Tripod or Tripod Alternative, What to Choose

A firm camera support is an important advantage for many types of photography. The most useful equipment for camera stabilization is a sturdy tripod. But often photographers find themselves without the tripod or forbidden to use it. In that situation a reliable tripod alternative is the next best choice. When and where should you use a tripod or go with a tripod alternative?


There are many situations were a tripod is the only reasonable choice. Portrait photography is one. Whether in the studio or in the field, a tripod helps you compose the shot, direct the model, set and evaluate lights, etc.—all without holding the camera. A tripod alternative for portraits would not be useful.

Urban Landscape Photography

Gal Row4 Pic4

Night scene shot with HandlePod held on a lamp post.

Here the choice is less clear and comes down to what you are willing to carry. If you are content lugging a tripod and setting it up for those night cityscape shots, a tripod is always best. But if you want to avoid the weight and bulk, a lightweight tripod alternative is a practical choice, especially when traveling.

Cities offer fabulous opportunities for night photography.  There is no shortage of poles, railings, buildings and objects to use as a camera support. And many locations forbid tripod use—the observation deck of the Empire State Building for example. In urban situations it is best to have a small camera support available even if you are carrying a tripod. It can be faster and easier to use and will help get the shot when the tripod can’t be unpacked.

Nature Photography and Landscapes

Here a tripod usually wins out. It can be set up anywhere without restriction. And camera support objects in wilderness areas are not as plentiful as in cities. But again it comes down to weight. If you are backpacking through Yosemite do you really want to carry a tripod? And there are trees and rocks that can serve as supports. A small tripod alternative will let you shoot star trails or mountain vistas in moonlight at a minimal cost in weight.

Indoor Photography

Saint Peters

Saint Peters, Rome, shot with HandlePod held on a barrier.

A tripod alternative is often the only choice for indoor shots of castles, cathedrals, museums and other travel attractions. Most or all of these places forbid the use of a tripod and do not allow flash. But they all allow a tripod alternative that can be stabilized on railings, pews, columns or anything available. A tripod alternative will let you shoot dimly lit church interiors. It will also help with perfectly aligned bracketed shots of stained glass and interior features that can be combined with HDR software.

The choice between using a tripod or a small, lightweight alternative comes down to what you are willing to carry and the type of photography and location. If you don’t mind carrying it and are permitted to use it, a tripod is always better. But when you don’t have a tripod or using it is forbidden, a small tripod alternative like HandlePod is the next best choice.


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