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Photography Tips

The ABCs of Tripods

Timothy Farmer
March 16, 2021
Learn the differences and parts of different tripods.

While there are a large variety of tripods available in the market, there are a number of differences they might feature that can give a photographer advantages in different photography situations. At Schillers, we feature tripods for all photo situations, including the most popular brands and specialty tripods to help you get the perfect shots. Read onto learn everything you need to know about Tripods!

Sunset at Acadia Park

1.  Why Use A Tripod?:

 Using a tripod is absolutely essential when using long exposure for landscapes, waterfalls, astrophotography, or any other events over a long period of time.

In times when you want to use the lowest ISO for low noise and high f-stop for depth of field, a tripod will keep your camera solid and sturdy eliminating any camera shake.

For wildlife photographers who have heavy telephoto lenses, a tripod can help support the weight, allowing the user to take photographs all day long.


Long Exposure Waterfall

2.  Types of Tripods:


Entry Level Tripods:

These tripods generally cost less and offer fewer features as opposed to their superior relative. These tripods are best for occasional, in door usage or using the tripod to hold a camera for a group photo.


Travel Tripods:

These tripods are typically made of lightweight materials and feature the ability to pack small. However, they usually lack the ability to extend a stall as other tripods to help keep them compact and easy to maneuver.


Studio Tripods:

These tripods are big and heavy and are typically meant to be placed in a stationary location. They often extend higher than other tripods, and can easily handle larger, heavier cameras. Studio tripods often feature wheels instead of traditional feet to make them easier to move in the studio.



While a monopod isn’t technically a tripod, it serves its user in a similar function. A monopod is a section pole with a head that attaches to a camera (usually a ball or fluid head). Monopods are not meant to stabilize the camera for long exposures, but they help support the weight of the camera and long lenses for high-quality photographs. Monopods are often used in both sport and wildlife applications.


Tabletop & Mini Tripods:

Tabletop & Mini Tripods are exactly what they sound like, typically standing under 12 inches tall. These tripods are perfect for use with smaller cameras and cell phone cameras. They are small and easy to keep with you while photographing small stuff on location. They are also good when capturing footage for vlogs. Additionally, there are some Mini Tripods that have flexible legs allowing users to wrap them around tree limbs and other objects.


3.  Tripod Parts:


Tripod Head

3-Way Pan/Tilt Head – This is a traditional tripod head which allows for movement in three different directions. Each axis can be locked in place to maintain balance and stability.

Ball Head – This type of tripod head is currently the most popular head being used by photographers. A Ball Head allows for movement in three directions, while only needing to unlock and lock one dial. These tripod heads are lighter and smaller than a traditional 3-Way head.

Gimbal Head – Gimbal Heads allow free movement of the head, while all the weight is supported by the tripod. These heads are essential with heavy telephoto lenses. Gimbal heads are great for wildlife and sports photography, and they are effective at producing smooth camera motions in some video applications.

Fluid Head – Fluid Heads are an essential for in-depth video applications. They allow for smooth panning and tilts that are required to produce high-quality video content.

Geared Heads, Pano Heads,& Other Specialty Heads – There are some styles of photography that utilize their own specialty heads.

1.    Gear Heads allow for very precise movements - needed for architecture and product photography.

2.    Pano Heads allow for easier panoramic shooting.


Tripod Legs

Materials - Tripods are typically made of plastic, aluminum, and, in some high-end products, carbon fiber.

1.    Plastic - Less expensive and light but not all that sturdy.

2.    Aluminum - Most tripods are made from aluminum these days. Aluminum tripods weigh more than plastic, but feature added stability.

3.    Carbon Fiber - Carbon Fiber is light and sturdy, but cost more than other materials. Carbon Fiber is great for backpacking or other location photography.

There are two lock styles. Flip lock and twist locks. Both work but both have their drawbacks. Flips locks are fast but need occasional tightening.Twist locks take a little more time. It comes down to personal preference

Tripods come with a different number of leg segments. The more segments the smaller your tripod will pack but the more time it takes to set it up


Centerpost/Center Column

The Center post or Center Column of the tripod is the part that the head attaches to. It is typically best practice to keep them in the down position, but when you need just a little more height or to fine tune up and down adjustment, the column is easy to adjust. Additionally, some tripods allow you to turn the column upside down to get low to the ground which is great for taking photos of flowers or bugs, and macro photography. Others allow you to move the camera out to the side so you can shoot straight down.


Tripod Feet

Rubber tips – Rubber tips are good for all-around use as they will not scratch floors.

Metal Tips – Metal tips are essentially spikes. They are good on slippery surfaces or when shooting outdoors.

All-Terrain – All-terrain tips help to spread the weight of the tripod and work great in sand.

4.  Things to Consider when Purchasing a Tripod:


Load capacity– The load capacity will determine how heavy of a camera and lens the tripod can support safely.

MaximumHeight/Minimum Height – For taller photographers, a taller tripod is far more comfortable when shooting for a few hours. Additionally, if you shoot small things close to the ground, a tripod that can shoot at ground level is nice.

Number of legs – The more legs you have on a tripod, the longer it takes to set up, however, if you want a tripod that packs small, more legs are better.

Quick Release Plates – Most tripod heads utilize quick release plates. These make it easy to mount and remove your camera quickly while giving it necessary stability and security.

White Mountains Sunrise



There are a lot of tripods to choose from with a large variety of options as we’ve discussed. Our expert advice would be don’t go cheap, expect to pay $150 or more for a good tripod that will fit most of your needs. Visit us in-store or online today and our experts will help you find the perfect tripod to fit your needs. For all your photography needs, choose Schillers – STL’s Trusted Camera Store Since 1892.