Can Using a Tripod Inhibit Your Creativity?

When exploring in the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, I discovered this really neat rock formation. I really liked all the rings and layers of rock, and the peak that comes up from the lower rock and touches the top of the arch, like it was molded on a pottery wheel. It’s a very unusual formation.

Sunburst in the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, by Anne McKinnell
Please click the photo to view a larger version.

The sun was just about to set so I positioned myself so that the sun would peak through the opening and I used a small aperture to create a sunburst.

Although I had my tripod with me, and I’m a firm believer in tripods, sometimes I find that using it can inhibit my creativity by limiting my perspective to something I can easily achieve on the tripod.

When I made this photo I was standing on a relatively steep hill, made of this same rock, and it was hard to get the tripod positioned just right so I could capture all the elements I wanted to include in the frame. I kept getting a cramp in my foot while crouching down trying to set up my tripod so it wouldn’t slide down the hill!

Eventually I decided to take my camera off the tripod and just increase the ISO so I could take handheld shots. Suddenly I was able to move around more freely and make images from different and more interesting perspectives.

Perhaps using a tripod doesn’t always mean getting better images.

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23 Responses to “Can Using a Tripod Inhibit Your Creativity?”

  1. Lisa Gordon says:

    I could not agree with you more, Anne.
    I rarely use one anymore.
    My camera does pretty well using a high ISO, and there is also a lot of great noise-reducing software out there now if needed.

    This image is just beautiful!

    • R. Liskay says:

      Both sides of this “argument” are correct. If you are not taking a long exposure and/or the ground doesn’t easily accept your tripod, well handheld is fine. Although I really do like to compose and check DOF with Liveview which is much easier to do when on a tripod. No absolute correct answer.

  2. Dave Noordhoff says:

    I notice that when i use a tripod, coupled with Live View, I am more relaxed and careful, and my compositions are better.
    You’re right about the newer bodies making higher ISOs less of a concern, however.

  3. Mike Goad says:

    Very nice capture.

    I seldom use my tripod. As my wife tend to keep on moving when we’re on the trails, I tend to shoot handheld as we go… and I still get behind. On our next trip, I want to do more of a mixture of handheld and tripod and work on technique.

    Again, nice photo!
    Mike Goad recently posted..Cedar FallsMy Profile

  4. Dudley Danielson says:

    I no longer have the patience required for good tripod use and mine has been in a closet ever since. Many years ago, when I was challenged by a teacher to move 6″ up and 6″ down and 6″to the right and 6″ to the left because each perspective was a different photographic point of view. I have just found a tripod so inhibiting. Of course today with the auto-stabilizing lenses life thru the viewfinder has taken a very different course. I admire those who can and do but mine will stay in the closet until I can find someone to give it to.
    Anne, the shot again was terrific. You have my greatest applause.

  5. Edith Levy says:

    You’re absoluitely right Anne and I have found myself in those crampy positions as well trying to “make it work” with a tripod. Beautiful image.
    Edith Levy recently posted..Window to Hezekiah’s TunnelMy Profile

  6. QT Luong says:

    I generally prefer to compose with a tripod, but shooting sunbursts is one case where it is much easier to handhold.

  7. Len Saltiel says:

    I agree with you Anne. I use a tripod whenever I can but the higher ISO settings of today’s cameras along with in-lens stabilization allow for sharp images without a tripod when necessary.
    Len Saltiel recently posted..New Haven Harbor LightMy Profile

  8. Doug Worall says:

    I agree,
    I find tripods functional on many occasions-yet-
    for myself, have found better images without being tied down to a tripod
    Doug Worall recently posted..Ducks Migrating North-Hamilton CanadaMy Profile

  9. I’m gonna be blunt here. This whole idea of tripods inhibiting creativity is ridiculous to me. It allows you to do certain things you can’t do with hand-held, thus increasing the different sorts of shots that one can take. That list of things it allows you to do is a very long list. Now how is that inhibiting anything? Anything that greatly increases the sorts of photos you can take is hardly inhibiting. If you need to take the camera off the tripod, great; if not, great.
    Ken Lee Photography recently posted..reflection_x1 by Tiger SeoMy Profile

  10. If you’re doing, say, street photography, protests, photojournalism, candid wedding shots, gig photography or other things, you would tend not to use a tripod.

