No Tripod – No Problem – Improvise

When shooting HDR and time-lapse, the key is to achieve multiple exposures with no variation in composition.  For this reason, most insist a tripod is a must.  I’d fully agree, except I routinely travel light (more accurately I have two little kids, so a single camera body with a 28-300 lens is all I’m allowed when I need to actually be more of a parent than a photographer).

This has led me to practice three techniques to overcome my frequent lack of a tripod.

 Swaddle the Camera

This technique works best for time-lapse. Take a sweatshirt or jacket and ball it into a nest of sorts.  The camera literally sits inside the nest which absorbs vibration and keeps the body from falling over.

Find a Bar

This technique is best for HDR or low-light shooting. Find a railing, a park bench, a garbage can even. The key is to press down on the camera so it stays stable.  I’ll take advantage of a continuos shooting mode and auto-bracketing so the camera can quickly fire all exposures.

Find a Pole

This is another variation on the theme above.   The challenge here is often that the surfaces are rounded.  I’ll often try to pad the bottom of the camera with a jacket or a hand.  I’ll often use the camera strap and wrap it around the pole (just keep it under tension to further stabilize).

Do you have any down and dirty techniques you use in a pinch?

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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus as well as an author on Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.

Posted on June 22, 2011, in HDR, Time-lapse and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. bean bag (steady bag, bag of rice,bag of dried beans etc) or my wallet (the more cash the steadier…)

    • Richard Harrington

      Those are great suggestions Lou. I’ve been looking at refillable sand bags myself. Pack empty, fill as needed.

  2. Oh, and my favorite….garbage cans. Especially at public places and themeparks. I call them quadpods. 🙂 Add a bean bag and you have a good platform to photograph from.

  3. It is common practice if in the car, to use jacket or cushion on open window. A trick shown to me by a bird photographer in the 70s. Nothing new out there.

    • Richard Harrington

      That’s a good one too. Wasn’t saying that we invented these techniques. But I do see lots of people trying to prove their manhood/womanhood by handholding unnecessarily.

  4. A long, sturdy string tied into the tripod mount on one end and held under my foot at the other end. Especially easy if your mount uses a folding key handle to screw the mount into your camera. Pull the string taut and fire away. Works at multiple elevations if you have a pivoting viewscreen or if you’re tilting the camera so you can view the screen.

  5. Richard Harrington

    You all need to take pictures of your methods and send them in 3exposure@gmail.com so we can do an update. These are great. Happy to but your Twitter handles or URLs below the pictures we use.

  6. I have a few methods posted on my blog to counter not having a tripod or when you go somewhere and tripods are not permitted. Check it out at http://photoinsomnia.com/tutorial/no-tripods-allowed-yeah-right/

  7. Nice post!! I use the post technique often but also use my camera backpack as tripod especially in a place where tripods are not allowed.
    See my post at http://photoinsomnia.com/tutorial/no-tripods-allowed-yeah-right/