This subject has been touched on a few times here in the forum. But the importance of this subject warrants a refresher article on this important subject…
One of the most important photography accessories, if not THE most important, is a tripod. I use mine whenever it is possible. Even if I have great light and can shoot with a fast shutter speed, I still use it. Why? Because it provides the sharpest image possible. All of the photography knowledge you have will go out the window if you can’t get a sharp image, and time will be wasted on that shot that may have made you some nice money.
The sole purpose of a tripod is to remove the possibility of camera shake resulting in an out of focus photo. Camera shake is caused by a number of things. Here’s a few of them when you’re shooting without a tripod…
Long shutter speeds
The lens you use
The size of your sensor
Environmental factors (like strong wind when shooting outside)
I have gotten sharp images when hand holding my camera with shutter speeds as low as 1/15th of a second, but those were lucky shots and they are far and few in between. I’ve wasted too much time and lost too many great shots because I use to be too lazy to drag my tripod along with me. Those days are over.
Shutter speed, lens and sensor size
An old rule of thumb states that to get a really sharp photo you need a minimum shutter speed equal to the focal length of the lens you use. So if you are shooting with a 50mm lens, the slowest shutter speed you should use is is 1/50th of a second for a really sharp photo. 100mm lens, shoot at 1/100th of a second, Etc.
Another issue is your camera’s sensor size. If your camera has a cropped sensor, you will need to convert to a 35mm equivalent focal length for sharpness. So if your camera has a crop factor of 1.5, like my Nikon D5100, then you have to take the rule from the paragraph above and multiply it by 1.5. So a focal length of 100mm would require a shutter speed of over 1/150th of a second for the sharpest photo when you’re shooting by hand.
So, if you have a tripod you can leave your calculator at home and shoot the photo with the necessary setting and get sharp images no matter what the conditions. I think it’s better to choose your settings on the conditions of the scene as opposed to settings based on the fact that you’re shooting by hand.
I won’t go into low-light and night photography here because after reading the above info it’s obvious you’re not going to be doing any low-light photography without a tripod!
But I do need to mention a remote clicker is also an essential part of the tripod experience. With a remote, since you won’t even be touching the camera, every part of the human element is removed and sharp images will be your new norm. Then you can truly focus on the technical aspects of your camera setting and get better shots much more of the time.