Does the equipment make then photographer? I do not believe that fancy equipment, in and of itself, makes someone a better photographer.  The ability to use that equipment and an artistic eye are what make good photographs.  However, there are some pieces of equipment that really can make all the difference between an adequate photograph and a good or great photograph.  The tripod is one such piece of equipment.

My case in point is these two photographs.  They were both taken at about the same time of day (although on different days) from about the same vantage point.  The one on the left was taken with a hand held camera and the one on the right was taken with a tripod mounted camera.

The biggest issue with hand held shots at these light levels is camera shake.  Even the Sony Alpha DSLR’s Steady Shot feature is not going to be able to correct for the shake that can occur at the shutter speeds necessary to accomplish this image.  So without the tripod (left) I needed to get a long enough shutter speed to capture the image in low light while not making it so long that all I got was a blur from movement of the camera.  In order to decrease the length of time I needed the shutter open I could have used a larger aperture (smaller f-stop number) and/or increased my ISO.  For the image on the left, without the tripod, I used the widest aperture available on the lens I was using (a prime 50 mm), which was f/1.7 along with an ISO of 800.  This allowed me to use a shutter speed of 1/10 second and get a good exposure.  But 1/10 of a second is really still too slow for hand held photography.  Anything longer than 1/60 of a second is likely to cause you problems.  If I had bumped up my ISO any higher (the Sony Alpha 850 can go up to 6400) the noise would have been distracting.  Even at 800 ISO at larger sizes the noise in this image is noticeable.

So that takes us to the image on the right, the one taken with the camera mounted on a tripod.  The sure footed-ness of the tripod allows me to take camera shake out of the equation.  So now I have more options for a more crisp image with less noise.  For this image I used an aperture of f/5.0, an ISO of 200 (less noisy) and a shutter speed of .8 seconds.  This combination of settings resulted in a photograph that, when viewed at high resolution, is cleaner and far less blurred.

So although the tripod alone was not responsible for these images.  The right equipment combined with a little camera know-how and a bit of an artistic eye can combine together for much better photography.

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