Choosing the Right Tripod

Questions You Need to Ask Before You Buy

Tripods run the gamut as far as features, size and pricing are concerned. Many times, our brains will automatically think, “The more expensive, the better!” but this isn’t always the case. Instead of buying on a whim or falling for slick advertising or sales pitches, take a few moments to honestly assess your needs. Doing so will save you a lot of time, money and frustration down the line.

Here are the top questions you should ask yourself before purchasing your tripod, along with a few suggestions for getting the most out of your purchase:

1) How often will you use a tripod?

If your answer is occasionally – such as for semi-annual family portraits or holidays, then:

  • Select an inexpensive model, either from a discount retailer or local electronics store. There is no reason to break the bank for something you’ll rarely use. Not only that, but an inexpensive tripod will get the job done just as well as a pricier model under these circumstances.
  • As you get the feel of working with a tripod, you may find yourself using it even more than you originally anticipated. If that’s the case, your first tripod will help you determine which features work best for you and help you decide which – if any – other features you would like to experiment with down the line.

If your answer is “all the time” or “for business purposes”, then:

Select a more professional model that will raise your camera to or near your eye level. This will eliminate much of the neck and back strain associated with shooting for longer periods of time.

Once this key question has been answered, it’s time to move on to more detailed questions, such as:

2) What is the tripod’s load capacity and can it meet your needs?

It’s important to ensure that your tripod’s load capacity (the maximum amount of weight it can hold without falling over) will not be exceeded. To test this, load the tripod with your heaviest camera body and lens. If everything remains stable, then you know you have a potential “winner”. If not, keep looking!

3) How much do you want to spend?

All those cool “bells and whistles” will quickly shoot your price up. That’s why it’s important to examine things like size, weight, portability and storage. Ask yourself –

  • Can I carry this tripod easily to and from each location?
  • How much space will it take up?
  • How easily can I fold and store this tripod?
  • *Does it swivel easily or does it jerk sharply or make an odd ratcheting noise? (Important for those who also shoot video in addition to photos.)

Once you’ve considered each these questions carefully, your purchase is sure to be a far more pleasant experience. You’ll save yourself a lot of time, frustration and money – three things we can all smile about.

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