Gear We Love: Tripods For Beginners

As you begin your journey into photography, one of the first recommended items is a good tripod. In this article, we will briefly describe why a tripod is helpful, as well as share with you our favorite tripods for beginners.

 
 

So, why do you need a tripod? For beginners, taking photos in dark situations can seem tricky, and sometimes just plain impossible. That's where tripods come in; they are fantastic tools that allow photographers to make photos in dark environments that require slow shutter-speeds. Slow shutter-speeds (a.k.a long exposures) allow the camera to collect light for longer periods of time, and tripods prevent the inevitable camera shake and blurry photos experienced in low-light situations.  

The goal for newcomers is to find a tripod that fits your needs without breaking the bank. You don't need to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars to strike a good balance between affordability, durability, and ease-of-use. The following beginner level tripods are in no particular order, have been personally tested by our team, and are not sponsored products - simply gear we trust! 

Manfrotto Compact

One of our favorites, this tripod is perfect for beginner photographers on the go. Compact and lightweight, it's best suited for small DSLRs & mirrorless cameras with kit lenses, and for those who sometimes work in small places, or want to carry their tripod in a bag or backpack.  

Zomei Lightweight

For photographers with heavier zoom lenses or who aren't traveling as much, the Zomei tripod is a great choice. The classic Arca type mounting plate (a.k.a., Arca Swiss) is universal and adaptable to other tripods (helpful later on when you may have more gear), and the clip lock legs are better suited for beginners (as opposed to the twist lock variety). This tripod is great balance of strength and portability.  

Benro Pro Angel 1 Series

The Benro Pro series is a bit more advanced than these other two versions, and great for new photographers looking to upgrade. With a ball head design (which offers a 360-degree swivel), Arca type mount, and twist tightening legs, this tripod is impressivly compact yet strong. Suitable for all camera sizes, this tripod will be with you for years to come. 

It's worth noting that tripods, no matter how much they cost, can be a little cumbersome and require practice and patience. The more you use them, the better you will become at maximizing their potential to help you make great photos. A perfect way to practice is with the BPW during one of our Night Photography classes, out in the field around the Boston area. 

Happy shooting!

-- The BPW Team

Ball for a Cause

Basketballs are flying everywhere you look as multiple 3-on-3 games are taking place on the courts at Somerville’s Trum Field. The players pay no mind to the sun beating down on them on this particularly hot June day. Beyond the unofficial soundtrack of any basketball game– the sound of sneakers being squeaked across the asphalt and encouraging shouts from the crowd— is the rapid-fire sound of camera shutters opening and closing without hesitation.

For the second year in a row, the BPW’s instructors and students took photos for the charitable basketball tournament, Ball for a Cause, while practicing their sports photography skills. Each student’s enrollment fee for this special edition sports photography class was given to the Somerville Homeless Coalition– a nonprofit that provides an array of monetary and supportive services to homeless or near homeless individuals. Your donation helps SHC to put food on the table, relief of outstanding fees or bills, and maintain a network of affordable housing for those in a crises.  

After a brief discussion about the  technical aspects to accomplishing successful action shots, BPW students had full access to the basketball courts, giving them the chance to get creative with their composition and interact with the players. Many of our participants were beginners and wanted to practice their sports photography skills so they can improve the shots they get of their loved ones’ games, from a spouse’s pickup game in the park to a kid’s soccer tournament. Others simply wanted to get out of their comfort zone and try a little something new.

At the end of the day, everyone had smiles on their faces. Students captured photos they didn’t know were possible, and the BPW was proud to help the Somerville Homeless Coalition bring in hundreds of dollars in donations.  You might call it a slam dunk... 

Astrophotography Weekend Workshop

Not many people wake up at 2:30 in the morning and are excited to get up. Add to that, 38º weather, and most people would shudder at the idea of crawling out of bed and stepping foot outside. Well, last month that's exactly what some of our brave students did when they participated in our first ever Astrophotography Weekend Workshop at Pemaquid Point Light in Bristol, Maine. The video below will give you a good introduction to how the weekend unfolded.


Over the course of two nights with the guidance of our two instructors, students had the chance to learn, explore, and create. With no past experience in astrophotography, our students ended up capturing these incredible images with their own digital cameras - the Boston Photography Workshops is blown away at the breathtaking images our students created and could not be prouder. This past March's "Weekend Workshop" is the first of many and we look forward to the next one taking place in July 2017. Sign up for our newsletter below to be notified when enrollment is open!  


