Without a doubt, a tripod is the single most important purchase you can make. This three-legged friend can be used in many different ways, allowing you to create epic camera shots. Most importantly, it’s the best camera stabilizer you already have with you.
In this article, I will show you 10 tripod tricks that you can try out in your own video productions. To make things interesting, I’m going to show most of these tricks using an ancient tripod that my grandfather gave me. I believe it is at least 50 years old! With that being said, let’s begin.
1. The Basics
Let’s start with the basics. A tripod allows you to do three basics movements: tilt, pan and pedestal.
Tilt: Move your camera lens up and down while keeping its horizontal rotation constant.
Pan: Move the camera lens from one side to the other without changing its vertical rotation.
Pedestal: Move your camera up and down without changing its horizontal or vertical rotation.
For handheld camera tips and techniques check out “Basic Shooting – Camera Movement, Smooth Moves and Steady Shots”
2. The Dolly Slide
Retract one of the legs and use the remaining two legs as pivot points to move your camera back and forth. Remember to tilt your camera accordingly as you move forward and back.
3. The Rubber-band Pan
Place a rubber band on the handle of your tripod and start pulling. This can help smooth out your jumpy panning shots.
4. The Upside-down Tracking Shot
Turn your tripod upside down and carry it for low angle shot. Then flip the video 180° in post-production so that your scene is no longer upside down.
NOTE: We do not recommend doing this tripod trick with large or heavy cameras. In the example video above, I use a Sony AX2000, which weighs roughly 6 pounds with battery. I wouldn’t do this trick in the field with that camera — way too risky. This tripod trick is mostly for DSLRs, mirrorless cameras or action cams.
5. The Improvised Monopod
This one is very simple– raise two legs and extend the other one to make a monopod. This is great when you need a steady shot but don’t plan to be in the same location for very long.
6. The Top-down Shot
Secure your tripod at the top of a ladder and use some rope and sandbags to secure it. Point the camera down for a unique perspective on your subject.
7. The Improvised Crane
First, extend one of the legs to its maximum length and retract the remaining two legs. Proceed by getting a towel and put it below your shirt roughly around your belly button. The towel will help you have a more stable shot and will provide some extra comfort. Now position the extended leg of your tripod at around your belly button, resting on the towel. Once in position, grab the other two legs with both your hands. It should look like this:
You will need to position your camera according to the shot you want, but once you do that you will be able to create some awesome shots. You can “pan” your body left to right or you can try walking around. Experiment with this one, but be careful not to damage your camera by hitting something overhead.
8. The Pickup Truck Dolly
For this one, put your tripod in the cargo area of a pickup truck and hop in. Now, ask someone to drive SLOWLY so you can get some incredible moving shots. Make absolutely sure you strap the tripod and yourself in tightly. Videomaker is not responsible for you falling spectacularly from the pickup truck because you didn’t take proper safety precautions.
Tripod Tricks for Small Tripods
For the following tricks, we are going to use a smartphone along with an octopus tripod.
9. An Inside View
This trick is exclusive to small tripods and action cameras or smartphones. Since they are so small, you can put them just about anywhere to get some very creative shots. Here are a couple of ideas:
- Inside the fridge
- Inside the dryer/washing machine (for the love of your camera DON’T turn on the washing machine)
10. The Tiny Teleprompter Mount
This is not a camera shot, but it’s still an incredibly useful thing to do with the octopus tripod. First, position your main camera in your main tripod with two of the legs pointing back and one forward. Then, strap the octopus tripod around the head and front leg, just below the camera lens. Start-up your favorite teleprompter app in your smartphone and begin recording.
Without a doubt, a tripod’s usefulness is timeliness. Regardless of whether you’re using an ancient tripod or the latest model, you will always be able to perform a variety of shots if you are creative and resourceful.
Do you know any more tripod tricks? Share them in the comments.