Do You Need A Tripod For Travel Photography?

May 21, 2023

Lone tree, ArkaroolaLone tree, Arkaroola

Lone tree, Arkaroola. Although I had a tripod with me, this was hand-held!
Fujifilm X-H2, 150-600mm Fujinon lens, f6.4 @ 1/500 second, ISO 1250

As a landscape photographer, there’s a strong argument for using a tripod, but when it comes to travel, the case is not clear cut. Sure, travel photographers shoot landscapes and probably to get the best possible landscape exposure, a tripod would be useful. However, if carrying a tripod restricts your movement for capturing other aspects of your trip – such as portraits, interiors, documentary – then maybe your tripod is best left at home.

In a travel context, you can often leave a tripod behind in the hotel or vehicle, so taking one with you on the trip is easy enough. I have a small, lightweight tripod which isn’t as stable or as functional as I’d like for landscape photography, but it’s much easier to work with when travelling. Maybe the answer is a compromise tripod for your travel work, too.

The other option is to say no tripod. If tripods serve two main purposes, to keep the camera stable and to slow yourself down so you can frame carefully considered compositions, perhaps these purposes are incompatible with travel photography. Certainly you don’t want to be slowing yourself down when shooting in the street and if you’re worried about camera shake, use different camera settings. If you’re unwilling to change your aperture, you can usually increase your ISO setting without any significant compromise. When you think about it, if you set a fast enough shutter speed, there’s no need for a tripod at all.

So, what about shooting landscapes and wildlife with telephoto lenses? When it comes to landscape, just ramp up the ISO setting so you’re shooting at 1/1000 second or more and, along with image stabilisation, you should have perfectly sharp images. For wildlife, tripods and gimbals are generally used for the large super-telephotos because they're too heavy to hand-hold for long periods – perhaps you need to compromise with a monopod or take a lighter telephoto zoom instead?

When it comes to equipment, travel photographers often find themselves making the most of what they have brought with them, comfortable in the knowledge that if they had brought everything, they wouldn’t be able to carry it!


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