Guide to selecting a camera tripod

A tripod is an integral part of every photographer’s gear. It is a simple piece of equipment with three legs and a head. On the head, you can attach your camera with a plate. This plate can be a primary universal plate or a custom-built one for your specific camera model. The primary purpose of a tripod is to keep your camera stable so that the footage you record or the picture you take is stable and blur-free.

There are many different kinds of tripods available on the market. You can find some entry-level tripods and others that are mid-to-high-end. Some are even removable. Depending on the budget, there are various added features that you can enjoy. You must own a good-quality tripod if you want your camera to be stable as you film videos or take pictures.

Why Is a Tripod Important?

A man trying to stabilize a camera on a tripod to take a picture of the sunset

The primary reason for using a tripod is that it allows you to stabilize your camera. When shooting at a slower shutter speed, capturing long-exposure images, and shooting in low-light conditions, your camera must be stable.

Most cameras have image stabilization systems, but they are mostly not good enough to let you shoot a steady shot at a slow shutter speed. Although you can increase your ISO to be able to shoot at a faster shutter speed, you won’t get the best image quality.

Another reason why a tripod is essential is that some cameras are heavy. When you attach heavy and long lenses, such as a telephoto lens, it can become challenging to hold them for long. Tripods allow you to rest the camera on it so that you can relax your arms for a bit. Additionally, you can use tripods to capture self-portraits using a remote or a self-timer.

What Is a Tripod System?

A tripod against a white background

A tripod has four parts that work together to allow you to stabilize your camera in a fixed position. These parts include the legs, head, center post or center column, and feet. 

Most tripods have three legs that are typically constructed of aluminum, steel, carbon fiber, or basalt and are sometimes extendable. The head is the tripod part that holds your camera and lens in place. There are many different kinds of tripod heads, including pan-tilt heads, ball heads, gimbal heads, etc.

The third part is a center post, which is also known as a center column. This is a separate leg that runs through the middle and allows the tripod head to be raised slightly so that the camera can sit comfortably. Tripods also have feet that are designed to ensure that all three legs are level with one another. Some tripods also allow you to change the tripod feet at the end, depending on whether you use them indoors or outdoors. 

Tripod Head Style

Close up of a tripod head

The head of the tripod is the place where you place your camera. There are various different tripod head styles to choose from. Depending on the kind of hairstyle you choose, your camera will be adjusted accordingly. There are many different head styles, but the most common ones include pan-tilt, ball head, gimbal head, and fluid head.

The Pan-Tilt Head

The pan-tilt head is the most common kind of tripod head. This design consists of three separate arms that are controlled using the vertical tilt, horizontal tilt, and 360-degree pan. If you want to alter the position of each angle, all you need to do is twist the hand. This will allow you to move the head to your desired angle. When the camera is in the correct position, you also need to twist the handle back so that the camera is locked in that position.

The pan-tilt head is mainly used for landscape, portraiture, and still-life photography. You can also use it for macro and product photography. Due to their versatility, you can use them for just about any photographic application. 

The Ball Head

The ball head is the most modern and typical style of head you will find among tripods. They are designed to be compact, and their popularity stems from their high weight capacity and ease of alteration. Unlike other kinds of tripods, the ball head tripods use your camera as the handle. This allows your camera to be moved into any position using one knob instead of three. This also greatly helps reduce the tripod’s weight and makes it easy to take with you on trips.

Their size and speed make them popular in sports photography and those who take wildlife and action shots.

The Gimbal Head

If you indulge in advanced or wildlife photography, having a gimbal head for your tripod is a must. They can support large telephoto lenses, making them extremely capable when shooting with larger cameras. They are designed to support and balance large cameras and lenses. Additionally, the gimbal head allows you to track a moving subject horizontally and vertically, lessening your need to adjust the camera.

Gimbal heads are mostly the largest and heaviest tripod head style, but they are worth the extra weight because they are so useful. You should also take into account the fact that gimbal heads are not sold with a mounting plate. This means you will need to invest in a plate selected especially for the lens you will be using. 

The Fluid Head

Fluid heads are the perfect option for videographers. They are designed to decrease resistance when recording video, meaning the fluid head will allow you to pan smoothly and tilt along the axes. This is possible due to the integrated fluid cartridges that reduce unwanted shakiness, vibrations, and jitters.

Although each tripod head has a maximum load capacity, you should never exceed a fluid head’s maximum load. If you do, then the fluid head would not be able to perform as well. Proper weight balance is essential, so keeping the weight of your camera within limits will significantly benefit you while you film videos.

Factors To Look Out for When Purchasing a Tripod

A small tripod on a white background

Tripods are an essential tool for photography and videography that enable you to shoot videos and photos without having to keep the camera stable manually. You can use them to rest your camera and even take long exposure and low-light photographs.

