To All New Landscape Photographers: Invest in a Good Tripod!
I guide photography workshops around the world and what I often see with my students is that they bring a great camera and a great set of lenses in combination with a very low-quality tripod. I can’t stress enough how important a good tripod is. If you want to level up your landscape photography, you need a good tripod. Please don’t go cheap on this. I’d argue it’s even more important than your camera!
Note: The photos in this article are examples of shots that benefited from a good, sturdy tripod.
We often get the most epic shots in the most challenging conditions. Why? Simply because it makes people go ‘wow’ and makes them wonder how you took this shot. A good tripod stands its ground in extreme conditions, especially regarding winds.
If you want to shoot during less or lower light you need a longer exposure to properly expose the scene, meaning you need a tripod. It is essential that this tripod does NOT move during your shot. Even the slightest movement will cause your photo to not be sharp. So, without a good tripod, you can have the best camera and lens in the world, but your pictures will still turn out not sharp.
Now, most of you will probably say, “well that’s obvious.” But I am surprised that half of the people attending my workshops (including in Iceland, a country with extremely challenging conditions, quickly changing weather, and high winds) will still bring a cheap travel tripod. Simply because they want to save money or they want to travel light.
So what tripod do you need exactly?
This totally depends on your shooting style, but in general, your tripod needs to be sturdy. If you travel a lot, weight can be an important factor. I would recommend getting a carbon fiber tripod. They are lighter and often sturdier. You pay a bit more, but you will benefit from it.
“Travel tripods” can be okay for ‘lighter’ work — if you go on city trips or to countries that do not experience a lot of wind, a travel tripod is perfectly fine. But if you go to countries with challenging weather conditions, get a heaver and sturdier tripod. Again, it is essential if you want to achieve sharp photos.
Good tripod brands include RRS (Really Right Stuff), Gitzo, Induro, Sirui, Manfrotto, Benro, and Photoclam (a high-quality Korean brand that I’m currently using myself). There are other brands that could go on this list. Don’t be afraid to spend between $400 and $1,000 on a good tripod if you’re getting more serious about landscape photography. Skip buying that new lens first and get a good tripod.
I started out in photography with a 50 dollar tripod. Then I bought a $100 one, then a $200 one, and at some point I spent a total of around $400 dollars on all “mediocre” tripods. I could have bought a proper tripod from the start.
About the author: Albert Dros is an award-winning Dutch photographer. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. His work has been published by some of the world’s biggest media channels, including TIME, The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail, and National Geographic. You can find more of his work on his website, or by following him on Facebook and Instagram.