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by: Vickie Belt

Are your photographs as sharp as you would like for them to be? Even with bright, state of the art lenses and modern technological advances, such as auto focus and auto exposure metering, are your pictures meeting your expectations? Are you getting a full range of usage in your aperture and shutter speed settings? If you answered "yes" to the above questions, then you already own a tripod.

If you answered "no," then buy one now. The tripod is the single most important accessory you can own to improve picture quality. Without a tripod, you are utilizing only half of your camera's capabilities.

Consider the range of shutter speed choices available to you. Rule of thumb for hand-held photography is to use the shutter speed nearest your maximum focal length or higher. For example, with a 50mm lens, you could hand hold the camera set at 1/60 second and up. An 80-200 zoom would best held at 1/250 second and up, and so it goes. What can you do with all of those other shutter speeds in the camera? With a can use them!

The ability to utilize slower shutter speeds allows for more flexibility and control. Being able to use a slow, fine grain film as your light is fading will make better enlargements. Smaller corresponding apertures can be used to increase depth of field...especially useful in low light levels where focusing is sometimes difficult. Creative special effects using long time exposures or painting with light are easy to do with a tripod. Even flash pictures can be better balanced if a slow shutter speed is used to allow ambient light to illuminate the background while the flash fires to get a better color balance on the main subject.

Your tripod should be sturdy enough to eliminate vibration thereby increasing sharpness and clarity of the photograph. First time tripod buyers sometimes lean toward purchasing the lightest and most compact (and cheapest) tripod they can find. This can defeat the purpose eliminate vibration. Make sure the tripod has weight to it and always leave the center column down when walking away from the camera. For backpackers who require a lightweight tripod, be prepared to add weights or to "sandbag" it when in use. One trick is to sew half the open end of two socks together. Fill the socks with rocks or sand at the photographic site and then empty the socks for transporting your equipment to the next location. Wrap these socks around the center column when full and secure with a twist tie.

We carry a variety of tripods.....Ask our sales staff for pointers on which tripod is right for you and how to get the most out of your pictures when using it.

Even when using the appropriate shutter speed for the focal length, and even at 1/1000 second, I'd say the camera should render a sharper photograph. This difference in sharpness may only be noticeable on an enlargement or light box with a magnifier but can be the difference between a good picture and a great photograph.


© 2008 - Bruce Gibson maintains
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