Ibarionex R. Perello
Connie by Window Light
© Ibarionex R. Perello
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In my portrait classes, I am a big proponent of using a tripod. Because I want my images to be tack sharp, I almost always use a tripod because it consistently provides me better results than when I am hand-holding the camera. Though I have to admit, I didn’t always feel that way.
Like many of my students each month, I felt that the tripod “cramped my style”. I liked moving around and having the flexibility to change my angle or perspective in an instant. I wanted the freedom of not having to use a tripod. Yet, as I began comparing images in a shoot, I noticed that some images were sharper than others. And unfortunately, it always seemed that my “best” shots were unacceptably soft.
Though I tried to take great care with how I used my camera, I would sometimes shoot at shutter speeds that were too slow to get a sharp image. Though I had once boasted of being able to get sharp results at 1/8 second, my hands were not as steady as they used to be. Even at 1/60 second, I was getting increasingly frustrated with the softness of my photographs.
When I began using a tripod, there was a consistent sharpness to my images, which I hadn’t seen in a long time. Even with images were I was using a very limited depth of field, the eyes were coming out tack sharp. I didn’t have to throw out half my images because of softness.
The use of the tripod certainly changed the way I shoot. Though I was no longer dancing around the subject like the character from “Blow Up”, I found myself being much more thoughtful about my framing and composition. I wasn’t just firing away as fast as my camera could expose frames. Instead, I was taking my time, carefully considering everything about the image before snapping the shutter. The process of creating a portrait became more thoughtful.
Some of my favorite portrait photographers used medium and large format camera for portraits and they don’t have the benefit of exposing dozens of frames in a couple of seconds. But that doesn’t diminish the quality of their portraits. The fact that they can and do only expose a limited number of frames makes them much more careful about lighting, exposure, composition and the subject’s expression and gesture.
I also became much more cognizant of my backgrounds and elements at the edges of the frame. I was no longer discovering distracting elements well after that image had been made and it was too late to change. I would see it immediately and change my position or perspective then and there. This takes much less time than it would take to “fix” it in Photoshop.
Using a tripod has freed me to observe my subject and the background much more carefully. Rather than exposing hundreds of frames “hoping” for that one great shot, I shoot much fewer frames and have come to anticipate and capture that telling moment.
A tripod didn’t cramp my style. It transformed it.