Tripods are always brought up whenever the subject of camera gear comes up. Are they really that important? Yeah, actually, they are. Learn why here!
What’s a Phone Tripod?
I probably shouldn’t have to explain what a tripod is. It’s an accessory to cameras which has 3 legs to provide stability and it allows the camera to be freestanding (no one has to hold it). It’s an extremely versatile tool and a standard part of any photographer’s arsenal.
Monopods are, as the name would suggest, a similar accessory but have only one leg. Therefore, they aren’t freestanding and are also subject to movement from the person holding it. They’re pretty much inferior to tripods in every way except that they tend to be lighter and easier to pack.
Bipods don’t really exist. Let’s keep it that way.
There isn’t really any difference between a traditional camera tripod and a phone camera tripod. They both function the same way. Traditional camera tripods tend to be much bigger, obviously, and have accessories themselves (such as a pistol grip for finer control). Phone tripods are usually pretty small and, let’s be honest, cheaply made (although this can be avoided).
In the end, the only real difference is whether the tripod has a mount for phones or cameras – and some have both!
Why do I need a Phone Tripod
Honestly, having a tripod can make or break your photography. It’s not an absolutely critical piece of gear, but it opens up a lot of different types of shots (which often turn out to be the coolest anyway).
For example, the standard shutter speed is about 1/60th of a second. If you get much lower than that, motion blur may be visible because very few people’s hands are truly steady.
With a tripod that’s no problem! Of course, these multi-legged tools are a prerequisite for any type of long exposure photography. Once you’re below 1/30th of a second or so there’s no way you’ll get a crisp image without having a tripod to hold the camera for you.
Another thing to consider is the use of tripods in travel photography.
Pros of Phone Tripods
- Tripods allow you to take long exposure photographs. We’ve touched on this a couple of times, but it bears repeating. Without a tripod, there is no way to take a long exposure. That locks you out of all kinds of awesome photo opportunities such as astrophotography and light painting. In many low-light situations, exposing the photo for longer will brighten the picture enough to make it easily visible without ruining the shot with too much light.
- Tripods allow for smooth movement of the camera/phone. Sometimes you need to move the camera between shots or even during them. Panoramas, for example, require a steady hand to track perfectly horizontal. Taking rapid pictures of a fast-moving subject could benefit from the same skill. Many tripods (though not all) come with a bezel to facilitate smooth and easy movement that can be restricted to a single plane.
- Selfies. Yes, selfies. It’s trite. It’s almost not worth mentioning. We’d be remiss, however, to not acknowledge that selfies make up a significant percentage of photos taken on phones. It’s possible that you’re going for the classic selfie look, the one where it’s obvious that you’re holding the phone. If you’d like pictures that could deceive viewers into thinking you have a personal photographer (or even just friends), you’ll need to prop that phone up on a tripod and use the timed picture function or a wireless shutter remote.
Cons of Phone Tripods
- Tripods can be a pain to carry around. It’s true. They’re inherently bulky. There are tripods that avoid this by using telescoping legs that stash inside of themselves, as well as tripods made of light but sturdy materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum.No matter how ingeniously constructed a tripod is, it’ll still take up an inordinate amount of space or weight. That’s why many photographers elect to attach them to the outside of their lens pack. Phone tripods in particular tend to be proportionally smaller, but quality ones are still inconveniently large.
That’s really the only downside, to be honest.
How to Use a Phone Tripod
This section may or may not be useful to you because:
- Using a tripod is pretty self explanatory.
- Some tripods work differently than others.
We’ll give it a shot anyway, though.
Start with your compact, folded-up and stowed away tripod. Depending on its size and whether or not the legs telescope (that is, collapse inside of one another), it may have latches or thumbscrews that need to be loosened to expand the tripod.
Get all those legs straightened out. Depending on the shot you’re aiming for, you may not need to extend the legs all the way – that’s fine, no harm done. Many tripods have a mechanism (those latches or thumbscrews) to lock the legs into their extended position. Do that and make it tight! You don’t want your precious phone to drop unexpectedly.
Now you attach your phone to the tripod. The majority of phone tripods use clamps to secure the phone to the mount at the top. Very few use a screw-in mount like traditional cameras since that would require a corresponding screw on your phone (or more likely your phone case). Once it’s in there, give it a jiggle to ensure that it’s totally secure.
Note that you may have to remove the case from your phone to get it to fit in the clamp. You probably have the case off already since most clip on lenses don’t work with a case (except for Moment Lenses, which come with their own killer case).
That’s it, you’re set up with a tripod. Many phone tripods come with a remote shutter button (here’s some more info about them). Most of those work with a simple Bluetooth connection, so now’s a good time to set that up.
Where to Get a Quality Phone Tripod
A tripod is one of those things you don’t want to skimp on. The $10 ones are pretty useless for anything more than elevating your phone 3 inches above the ground. You can get a really nice one (that comes with a bunch of extra goodies) for $20-$30.
Here’s our list of the best phone tripods for each type of photographer and category.