are particularly useful when covering fast events, when
using long-focal-length lenses, or when a tripod is too
cumbersome to use. These hand-held supports are
usually fitted with a cable release for firing the shutter.
Camera shake can cause fuzzy photographs. Some
cameras have built-in capabilities that help reduce
camera vibration or shake; for instance, on a single-lens
reflex (SLR) camera, the mirror "jumps" up when the
shutter is fired-that causes vibration. On some SLRs
you can lock the mirror up before taking the picture to
avoid this; however, the disadvantage of locking the
mirror is that you are unable to see through the
viewfinder. Also, the pressure of your finger on the
shutter release can cause some camera shake. `This does
not happen on cameras with a delayed shutter release
because the camera compensates by automatically
delaying the shutter release. Additionally, cable release
can be used to fire the shutter without handling the
To ensure absolutely sharp photographs, you must
use some type of camera support. Few photographers
can hold a camera absolutely steady, especially for
exposures longer than about 1/60 second or even shorter
exposures when using long-focal-length lenses. When
using telephoto lenses or shooting motion media, you
must remember that camera movement can become
critical. Even the slightest camera movement is
magnified and becomes very apparent in enlargements
of still photographs or when motion-media footage is
The ideal camera support should be strong, firm,
and allow as much adjustment of camera height and
angle as possible. The design of a support to be carried
outside the lab should be compact and lightweight, while
still providing a firm, rigid camera support.
Most pictures are taken holding the camera by hand
because camera supports are often bulky, heavy, and
inconvenient to carry on many assignments; however,
you should use a camera support when it is appropriate
to do so. This allows you to produce the sharp pictures
that are characteristic of a truly professional
The best way to support your camera is with a
sturdy, rigid, tripod. Tripods are three-legged camera
supports with flat platforms or heads in which cameras
are secured. Most tripods are equipped with a head that
has an elevator center post. The camera is attached to
this center post and is raised or lowered easily by
cranking the post up or down. These elevators eliminate
the need for readjusting all three tripod legs for making
small, last minute adjustments to the camera height.
Tripods come in a variety of designs, sizes, and
weights (fig. 5-2). The heavier models are the sturdiest
and provide the best support; however, if too heavy, they
are not very portable. As a general rule, the heavier your
camera, the heavier and stronger your tripod must be.
For some of the light, full-size tripods, rigidity can be
improved by hanging a bag of sand or another weight
from the tripod head This is especially useful in high
winds. Another method is to hang a strap from the tripod
head, and use the strap as a foothold on which to apply
downward pressure (fig. 5-3).
Tabletop tripods are also available and can be used
almost anywhere a flat surface is available. These small
tabletop tripods can even be braced against the
photographer's chest. Because of their small size, they
can easily be carried in a camera bag.
To set up a tripod, extend one leg straight ahead
toward the subject. This way the camera may be aimed
by pivoting the tripod on this one leg. Extend the other
two legs and adjust them to level the tripod platform
horizontally. When setting up a tripod on level ground,
you can waste a lot of time trying to get the tripod level
if the leg sections are not fully extended. An easy
solution to the problem is to mark the tripod legs in
specific increments with a marking pen, pencil, or
scribe. One method is to mark short lines at l-inch
intervals and long lines at 6-inch intervals. Doing this
reduces your frustration, saves time, and allows you to
level your camera on the tripod with less effort. When a
tripod is set up on an uneven surface, several
adjustments of the side legs are normally necessary.
Readjustment of the front leg levels the camera
vertically so the platform or head is level. Most newer
tripods have platforms that can be adjusted by
eliminating the need for minor leg adjustments.
To mount the camera on the tripod head, you secure
it in place by tightening the tripod screw into the camera
tripod socket. Secure the camera by tightening the
camera clamp screw locknut. After the camera is
mounted on the tripod, test the camera to ensure all
camera controls are accessible and function properly.
The camera should be stable and not shake when the
camera controls are operated.

Basic Photography Course

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