You hear it all the time: if you want sharp photos, you gotta use a tripod whenever possible.
Well, if that isn’t reason enough for you, here’s another benefit of using a tripod: it forces you to think more carefully about your composition.
When you handhold your camera, there’s a tendency to snap away photos as soon as you spot your subject. Then, after you got a few shots, you’ll just move on.
But, add a tripod to the equation, and all of a sudden you’ll be carefully adjusting those knobs until the camera is exactly where you want it. Sometimes this will take a considerable amount of time, but during this extra time there’s a good chance you’ll notice something new about your subject that will take your composition into a whole new direction.
Adding all this extra setup time will also naturally force you to consider your composition more carefully before you setup that tripod.
Galen Rowell argued that this is one of the reasons why photos made from large-format cameras always seem to look better: a lot of it is just because the large-format photographer has to spend a considerable amount of time setting up his or her camera. He explains this in his wonderful book Mountain Light:
“…differences in approach between large- and small-format photographers matter more than their equipment. A large-format photographer would stop at a scene, consider it for a while, then spend long minutes setting up his camera until the scene was framed exactly the way he wanted it. A typical amateur with a 35mm would stop, turn toward the scene, make a handheld exposure or two within the first minute, and leave. The reason the 35mm image doesn’t look like the 4-by-5 image is more a result of method than of equipment.”
Rowell also explained that “When I come across a still landscape that moves me, I pretend my Nikon is a bigger camera.” So, I think even adding the battery grip to your camera can help you treat it more like a large format camera, and inadvertently force you to think more carefully about your compositions.
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About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, software engineer, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of southern California.