Help, I Have A Tripod


Tripod-related mishaps are more common than you think. Supriya Joshi tells you how to avoid them.

You are standing on top of a hill, preparing to capture the beautiful sunrise. You set up your tripod, fix your camera and lean in to look through the viewfinder. Everything is perfect, till a gust of wind topples over the tripod. The rest may just be too painful to think about. There are some fundamentals of tripod usage that most of us may not be familiar with. On paper, setting up a tripod may look rather easy. Only when we get down to actually doing it, do we realise it that the simplest things are the easiest to forget. However, we can avoid these mistakes with a few simple checks.

Lock it Properly
When you have arranged your tripod’s legs, check if you have locked them correctly. There is nothing worse than a leg buckling down because it was not locked properly. Ensure that you unlock the legs with the thicker segment first as the thinner section is less stable.

Secure the Base Plate Firmly
The base plate screws into the tripod socket of the camera. An easy release clutch mechanism and a lock fastens it to the tripod. The camera can rotate loosely on its head, or even slip and fall if the baseplate is not screwed on firmly. This can also happen if the clutch is not properly locked.

Watch the Bubble
In some tripods, there is a ‘level bubble’ on the head. With its help, you can keep the camera axis perfectly aligned so that your camera is perfectly level. You can use this indicator to make tiny adjustments to the tripod head before you shoot.

Make it Straight
The centre column of a tripod is used to maintain balance and equilibrium. The weight of the camera should be distributed evenly on all three legs. To ensure this, the centre column of the tripod must be vertical and absolutely straight, even if the tripod is on uneven ground.

Use the Lens Collar
Due to their size, telephoto lenses are prone to falling over if the tripod is imbalanced. In order to avoid this, attach the lens collar to the base plate rather than the camera. It will help maintain the centre of gravity between the lens and the camera.

Secure the Head Adjustment Handles
It is easy to loosen the tripod’s head adjustment handle and then simply forget about it. The result will be that the head will suddenly tilt downwards. A heavy camera or lens can be badly damaged if it hits against the tripod’s legs. So secure it well.

Tripod Maintenance
Over a period of time, the nuts and bolts of a tripod can loosen or the threads can wear out. It can cause tripod movement to be less rigid and can affect its stability. In  these cases, ensure your tripod is sent for servicing before you use it.

Tripod Tips

  • Use a cable release to trigger the shutter or use the Self Timer mode
  • Books, walls, etc. are wonderful natural tripods.
  • If a tripod is cumbersome, use a monopod instead.

Besides this, there are a few things you can do to ensure your tripod’s safety.

  • Steady Surfaces: Find a flat surface to set up your tripod. Otherwise, ensure that the centre column is absolutely straight.
  • Stabilise Those Legs: When extending or shortening the legs, ensure they are levelled. Unlock thicker sections of the legs first for adjustments.
Tags: Supriya Joshi, January 2011, Tripod, Tripod Mishaps