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How to Use a Tripod

Make sure you're comfortable with your tripod, with enough room to move around.Once your tripod is correctly set up you are ready to begin shooting.

In the case of a professional camera like the one pictured, stand close to the tripod between two of the legs. Most operators use the technique pictured, that is, the left hand controls the focus, exposure and zoom while the right hand controls camera movement with the tripod handle. There are many variations, for example some operators prefer not to use the handle and instead place their right hand on the camera.

Experiment and see which technique suits you best, but in any case it's probably a good idea to practice using a number of different techniques — you never know when you might encounter some problem which forces you to shoot differently (e.g. a broken pan handle).

Plan the Move

Before you begin a move such as a pan or tilt, plan it first. Figure out the best standing position which allows you to complete the whole move comfortably. It is usually much better to finish the shot in a comfortable position than to start comfortably and finish awkwardly. Frame up the end of the shot first and get yourself comfortable, then stretch yourself to get the starting point of the move.

If the tripod head doesn't have a bowl (this includes most cheaper tripods), it's very important to check that the framing still looks level as you pan - it may be okay in one direction but become horribly slanted as you pan left and right.

The Right Drag for the Job

The drag setting (AKA resistance or tension) determines how much force you need to excerpt to pan and tilt. The setting you choose depends on several things including the camera weight, the type of shot you are attempting and your personal preferences.

Use a lighter setting for close or fast-moving subjects. Use more drag for slow moves, longer zooms, or if you're having difficulty keeping the shot steady. Don't just set the drag and forget about it, think about how different settings might help different shots.

Professional heads like the Cartoni Master shown here have precise settings available with a readout display.

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