digital photography tips with Digital Photo Mentor Darlene Hildebrandt

Get Inspired · Find Creativity · Seek Adventure

Be One With Your Tripod – Photography Challenge

This one is going to push your boundaries, guaranteed. But if you're ready and motivated to take your photography to next level, let's do this!

The tripod – your friend and nemesis

One thing I see over and over in my workshops is people who haul their tripod to the location, and then leave it in their car most of the time – even when dim light warrants it, like inside a  building. They'd rather crank the ISO and get photos that are noisy, then get out the tripod and actually use it.

The world of digital has made photography accessible to nearly everyone, which is a good thing. But, highly electronic and automatic cameras have also made it really easy for us to get lazy. I admit it – I too am guilty of this sometimes myself!

Photo by: fensterbm
Photo by: fensterbm (CC image license)

Any of these excuses sound familiar?

  1. It's too cold out, I want to shoot fast and get inside where it's warm.
  2. My tripod is too heavy, I can't carry it around all day.
  3. My tripod isn't really that sturdy, I can keep it still by handholding it better myself.
  4. I don't need it, I can lean my camera on a fence, or a rock.
  5. People are waiting for me, I have to be quick.
  6. I forgot to bring a tripod with me.
  7. The tripod insert (to connect the camera to the tripod head) is missing or I forgot it.
  8. I hate my tripod.
  9. I don't have one.

If you have heard yourself saying #2, #3, #8 or #9 above, read: Stress Free Tips for Buying a Tripod, it will help you select the right one for you that you will actually bring with you. You must have one that is heavy enough to support your camera in a slight breeze, but not too cumbersome that it stays in the trunk more often that than it gets out.

Why use a tripod?


If you feel yourself think about opting out of this challenge – keep in mind, this may be exactly the one you need to do! Ask yourself what you're afraid of, what have you got to lose? What have you got to gain?

Let's look at what using a tripod does from the technical, to the less obvious benefits:

The first three points above are the obvious ones, but what are the benefits of the last two you may ask?

Photographing people

Using a tripod for large groups helps you engage with the people, especially kids, and maintains your focus and composition.
Using a tripod for large groups helps you engage with the people, especially kids, and maintains your focus (use autofocus and turn it off, or back-button focus) and composition.

The benefit of getting away from the camera when you're photographing people is that you can have a real, face to face, interaction with them. They get to look at your face, not into a lens. Most people are nervous when they are being photographed – in fact, I recommend that you try it yourself. Go get photos done of yourself, or your family, so you can experience what it's like to be in front of the camera. You can hire a professional, or get a fellow camera buff to take photos of your family, and you take photos of theirs as a swap.

The bottom line is, staring at a thing, the front of your lens – does NOT help people relax. They don't know if they're doing it right or not. They need your guidance, and usually just talking to them is the best way to get people to loosen up. By putting your camera on a tripod, and using a remote trigger to fire it, the interaction shifts to a more personal one and you will get better expressions from your subjects.

People want to look at a face, yours, not the lens.
People want to look at a face, yours, not the lens.

Slowing down

Seems the whole world in in a perpetual state of hurry up. We can't wait for the tea kettle to boil, or the microwave to heat up our food without tapping our foot impatiently. Traffic makes us have road rage, and lines at the grocery store make some people go ballistic.

So isn't it time you slowed down and actually stopped to enjoy the thing you like to do most? Hopefully that's photography, or you wouldn't be here.

using a tripod for indoor photography

But that's just part of the reason slowing down is good. Too often, rushing only yields an image that is out of focus, has the wrong exposure, is off-color, or is just plain uninteresting. Stop to check all your camera settings, especially if you are new to photography, or trying out some manual modes for the first time. Review your exposure and White Balance and make adjustments if necessary. Zoom in on the image on the LCD screen to check focus. Lastly, look at the image – really look at it. Do you have a clear subject? Is it well lit and composed? Will it make your friends go “Oooh! Aaaah!”? If not – take your time and tweak things until you are happy with the image you see.

Make a decision to adopt this mantra right now, and watch your photography improve:

I take my time when shooting and get it right in-camera. Fixing it later is not an option. Slow and steady wins the prize.

Photo by: Aftab Uzzaman

Try this acronym to help you remember all the things you need to check and review: C S L S C

  • C – camera settings: review the exposure via the histogram, white balance, ISO, aperture and shutter speed.
  • S – sharpness: check to see if it is in focus, and as sharp as possible. Do you have the depth of field you want? If not go back to camera settings and check your aperture.
  • L – lighting: does the lighting create the mood and story you want for your image? How can it be better if not?
  • S – subject and story: is there a well defined and clear subject in your photo? Does the image tell the story you want for this scene?
  • C – composition: is the image arranged in a dynamic way to catch the viewer's attention?

Last Photography Challenge

In December I set you off to try to make an abstract image using intentional blur. Well, from what I saw in the comments you all had a lot of fun with that one, and learned a few things too. There were over 150 comments and many great images shared.

30 entries matched the criteria for the contest, and from them, one was randomly selected.

And the winner is . . .

Drumroll please – Tania Jacobs

Congratulations you have won our 4 Weeks to Better Photography course, where you will get to practice and learn even more. We've already been in touch and Tania is delighted to how her 2016 has begun.

Details for This Month’s Challenge

Here are the requirements to be eligible for the prize:

  1. Use your tripod EVERY time you go shooting over the next six weeks. This will on the honor system, so if you say you did it, we will believe you – be honest please, to keep it fair for everyone. If you have a legitimate reason for not using one, like you're shooting a soccer game or something – just put that in the notes, we'll probably give you one free pass. But do try and use it for everything possible.
  2. Upload at least one of your photos into the comments section below.
  3. Please tell us about your experience using your tripod. Did you see an improvement in your images over the month? Did the tripod annoy you? Did you get used to it after a while, how long? Did you make friends with your tripod? Have you decide to never go anywhere without it again? Do tell! ***NOTE: this part is necessary to be entered into the draw – you must tell us what you learned and experienced.***

Deadline for entry is:  February 28th 2016, 10pm MST (-6 UTC) that gives you almost six weeks.

Banner: Learn Portrait Photography FundamentalsThe Prize:

This month’s winner (selected randomly from all eligible entries) will receive our Portrait Fundamentals Lighting Course (retail value: $149 USD).


Digital Photo Mentor is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

lightroom alternative photo editing software

{ 49 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment

Next Post:

Previous Post:

Featured Photography Special

4 Weeks to Better Photography

An online photography class for beginners, with new lower pricing for 2018 and Downloadable Videos.

Join the Photo Community

10 Photography Challenges

Participate in monthly photography challenges. Join our very interactive community, participate in challenges each month that help you stretch and grow. Learn new skills and make your photos "pop".

More Articles Here

All my past photography articles here.

We publish regularly, so if you'd like to posts sent directly to your inbox, just put your name and email into the big orange box at the top of this page.

Adobe Training

Learn how to use Lightroom
Learn how to use Photoshop