    If you are shooting low light photography, star trails, night sky images, light painting, portraits in a studio, fashion photography, really clean landscape shots, shots using 600mm lens for birding, taking photos for stitching panoramas, panning for action photography, long exposure shots of oceans or waterfalls, operating a camera remotely, shooting bracketed photos for HDR, macro, or photographing anything with really narrow depth of focus, you would tend to use a tripod.

    Choices. A beautiful thing. In each instance, you are ideally maximizing your creativity and chances for a good shot.

    In other news: I’m likely not wearing a ragged Cannibal Corpse shirt to my family member’s wedding or an Issey Miyake tuxedo to a hardcore show.

    I hope this helps.

    • Deb Snelson says:

      Very nice list and point well taken! I use the tripod every chance I get because I love choosing my focus point and focusing manually which I do best in live view. But if I can’t get the position I want, which seems to be the case in this photo, then that easy release plate on my tripod gets a workout.

  11. Sandi Sola says:

    I very rarely lug out the ol’ tripod anymore (and I have MS, not real steady). I find that the tripod just gets in my way and slows me down. I too increase the ISO & shutter speed.

  12. P.H.Chan says:

    Nice shot,Anne. I agree that tripod can be a hindrance. I like to take a lot of shots and move around. Perhaps you could just try using a monopod in the situation you found yourself in or you could convert a tripod into a monopod by closing the legs together.

  13. Russ Bishop says:

    I agree Anne. There are many times (especially with my spontaneous travel and adventure work) where using a tripod just isn’t practical.

    I prefer to use one for quality reasons whenever possible, but excellent hand-held images can still be made with proper shutter speed and shooting technique. Your great image here is a good example of working quickly in a fleeting moment that might otherwise be missed.

    Russ Bishop recently posted..Spirit of the SouthwestMy Profile

  14. Seems like in more precarious situation it would be best to not use a tripod. You ended up getting a beautiful shot without it anyway!
    Devlin Madden-Perdue recently posted..El Bufalo Restaurant and Ranch in Tabasco, MexicoMy Profile

  15. Jon Paul says:

    Thanks for sharing Anne. I believe that there are no right or wrong answers. All else aside, I think it is important to share context! If I am hoping to share images on the web, or perhaps in editorial or magazine work, The speed and creativity of hand holding a DSLR make it possible to quickly and easily capture what is needed. If wanting to do large prints, which is my focus, a tripod is required. Along with a cleaner image, I find I can fine tune and compose more precisely and be more deliberate with exposure settings, etc. That said, notice that I said “I” in here a lot. This is right for me in the context I choose. There isn’t a right or wrong, and I appreciate your thoughtful sharing.
    Jon Paul

  16. I am a self admitted tripod addict. I take it with me on every trip, including a recent two week trip to South Korea. I learned that it was not a great tool in the urban environment of a city with 11 million people and it stayed in the hotel. I found I could get shots I would have missed with the tripod. High Is, small DOF and blur were challenges for me but I learned that I don’t have to have the crutch with me all the time.

  17. Truels says:

    Stunning photo!
    A tripod can be useful – especially in special lighting conditions, normally I avoid using tripod too …
    Truels recently posted..Tracks and lonely tree in misty fieldMy Profile

  18. I stand by my previous comments on all of your other photo posts and your work in PHENOMENAL!! Every single one of your photos capture such life and beauty. I enjoy all of you work and I really enjoy how you give the readers insight on how you create such beautiful masterpieces. Keep them coming!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..INTERVIEW: South African Legend Johnny Clegg, “The White Zulu”My Profile

  19. While a tripod can be very useful I’ve moved away from using one, especially when I am hiking or walking long distances. I shoot handheld when possible and usually move to a monopod when I need a little support. I still find it funny that many warned me away from a monopod; I find it quite useful.

    Love your photo!

  20. Emad ud din Bhtt says:

    High iso can be used to shoot handheld. I also take images on burst mode so as to maximize chances of getting one best shot without blur.

    At many famoua parts of world tripod is not allowed. I had to work hard to shoot handheld. But it increases ur creativity and new perspectives evolve one famous photo blogger uses expensive tabletop tripod pressed against chest for blur free images handheld.

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