To be able to take full advantage of your tripod, you must purchase one that fits your needs. Here are a few factors that you should keep in mind.

Payload/ Load Capacity

For your tripod to keep your camera stable and in place, your gear must be within its weight capacity. Payload or load capacity is the amount of weight the tripod can comfortably support. If you are planning to shoot with a full-frame DSLR and a large telephoto lens, your tripod must be built to handle it. Especially if you plan to shoot in windy areas. 

On the other hand, if you plan on shooting with a small digital camera using its primary lens, you can make do with a weaker tripod. If you are unsure how heavy your setup is, you should factor in the weight of your heaviest camera and lens. Ensure that whichever tripod you purchase has a load capacity higher than the two combined weights. 

Minimum and Maximum Height

All tripods have a maximum and minimum height, usually found in the product specifications. The maximum height is the highest the tripod can position your camera. The minimum height is the lowest the tripod can position your camera.

Usually, those who indulge in sports, architecture, portrait, and landscape photography need a tall tripod to capture photos from a high point. On the other hand, if you tend to take pictures of wildlife and architecture, you may need a tripod that is low to the ground. The kind of tripod height you need depends on the sort of subject you intend to capture. Your style of photography matters a lot too. 


Since a tripod’s main job is to keep your camera stable, the tripod’s overall stability matters a lot. The stability of your tripods depends on the payload or weight capacity and the feet. Ensure that your tripod comes with retractable or removable spikes, as these can help provide extra stability by sticking into the soft ground or dirt. These are exceptionally important if you plan to shoot outside where the terrain may be rough. 

You should also aim to buy a tripod with a retractable hook in the center. This allows you to hand weight that can help stabilize your tripod in windy conditions. Most people attach a heavy sandbag, but you can also use other items, such as a water bottle. 

Weight and Folded Length

Your tripod’s weight and folded length are essential considerations if you plan on traveling with it. Although heavy tripods tend to be stable, they are challenging to carry around and can add to the weight of your luggage considerably. It is essential that you purchase a tripod that is stable yet lightweight.

The weight of your tripod also depends on the material it is made up of. Professionals suggest you purchase a carbon fiber tripod instead of an aluminum one. This is because carbon fiber tripods maintain optimal stability while not being too heavy. The more expensive than their aluminum counterparts, but for hikers and travelers, it is an investment worth making. 

When purchasing a tripod, you should also consider how easy it is to fold and the folded length. It mustn’t be too long if you plan on taking it with you alongside your photography gear. Otherwise, you will have trouble fitting it in. 

The Legs

When purchasing tripods, you will find that tripod legs come in two forms. These include tubular and non-tubular. Tripods with carbon fiber legs come in tubular form and have a threaded twist-lock system, allowing you to secure the legs. If you purchase an aluminum, steel, or basal tripod, you can find them in different shapes with a flip-lock. 

The tripod’s height also plays a massive part as it determines the number of sections in the legs. Most tripod legs have 3 to 5 sections; the longer the maximum height, the more sections there will be. It is essential to keep in mind that the more sections there are, the less stable your tripod will be. 

Tripod Feet

If you plan on purchasing an advanced tripod, you will find that it comes with tripod feet that you can replace. These feet are designed for different conditions and situations, meaning there are extra feet for inside and outside conditions. Most of these feet are made using rubber or plastic. However, for outdoors, the tripod feet usually have metal spikes that allow them to be embedded in the ground to provide stability. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Tripods

Although tripods are handy, there are some advantages and disadvantages that you need to consider before you purchase one.



They enable you to rest your heavy camera gear.

You can be heavy if you purchase ones made using aluminum.

You can shoot at angles that would have been otherwise impossible,

They take time to set up and can be difficult to balance in rough terrain.

They can be used for self-portraits.


You can capture a stable shot without any vibrations and shakiness. 



1. How do you balance a tripod?

When balancing a tripod, it is essential that you place it on stable ground and ensure that its leveling bubble is in the center. You should also set a counterweight that helps the camera stay positioned when you shift the tripod to a new angle. 

2. Should I purchase an expensive tripod?

Higher-end tripods are constructed using high-quality materials, which makes them much more reliable. They are also durable and are designed to serve you well for a long time. If you purchase a cheap tripod, you will likely run into issues sooner or later. 

3. How much do tripods cost?

Tripods cost anywhere from $75 to $150. If you purchase one with more features and higher quality, it will most likely be expensive, but basic tripods are affordable. 


Tripods are incredibly useful tools as they allow you to capture shots that would have otherwise been impossible. This makes them valuable equipment that every photographer should have in their gear. However, there are a variety of different tripods available in the market. If you are confused, the best way to choose is to focus on its stability, load capacity, and weight. That way, you will be able to get a tripod that fits your needs best.