A Gitzo tripod

Above: A Gitzo lightweight carbon travel tripod. Credit: Lucas Bosch.

Tripods R US

In camera shops the tripods are often misleadingly placed under the rubric of "camera accessories" (often near the absurdly over-priced camera bags). With the implication being that some photographers need one, and some don't, and this is deceptive, since every photographer beginning serious photography will be needing a tripod at some point. At least one. One large one, and one super-portable small one is optimum.

The basic functionality of a tripod is, appositely, threefold. First, it is used to support the camera so it can be set-in-place, leaving the photographer free to move around and come back to the camera with it in exactly the same position as it was before turning away. Second, the tripod is used to set the camera facing oneself when making self-portraits. Third, the tripod is there to hold the camera stock-still when shooting at any long duration shutter-release (anything longer than 1/30th-of-a-second).

A good tripod is not an optional extra! It is a basic indispensable component of the photographer's kit. The buying advice for a tripod is the same as for buying a camera: only buy one that you find to be desirable and beautiful to use.

A camera set-up on a tripod has a very special effect when placed in a room--any interior space, and many exterior also. It signifies to all present (and those entering) that a photo-shoot is taking place. A camera set-in-place in this way on its three diagonal-angled legs is a catalyst to photo-thinking, photo-designing, photo-making.

As soon as a camera-on-tripod is in place somewhere in any room, the room is immediately, automatically, divided into two: the active area in front of the camera position (model's or subject's area) and the production-and-crew area which is behind the lens. Much flows from this sometimes rather arbitrary binary divide in that the politics of the space and the photo-shoot emerges from across this axis: it sorts the performers from the producers--the space in front of the camera is the privileged, activated zone of theatre-and-drama whilst all behind is "backstage."

Tip: if you are executing a photo-shoot in a certain space, as soon as you can, upon arrival, set your camera in place, on a tripod, in order to create the essential binary dynamic described above. Once the camera is in place, the shoot is already well underway--so don't delay.

(12 December 2018)