Astro Student Gallery

A sampling of the amazing work our students created, during the two-night astrophotography workshop. 

 
 

Be the first to hear about our next astrophotography workshop. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Holiday gifts for the photographer who seems to have everything

If you have a friend who loves taking photos, then this article may be for you! 

1. A goodie bag of essentials

These are the wool socks of gift giving in the camera world--they'll thank you later. You can never go wrong gifting the following items:

  1. Batteries: you can buy the brand name, sure. But you can also get two Wasabi batteries for the price of one brand name. They're just as reliable as any other company. Bonus: Wasabi includes a European adapter (two prong)! [LINK] 

  2. Memory cards and a case: we can never recommend enough Class 10 memory cards. Get a colorful case for your shutterbug as well! [Memory Cards] / [Case]

  3. Filters: these cheap life savers help prevent scratching the surface of a lens. They can really take a hit too. Just a heads up: you need to know what kind of lenses you're dealing with. A safe start is purchasing filters for kit lenses. Here is a youtube video showing you where to find the lens diameter for a filter.

  4. Rocket Air Blasters: this is an oversight to many photographers. This can get any dust specks or stray cat hairs (speaking from experience) out of your sensor as safely as possible. [Link]

 

2. Flash Modifiers / Diffusers

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Maybe the photographer you know has some snazzy gear– like a shoe mounted external flash. You can contribute to their photography game by gifting them a flash modifier. These accessories diffuse direct, harsh light to create a softly lit photo. Our favorites? 

  1. Expoimage Rogue Flashbender (39.95) [Link] 

  2. Gary Fong Major Dome Cloud (49.95) [Link]

 

3. Manfrotto Travel Tripod

This Italian engineered tripod was built to withstand elements with it's carbon-fiber frame. It's intuitively designed with how a photography might use it in mind! It's built to last and relatively light (for a tripod) – It's not wonder why the Manfrotto is a favorite at the BPW. [Link] 

 

4. Peak Capture Camera Clip

Peak Designs are a great company to all types of explorers. Give the gift of convenience with this clip-on camera accessory! [Link] 

 

 

5. A Nifty Fifty a la Burrito 

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Ok– this may be a personal Christmas hint, but what better way would there be to present an essential buy such as the 50mm 1.8 lens with a Photojojo Burrito Lens Wrap?

For more lens recommendations, check out our other article Holiday Buying Guide

 

 

All of the items we recommended can be taught and used in our classes. If you’re still lost on what to give your photographer-friend, then we can safely bet a BPW Gift Certificate will be a memorable gift received. They don’t expire and can be used towards customized private lessons! 

The BPW wishes you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season! 

Five Pro-Tips to Capturing the Holidays

1. Map it, draft it, and roll with it

Give yourself “photo assignments” for each event of the holiday season. Otherwise, you might overwhelm yourself with a daunting photo project! Avoid the feeling you’re missing moments by considering these questions: 

  • How can I take photos of loved ones that bring out their personalities? 

  • Can I tell a story with the images I want to make today? What is that story? 

  • What is my lighting situation like? Should I use natural or artificial light, which will look better? (maybe try both!)

Notice how “story” is mentioned a lot. The point of photography isn’t to take an perfectly bright photo, but rather to show the right mood or tone of that moment. Practice making bright and dark photos and see what you like better.  

Photo Assignment examples: 
– A day of portraits of my friends/family.
– A day of candids and/or play.
– A day of documenting how my loved ones prepare food.
– A unique tradition done only this time of year. 

2. Shoot A-plenty

Continuous shooting (or burst) is a setting in your camera that allows a quick succession of photos to be captured in less than a few seconds. This feature isn’t only reserved for wedding or sports photographers!

Take advantage of this life saving feature when shooting family photos (there might be one good photo where everyone’s eyes are open) or capturing the moment a child opens their present. You might need a Class 10 memory card with at least 32 gb of storage for this feature to perform consistently well (Amazon Link). Otherwise, you might find yourself waiting for the images to write onto the memory card. 

