How to Be a Tripod

Shooting without a tripod comes with its own hassles and challenges. It’s not for everyone, but for those of us who like to travel light, we need to find other ways to stabilize our camera and lenses.

Last week we talked about breath control. Today I’d like to talk about what Mike pointed out in the comments, and that’s to find other ways to make your own tripod.

Runner in New York City (Photo: Kim Olson)

Pull Your Elbows In

The way you hold your camera definitely has an effect on your images.

By being aware of your body’s posture you can make sure you’re standing in the steadiest position. It’s best to keep your elbows close to your torso so you’re basically bracing your arms against your body. This is much better than having your elbows away from your body where they may start to sag if the gear is heavy or your arms are tired from lugging your stuff around all day.

Find Somewhere to Lean

One of the ways to work around not having a tripod is to find something to lean on to help brace your arms. Choose some stationary object like a tree, fence, wall, etc. and lean into it. You’ll find that it’s much easier to keep ‘er steady this way.

Put Your Camera Down

Often I’ll find a relatively flat and stable place to set my camera (usually something like a wall or a rock) and then I’ll set the automatic timer. That way camera shake isn’t an issue since I’m not pressing the shutter and jiggling the camera.

Get Down and Prop Up

If the ground isn’t crazy dirty, you can either lie or sit down and prop your elbows up on the ground or your knees. This forms a human tripod and helps keep your arms steady.

And So Many More…

I’m sure there are other ways to keep your camera steady when you’re traveling without a tripod, but hopefully these will give you a good head start! Happy photographing!


3 Responses to How to Be a Tripod

  1. Carol May 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    I rarely carry a tripod, so I will definitely try these tips. Thanks!

  2. Steve Woodward October 28, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    I forget where I learned this trick, but it’s a cheap and surprising effective solution. Take a piece of string a few inches longer than your height. Tie a loop in one end and slip it over a middle finger. Step firmly on the other end. Pull the string taut. Although you may get some minor swaying from side to side, the tension will tend to hold your camera steady. The method is also great for shooting video.

    • Kim October 29, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

      Thanks for pointing that out, Steve! I had forgotten about that. I actually have a string just like that that I keep in one of my little tool bags. It is surprising how well it works. :)