If you’re a ‘people’ photographer, your clients deserve tripods!
I used to shoot with a combination of digital and film (although it’s mostly just digital these days). I would typically mount the large, heavy medium-format camera on a tripod, and hold the digital SLR in my hands. But I began to notice that my film shots, which were usually a small percentage of the total shots taken, seemed to have a much higher ‘hit ratio’ in terms of the subjects’ expressions and emotions. More real smiles, etc. I’m pretty sure this was because the film camera was mounted on a tripod!
The reason is not because the tripod steadies the camera, which of course is its primary purpose. It’s because if the camera is on a tripod, it’s not in front of my face. If clients can see my face, they can interact with me better, I can make jokes and they take cues from my smiles, and the result is a better image. Even when I shoot hand-held, I tend to focus and compose, and then move my face around the side of my camera slightly so people can see me. But with a tripod, it’s even better! I’m not some scary camera-robot with a human torso and legs, which might put some people off.
As an added side benefit, I’m not always worrying about low shutter speeds as the sun sets. The tripod allows me to shoot much longer before having to bump up the ISO (which results in having to change the settings on the lights, etc).
Using a tripod is most beneficial when your subjects are stationary, and you are shooting a more formal, composed image. Tripods are not much use when you’re trying to shoot small children running around on the beach for example, or when models are doing model stuff.
So lately I’ve been making an effort to use the tripod for many group shots. I was missing out on an aspect of tripod usage that wasn’t so obvious: that it’s a great client relationship tool.
So even if you’ve got the latest anti-vibration camera and a lens that opens up to f/1.4, I still say give it a try. Your clients deserve tripods!