How is a tripod like a relationship? If we want our relationship to last; it needs a strong, and stable base. That means planning and constructing an environment meant for stability and longevity by design. These are some tips for using your tripod - things that might influence your purchase. I don't have much need for one in my work BUT it didn't take me long to work out what was seriously wrong with my purchase...
BUY RIGHT: After buying your rig, it's unsurprising that you'd be strapped for cash. It’s natural to be drawn in the direction of cheaper tripods. There's a saying that translates: a bargain is expensive. It’s a wise idea to rather save up and buy a good tripod. The same could be said for any purchase - purchasing the right model first time around will save you money in the long run. Be assured that you want something that will support the weight of your rig - a flimsy design will offer you no support.
BULK UP: You bought a thick tripod - now you're out in the field but it’s bulky, awkward to carry and it slows you down at every stop. If you really hate carrying a tripod, invest in a model that’s specifically designed for easy transport or an easier system to transport it.
CONTINGENCY COLUMN: Most tripods have an extendable centre column that allows for higher-level shooting than just using the legs alone. Note that this is much less stable and should be used with caution - in long exposures you're likely to pick up blur from even a breeze shaking the setup. That centre extension should be a contingency measure once the legs are at maximum extension.
HEAVY TOPS SKINNY BOTTOMS: The rule is that when you extend the legs, start at the top because the lower sections of a collapsible tripod need to fit inside the upper tubing so they're thinner. When the maximum height of the tripod isn’t necessary then it’s best to extend the thicker, upper leg sections rather than the skinnier lower ones.
LEVEL OUT: You might notice a spirit-level built-into the shoulder of your tripod - it’s generally a good idea to use the legs to get the shoulder’s level. The most important reason for this is to ensure that the tripod is properly balanced. I've seen a fair number of people over-extend their tripod, adjusting the shoulder level before a gust takes it all away from them.
BREAKDOWN: It's so easy to grab the whole setup - legs extended, camera still mounted and move it to the next spot but that’s kinda risky. There are always slapstick moments when you misjudge the length of the tripod and bash your camera on something nearby - tickets. You're only saving a few seconds by not using the quick release plate.
WEIGHTING: While we know the centre column goes up, you'll find that there is sometimes a hook underneath that you can hang a counterweight from - your camera bag is probably ideal (you can keep an eye on it too that way). If the weight can’t swing around in the wind then the tripod benefits from the downward force.
Anything you want to ask?