minimum Size – 13.20″ x 2.20″
Enjoy MeFoto’s reverse folding design when you travel – the tripod folds back on itself for optimal storage. It’s also really a light-weight tripod so it’s great for the content creator on the go. Between the low weight and folding size of the MeFoto BackPacker it’s a seriously great mobile phone tripod.
The MeFoto BackPacker works with smartphones (with the Smartphone Adapter), mirrorless, and DSLR so it’s also great for hybrid traditional mobile photographers.
So, for the tripod’s durability. The MeFoto BackPacker features anodized aluminum twist locks that are both easy to use and super durable. Because of the quality aluminum-tube construction, there is little concern with how long the tripod will last.
Did you know that you can turn this tripod into a full-size monopod when you detach a leg and attach it to the column? Seriously, you can get access to over 55 inches of smartphone tripod! That extra distance can be helpful when shooting portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, and more.