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How to Make Your Tripod More Stable

Some of the most common advice in photography, especially for landscape and architectural work, is to use a tripod. But the story doesn’t end there. Even if you have a top-of-the-line tripod and head, bad tripod technique can result in some seriously blurry shots.

This is especially something you’ll notice when you shoot in windy conditions and use longer lenses. Still, by following the steps below (some of which are obvious, others of which are more obscure) you can get sharp photos no matter the situation.

Personally, I realized how much room for improvement there was in my tripod technique once I started shooting large-format film and getting mild blur from camera shake in a lot of photos. The typical design of a field 4×5 or 8×10 camera is less stable than that of a digital camera, and they’re also larger and heavier, so there’s less room for error in your tripod technique. A few of the later tips in this article stem from what I’ve learned by shooting with that pretty exacting equipment.

1. Start on Stable Ground

Step one is to think of the ground as an extension of your tripod. There’s a big difference between the seashore, a stable rock, or spongy marsh. The less the ground moves, the less your tripod will move, too.

You’re not always going to be able to avoid shooting from unstable ground. If you’re taking pictures from a low angle as a wave rolls into shore, your tripod might be partway underwater and unavoidably unstable. But even then, there’s often going to be a sturdier vantage point if you look for it. Rather than putting the tripod on a patch of shifting sand, is there a nearby rock you can use instead?

Ocean landscape