There are lots of times a tripod comes in handy.  Of course you might not have one on hand when you need it most.  Here are three of my favorite techniques to overcome the lack of a tripod.

Swaddle the Camera


This technique works best for time-lapse. Take a sweatshirt or jacket and ball it into a nest of sorts.  The camera literally sits inside the nest which absorbs vibration and keeps the body from falling over.

Find a Bar


This technique is best for HDR or low-light shooting. Find a railing, a park bench, a garbage can even. The key is to press down on the camera so it stays stable.  I’ll take advantage of a continuos shooting mode and auto-bracketing so the camera can quickly fire all exposures.

Find a Pole


This is another variation on the theme above.   The challenge here is often that the surfaces are rounded.  I’ll often try to pad the bottom of the camera with a jacket or a hand.  I’ll often use the camera strap and wrap it around the pole (just keep it under tension to further stabilize).

Disclaimer: These are just a few ways to solve the lack of a tripod.


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Join the conversation! 10 Comments

  1. Also, if your improvised camera prop is a bit low, you can put the lens cap under your lens to prop it up a bit more.

  2. I used some old horse manure to get my camera to the correct angle for a 15 second exposure of the Milky Way here: http://traveljapanblog.com/ashland/2013/09/milky-way/

  3. thanks for the advice. I hate tripods and hope that camera manufacturers will develop SLR that do not need them. But another thing I use is a bag of beans or one of those pellet pillows that I use for the small of my back.

  4. I was shooting in temples in India where tripods are forbidden. One technique is to attach the camera to a ball head (minus the tripod) and use the setup to stabilize against a railing or wall. By holding the ball head firmly against the supporting structure with one’s hand, it’s possibly to get longer exposures and still minimize camera shake. Apparently, this isn’t viewed as a security risk like tripods are.

  5. No tripod? No problem. Unscrew the finial of a table lamp, remove the lampshade and simply screw in your camera. Instant tripod! This should work for all cameras and is very handy while traveling.

  6. I use my camera bag sometimes if I forgot to bring my tripod.

  7. Some places ban tripods but not monopods. In that case take a couple of velcro straps and wrap around tripod legs and never open it, thereby using it as a monopod. Whether you are using a closed tripod or a monopod, never remove the camera from the device. This makes you less clumsy and you can do all the shots you would have done handheld and then some. I like using a monopod as a handle and move the camer higher and lower than I would likely do so handheld. Also keep a few extra velcro straps or use zip ties and you can strap the stick to railings, seats, posts, etc.

  8. Portal Tripods could be a alternative for the larger Tripods. these are easy to carry also very convinient, I found this to be a good collection of mini portable tripods http://www.smifu.com/tripods/mini-tripods.html


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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Lynda.com. Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.


Cinematography, Gear, Gear, HDR, Photography, Shooting, Shooting