3 Reasons to Use A Tripod on Your Next Film Shoot
This piece of gear might not be in your camera bag for a typical paying gig, but it should be: a tripod. It goes hand in hand with film, just like a light meter, but it’s often overlooked (especially by hybrid photographers). Why pump up the ISO on your digital camera instead of grabbing your tripod and shooting film?!
Tripods aren’t just for “slow photography” like landscapes or studio portraits—they can be incredible tools that help you control variables so you can shoot film throughout an entire wedding or other event.
Photo by Rebecca Yale
SHOOT IN LOW LIGHTING
Film loves light, which is why a lot of photographers are hesitant to stick with it in dim conditions. But this is the perfect time to bust out your tripod with some high-speed film! You can feel free to set that shutter speed nice and sloooooow so your negatives have time to soak up all the light they need—and you won’t have to worry about holding the camera steady.
In this scenario, the tripod will not help you get the first kiss shot in a dark church or catch the tear rolling down Mom’s face... but it will capture a shot of the inside of the church with candles everywhere that sets the scene of the wedding. The reality is, light and locations are sometimes not ideal at weddings—you have to make do with what you have. You may find yourself shooting details in a dimly lit room because it’s raining outside. But the details don’t move, and the tripod doesn’t move, so you will be able to keep that shutter open as long as possible and not suffer from underexposure.
When a photographer knowingly underexposes their film, pushing that film (leaving it in developer longer during processing) can be a way to compensate. But it can also cause color shifts, and that risk can make pushing your film a no-go. This is another reason that tripods are so nifty in low lighting—you can keep hues and contrast looking natural by giving your film enough time to be properly exposed in camera.
Using visual elements to inject atmosphere & feeling into an image is what separates simply recording a scene from capturing a moment in time forever. As a pro photographer, you are tasked with documenting a once-in-a-lifetime event that someone has spent months, even years, planning. So your goal is not only to deliver the visible moments they experienced, but the emotions they felt being in those moments. Tripods can be a tool for transforming real events into a gripping piece of fine art by helping create ambience, motion, and more!
Photo by Jose Villa
Rebecca Yale explains how a tripod was the key to getting the perfect movement and ambience in the below shot: “I use a tripod when I want to show movement in the frame. I took about two rolls of film of this exact scene as the pigeons whirred around the couple so I could try out a few different exposure options and have my pick for the exact position I wanted the pigeons in, framing the couple.
Photo by Rebecca Yale
"I asked them to stand very still as I was bracketing at 1/30th, 1/15th, 1/8th and 1/4th of a second on my tripod. I wanted to show movement in the wings of the bird but still have them in focus enough to see them. This frame was clearly the winner, but I always like to overshoot moments with movement, taking extra frames so I can decide later which is the best. The slightest of movements from the beating of a bird’s wings to the extension of a pinky finger to the angle of a leg can transform a good photo into a great one.”
When you use your tripod, your camera angle and framing becomes standardized for every shot you take. This makes getting consistency a breeze! Think about group portraits or detail shots—your camera position is set for the best lighting and composition while you move the subject matter in, out, and around the frame. For a lot of photographers, shooting film is a way to slow down and truly think about every shot, and a tripod only complements that idea. It will help you create and fine-tune your composition strategy, and then carry that carefully-considered planning into multiple frames.
Photo by Jose Villa
Now, we're not saying there isn't a time and place to bust out your digital camera, but we want you to feel empowered to choose from all the options you already have in your photography tool kit (and think outside the creative box). If you love shooting film, then consider a tripod your new best friend!