If I had to choose the essential accessory for night photography, without a doubt, I would advise you to get a very good tripod. Because if it is already highly recommended when working with landscapes in general, it is unthinkable to get a good quality image to long exposures without a good tripod robust and stable.
That’s why today I come to recommend the essential features to take into account when choosing a tripod for night photography (which will also serve you for all kinds of situations in which you need a tripod).
Stability First And Foremost
Stability is the most important feature on a tripod that will withstand long outdoor exposures, as the most unstable tripods can move and even fall in the wind. So, above any other feature (such as size or weight), you should look for a tripod with good stability.
Although there are tripods that prioritize traveling in a compact and light form to a great stability, in this case you must slightly renounce these principles, because lightness is also synonymous with less stability, which may work in other areas but not in night photography.
In the search for the stability of a tripod many things influence, but one of the most important is the way of “compacting” the tripod or in particular its legs. The more extensions these have, the more compact (and ideal for travel) it is, but less stable. The best thing to do is to get a tripod with 3 sections.
In addition to the three sections try to check that they are long enough to get the desired height without extending the central bar, as this also increases the instability of the tripod.
Another aspect to bear in mind is that they can move independently in order to be able to adjust to the morphology of the terrain and that they are individually attached to the central column.
The legs can end in various materials, the most common are plastic (to avoid slipping on smooth surfaces), or finished in metal tip or a combination of the two options.
You have two types of tripod heads:
The three-axis (or three-way) head has three handles that allow you to adjust the camera angle in all three axes: horizontal, vertical and inclined and is the most used for landscape or architectural photography, as it allows the camera to be aligned more precisely.
The ball head is smaller and weighs less than the three-axis ball head and allows you to adjust any angle easily by simply unlocking and locking a single piece. This type of head is ideal for scenes with a certain movement or when we are going to make numerous frames of different scenes.
While the two heads can be useful as long as they are of similar qualities, the truth is that, if you are night photography, the most recommended is the 3 axes, because it is more precise.
The Central Bar
Sometimes this includes a hook to put weight on the tripod: it is not a bad option to choose one that has it.
Likewise, some tripods offer the possibility of extracting the bar or central tube in order to place the tripod in all types of angles, thus being able to adapt it to any type of terrain morphology.
You have them mainly in aluminium and carbon fibre. The latter weigh less but are more expensive (and there warn that they attract more lightning, so watch out for storms). It’ll all depend on your budget.
nocturnal photograph silhouette of a photographer with a tripod
Legs And Head Separately
High-end tripods allow you to buy legs and head separately. This is always the most recommendable, since for the same tripod, you could even have more than one head (although a very good one of the type is always better than one of each but of worse quality).
Other Useful Tips
Make sure the tripod and the head you’re looking at hold the weight of your camera plus your heaviest lens and a little more just in case.
Pay attention to the maximum tripod height so you can work comfortably at your own height. Try before you buy. It is very important that you touch, weighs, mounts, cuttings, moves and that, in short, you have your own impressions and familiarize yourself before buying.
I know it may seem that all tripods are the same but it is not true, there is really a lot of difference in quality. It is better to wait and save a little than to buy a very cheap tripod that you are going to have to change in 2 months.
nocturnal photograph silhouette of a photographer and the stars
Here are a couple of recommendations that are sure successes as an example of what we have talked about in this article. Both tripods are a good base from which to personally investigate and the one that best suits your budget needs.
If you have been fond of night photography or long exposure, you know that we talk about cold, infinite patience, sleep, emotion, sometimes loneliness, other friendships, incredible locations, magical scenarios reserved only for a few …
It would be a pity if this passion, this effort, this deprivation of voluntary sleep, were left in nothing because you bought a tripod that wasn’t up to the task, don’t you think?
A good tripod is a great investment regardless of the type of photography you want to do. If you invest well, you will invest only once. If you don’t, believe me, you’ll soon realize that you need to disburse again.
I hope, as always, that you found this article useful. If so, please share it with anyone you think might be interested in it. Thank you very much and see you next time.