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Product Photography, Part 2: Selecting Tripods

How do you create flawless product photos? It’s often as simple as using the right tripod. A tripod allows you to level horizontal lines and keep your camera fixed and steady during shoots.

This is the second post in my series aimed at helping ecommerce merchants take better product photos. “Part 1” addressed the importance of backdrops. In this installment, I’ll explain the necessity of tripods and how to choose one for your business.

A steady camera ensures clear, sharp, and aesthetically pleasing images. Tripods are especially helpful for close-up and lifestyle pictures because you can use a much smaller aperture and shutter speed without compromising quality. Product details, lighting, angles, setting — all impact the best tripod for the job.

Let’s look at the options.

Tripods for Product Photography

Pocket tripods are handy for impromptu and lifestyle shots. Imagine shooting products at a party or a restaurant. A large studio tripod is likely not practical. An inexpensive, adjustable-head pocket tripod is more suitable. It can support the weight of your digital camera and keep it steady.

The Manfrotto Pixi Evo is my favorite pocket tripod. It is well made and includes handy features for product shots. The Evo is lightweight and comes with useful leg extensions. Moreover, it has a large, reliable ball head (for easy camera rotating), a load capacity of 5.5 lbs., and a maximum height of 7.7 inches. And, at $60 at Amazon, the Evo is affordable.

Photo from Amazon of Manfrotto Pixi Evo

Pocket tripods, such as this Manfrotto Pixi Evo, are handy for impromptu and lifestyle shots. Image: Amazon.

The Neewer Portable Desktop Mini tripod is another good choice. It can hold up to 11 lbs. and weighs less than 2 lbs. Its max extended height is roughly 19.7 inches. At $50 on Amazon, the price is similar to the Evo.

Travel tripods are best for location shoots because of their portability. This type of tripod can support the weight of a digital camera while generally collapsing down to about 24 inches or less to fit in carry-on luggage easily.

Benro’s Travel Angel 9X CF Series 2 is my top pick for a travel tripod. It has a load capacity of 22 lbs. and a maximum height of 66.9 inches. Yet it only weighs 4 lbs. It’s pricey at $419.95. But it’s well-made and produced from carbon fiber, making it lightweight and a replacement for a heavier medium-duty tripod.

Image of Benro's Travel Angel 9XCF Series 2 from BenroUSA.com.

Travel tripods are best for location shoots because of their portability. This example is Benro’s Travel Angel 9XCF Series 2. Image: BenroUSA.com.

Manfrotto’s BeFree Compact Travel tripod is more budget-friendly. For $179.99 you’ll get an astonishingly compact aluminum tripod with a ball head. But be careful: This design can only support about 10 lbs. It’s not suitable for heavy lenses.

Medium-duty tripods are a helpful compromise between heavy studio tripods and lighter travel and pocket versions. I mainly use this type of tripod when shooting my paintings and performance art. The sturdiness helps produce sharper photos. Plus, most manufacturers will offer pan-head models for precise camera control.

My choice is Manfrotto’s 190x 3-Section Tripod with XPRO Fluid Head. Specialty camera retailers typically stock it. Examples are Andorama, Hunt’s Photo & Video, and B&H Photo-Video-Audio. It costs roughly $365 before discounts. It’s lightweight, has a good load capacity, and offers many professional features.

Image of Manfrotto’s 190x 3-Section Tripod with XPRO Fluid Head at Manfrotto.com.

Medium-duty tripods are a helpful compromise between heavy studio tripods and lighter travel and pocket versions. Shown here is Manfrotto’s 190x 3-Section Tripod with XPRO Fluid Head. Image: Manfrotto.com.

Studio tripods provide the best stability and image sharpness. These tripods are generally for professionals with a specific need using medium and large format cameras. Studio tripods often have specialized heads. Recommending a studio tripod is beyond the scope of this article as it requires understanding the unique use case.

Mobile phones. Don’t buy a tripod designed for mobile phones if used for product photos. Instead, purchase a universal mobile phone adapter attachment. You can then use the same tripod as for your digital or video camera. Manfrotto offers a reliable Smartphone Clamp that works with any tripod. It costs just $9.99.

Image of a Manfrotto Smartphone Clamp from Amazon

A universal mobile phone adapter, such as this Smartphone Clamp from Manfrotto, attaches to an existing tripod. Image: Amazon.

See “Part 3: Artificial Lighting Basics.”

Carolyn Mara

Carolyn Mara

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