Yeah, yeah, I know–you should always use a tripod. But, unfortunately this isn’t always possible. Sometimes you need to travel light, and leave your tripod behind. Or, other times you may be going to a place where they don’t even allow tripods.
So, what do you do without a tripod? How can you possibly get sharp photos without one?
Well, one thing you can do is improvise with the objects around you. The tripod is meant to stabilize your camera and prevent it from shaking, so anything you can rest the camera on will also work (just not as well). Try looking for large rocks, or tree branches, or anything else you can rest your camera on while shooting the photo.
For example, when I took a trip to the island of Nuku Hiva, there were some strict weight restrictions on the flights, so I wanted to travel as light as possible. That meant leaving my tripod and SLR at home. I went with just a Canon G10 (a point and shoot camera that also has full manual controls).
Although the camera has Image Stabilization built into the lens, I knew that my hands seem to shake a lot when hand-holding the camera, so whenever I took a photo on the trip, I always looked for a way to help me stabilize the camera.
As an example, here’s one of my favorite scenes from the trip:
And, here’s the dock post I used to rest the camera on while taking the photo:
I still had to point the camera upwards to get the composition I wanted for the photo, but resting the bottom of the camera on this dock post helped stabilize it a lot.
Of course, you won’t always have such a sturdy tripod substitute available (especially if you’re hiking into the wilderness), but look around for rocks, tree branches, or anything else that looks like it could help stabilize your camera.
And, remember not to sacrifice a good composition for a sharp photo. It’s better to have an unsharp photo from your preferred perspective, than a sharper photo from an odd position.
What about a monopod?
Another alternative to a tripod is the monopod (which is just like a tripod, but with one leg instead of three). Although they don’t provide as much support as a tripod, they still help quite a bit. Also, sometimes monopods are allowed in places where tripods are banned.
Other ways to stabilize your camera without a tripod
For more great ways to reduce camera shake without a tripod, check out these great articles from the Digital Photography School:
If you have a point and shoot camera, you can also make a cool little tripod with a paperclip 🙂
Have you found another way to help stabilize your camera without a tripod? Please share your experience by leaving a comment below! Thanks!
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About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, software engineer, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of southern California.