A smartphone tripod is one of the most essential tools in a smartphone photographer’s arsenal. It ensures maximum stability, enables experimenting with low shutter speeds, and allows users to take better-framed shots.
And, as many smartphone users consider their phones their primary camera today, there’s perhaps no better time to discuss the benefits of using a tripod when shooting behind your camera phone’s lens.
Even if you don’t have the latest iPhone, you can boost the quality of your photography by harnessing these beginner-friendly tripod pointers to get you started.
What Are Smartphone Tripods?
Smartphone tripods are stands with three collapsible legs that hold your smartphone camera static. The three legs brace around a center post for maximum stability, the smartphone is mounted on the top, and several joints enable easy rotation and maneuvering of your mounted device.
The main difference between a smartphone tripod and a traditional camera tripod used for devices such as a DSLR is that the latter tends to be sturdier to accommodate the heavier weight of the camera and lenses.
That said, the function of a smartphone tripod and traditional camera tripod remains the same—to provide stability for capturing well-framed and executed photos.
There are several phone tripods to choose from, but the majority tend to fall into the following three categories:
A traditional tripod is the most common and conventional smartphone tripod on the market. It’s perhaps the most versatile, but typically the heaviest—featuring the aforementioned three collapsible, rigid legs.
A flexible tripod is a super versatile, compact, and lightweight tripod. As the name suggests, it’s easily maneuverable, features rubberized legs that can fold and adjust in multiple ways, making them ideal for wrapping around objects such as branches and poles. That being the case, flexible legs aren’t best-suited for flat surfaces.
Lastly, a tabletop tripod is designed to sit on a flat platform. They work well on tabletops, but not so much on uneven terrain. Typically the smallest tripods around, they’re lightweight and packable.
Ultimately, deciding which tripod is right for you depends entirely on your needs.
Why Do You Need a Tripod?
For Long-Exposure Shots
To capture long-exposure shots on your phone, you’ll first need to shoot in manual or pro mode to extend the shutter speed. But, to take truly remarkable long-exposure shots, a tripod is a must.
As the name suggests, long-exposure shots require the shutter to be open for longer while your phone is entirely steady.
Without a tripod, capturing long exposure photos becomes extremely difficult (if not impossible), often resulting in blurry, out-of-focus images.
For Night or Low-Light Photos
One of the best ways to capture low-light scenes is by using slower shutter speeds. Slowing down the shutter speed keeps the sensor activated long enough to receive more light, resulting in brighter photos in low-light. However, the problem with a slower shutter speed is that one slight move and the entire shot is ruined.
A tripod gives you the confidence to slow down your shutter speed, so your camera’s sensor receives as much light as possible, without the worry of the dreaded camera blur.
For Panoramic Photos
A panoramic shot can greatly benefit from being taken by a tripod-mounted smartphone. Panoramas require a steady hand to pan across the scene in a perfect horizontal line—and tripods help to facilitate a smooth, easy movement to capture the entire shot.
Similarly, taking rapid photos of fast-moving objects or subjects can also benefit from the smooth, sweeping range of movement made possible on some tripods.
For Time-Lapse Images
Time lapses are achieved by editing together a sequence of photos that are captured after intervals of seconds, minutes, or even hours. These images are then combined into a short video clip.
To achieve the best results, it’s essential to keep your camera steady, as any unwanted camera movements will compromise your time-lapse. For this, a tripod is all you need.
Take your selfie game up a few notches by mounting your phone on a tripod. A tripod makes it possible for you to be the subject and the photographer of your own shoot.
Simply use the timed photo function or a wireless shutter remote to execute a self-portrait photoshoot.
For Better Framing
A tripod encourages you to think more creatively and thoughtfully about the shot, making it possible to stage the photo from various angles, which would otherwise be impractical when holding the device in your hand.
Even setting up the tripod gives you time to think about how you want to frame the scene to capture the most compelling photo.
The Cons of Using a Tripod?
The inconvenience of carrying one. No matter how compact or lightweight they make smartphone tripods these days, they still take up room—room you might not have if you were planning to carry your phone in your back pocket.
So, perhaps it’s worth asking, does the inconvenience of carrying around a smartphone tripod outweigh the benefit of taking striking time-lapse, panorama, and long exposure shots on your phone?
If so, you could consider a gimbal instead. Gimbals stabilize your smartphone to capture smoother videos and shots from hard-to-reach angles. They serve as a nice alternative to a tripod as you can technically use them as tripods to achieve your shot.
Cover image via RHJPhtotoandilustration.