Before you shoot in Continuous or Burst: 
– Find consistent lighting so you can have a medium to fast shutter speed. 
– If you can’t find consistent lighting, crank up your ISO. But remember, the higher the ISO; the higher the grain. 
– For group portraits; use a tripod or a stable foundation. You might be at risk of moving and not having consistent framing / composition hand-holding your camera. 

3. Get close and shoot off-center

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Challenge yourself to find something exciting about the mundane. If everyone is laying on the couch and watching football, you can isolate your subject, frame them left or right heavy, and capture their facial expressions. You have the potential of capturing their personality— all while they’re watching television! 

When people are looking at photos— they’re not looking for an impressive or unique subject; they’re looking for a dynamic read. If a subject is dead-center, or they’re far away, it might be difficult to find a photo interesting. So remember: you’re not taking good photos; you’re taking dynamic photos.

Here's an example of a relatively mundane subject made interesting: 

Notice how the main subject is left-heavy, or occupying more than 1/3 of the screen. There is also a bench in the foreground (lower 1/3) that creates depth. 

Notice how the main subject is left-heavy, or occupying more than 1/3 of the screen. There is also a bench in the foreground (lower 1/3) that creates depth. 

Compositional rules that can make a photo dynamic: 
– Rule of Thirds
– Frame within a frame
– Leading lines 

4. Think "relationship" instead of "subject"

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Sometimes, taking a photo of Grandma standing next to the holiday tree can be a little boring. Consider using one subject to convey the other. Take a photo of Grandma in front of the tree, get close, and have the tree become a backdrop made with an interesting texture and color that only complements her face. 

You can also switch this dynamic. A photo of Grandma’s hand placing an ornament makes the tree the main subject, and her hand a way to convey it. Thinking of subjects in relation to their environment really helps with telling the story you want to make.

What kind of photographs can you make with these everyday situations? 
– A pile of ripped wrapping paper.
– A child playing with their new toy.
– Cleaning up at the end of the day.

5. Don't be afraid to break the rules

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Sometimes, a photo is just a photo. If something catches your eye as a photographer, don't overthink if t it fits with your "style" or the story you're trying to tell. Just take the photo. Who knows! Maybe it does tell a story once you piece everything together in an album.

Five Ways to Get The Most Out of Your Summer Photographs

1. Pay Attention to Light

 
 

In photography, paying attention to light can make all the difference. There are three times a day that can make a moment or subject go from "Okay" to “whoa." 

  • Sunrise: We know, you don’t want to get up that early on your break, but it’s always worth it. If you’re on vacation, this is an ideal time to visit popular spots. 
  • The Golden Hour. This occurs twice a day - right before sunset and right after sunrise. The effect of this kind of lighting gives everything a gold cast and the shadows are drawn out longer. It's called golden hour for a reason! 
  • After Sunset: When people are going to dinner, spend an extra half hour outside to capture the most vibrant, complex colors. 

2. When in doubt, go to "Camera Neutral." 

 
 

We hope that everyone sets up their camera to prepare for their shots, but sometimes a moment happens and then it’s gone! When this happens, it might be worthy to ask to recreate a picture when appropriate.

Previous students know what our method of camera neutral is, but to refresh some of you it’s 1/200, f3.5, ISO 800. This is not a magical solution to photography woes, but it is a good start. After taking a few photos with these settings, you can see what kind of adjustments you need to make. 

3. Get Tripod Friendly

 
 

Even if you plan to shoot without a tripod throughout the day, having one handy might make your summer night. Long exposures (or slow shutter speeds) are needed in a lot of low-light situations, so a stable foundation for your camera to rest on will be required. Once the sun starts setting, you might notice the motion of sparklers or lightbulbs becoming more streaky; you can stop this by attaching your camera to a tripod and setting up wherever needed. 

4. Tell your story

Taking good photographs often doesn’t happen by accident. Some forethought on location, what that location means to you, and what kind of emotion you’d like to bring out in your photo should be your challenge! Contemplate each shot but don’t ignore potential photos because the subject isn’t “interesting” enough. You might have a few keepers. 

5. Get off the beaten path

 
 

Whether you’re revisiting your hometown or exploring a new city or trail, you can still find some hidden gems in those hard-to-reach places. Summer weather creates safer and more predictable conditions that most times of the year cannot guarantee. Take advantage of that and go on some serious photo walks!