There’s nothing worse than finishing a seemingly successful day of shooting, to discover the dreaded motion blur in several of the shots, due to your tripod not being steady, as soon as you load up your computer to start editing.
In fact, as an interior and architecture photographer, this is one of the most frustrating situations to overcome, and it’s often hard to detect during the shoot. So how can you go about keeping your tripod steady during a shoot to avoid this happening?
General tips for keeping a steady tripod on an architectural shoot
There is always going to be a time when you find yourself rushing to get the shot but it’s important that you make sure your tripod is firmly in position before taking any pictures or you could be coming back for a reshoot.
It’s always better to extend the thickest legs on your tripod first to provide a more stable base to work from. Start from the top and work down, don’t just grab the bottom legs because they are the easiest to get to.
If possible try either not to have a centre column or use it as little as possible. It’s just an extra bit of metal (or carbon fibre) which can wiggle around. Think about the centre of gravity, you’re always better extending legs than your centre column.
If your tripod has a hook under the base plate to hang a weight from, use it. That weight pulling down will make a massive difference.
You can just use your bag but something like a sandbag is even better.
Finally, if you can tether your camera or get a remote trigger so you don’t ever have to touch it to release the shutter that’s going to totally remove any issues from your hand knocking it as you press the shutter.
I use the Tether Tools range. Although a little expensive, they have never let me down and the bright orange cable comes in handy when you have multiple people moving around close to the camera.
How can different types of surface affect your tripod stability?
Let’s take a look into how different types of surface can affect the steadiness of your tripod – and therefore cause motion blurring – as an architecture photographer.
How to ensure a steady tripod when shooting on grass
If your architecture photography brief involves shooting outdoors on grass, you’ll need to take extra care to make sure your tripod stays steady throughout. Depending on the weather and light conditions, you’ll need to adapt to the situation to avoid the entire shoot becoming a blur, as the slightest movement can ruin a shot you’ve spent ages setting up and only have a couple of minutes to capture.
So how do you keep your tripod stable on grass in wet or windy conditions?
Sandbags, again, are a handy thing to have on you if you’re shooting on grass, as they’ll weigh it down to one spot to avoid movement.
If you’ve turned up to a shoot where you’re required to set up your tripod on wet, muddy grass, it may not be a total wipeout. See if you can get hold of anything solid, which is lying around, to create a steady platform to rest your tripod on, vastly reducing the risk of motion blur.
Or, even better would be to have a tripod which has feet which you can swap out for spikes so you can firmly plant the tripod into the ground before you capture your image.
If all else fails, find something to prop your tripod up on to keep it from sinking in grass.
Keeping your tripod still while shooting on carpet
Carpet can be a classic culprit in causing my tripod to lose stability when shooting interiors. Whether the tripod itself shifts, or someone wanders past to create an accidental blur, this can be incredibly annoying – especially when you’ve set up a series of composite shots and got the lighting and styling just right.
Give your tripod time to settle into position before you start shooting – and ban everyone from entering the room for the duration of your interior photography shoot.
If you’re in a location with multiple areas a quick shout before you press the shutter just to get everyone to stay where they are could save you a whole load of heartache later on.
Maintaining a steady tripod in older properties
Not all older homes will have the same kind of flooring, but from my years of experience as an interior photographer the one thing most period properties have in common is the reverberation of any movement through the entire house. You can be shooting a kitchen downstairs and if someone dashes down the stairs or runs into an upstairs bedroom, you’ll feel the vibration in your tripod and see that wiggle that every photographer dreads.
In this instance, the best move is to simply ask everyone to stay still while you get that shot (or 15) to avoid a nightmare in post-production. So whether you’re dealing with architects, designers, homeowners or pets, the same rule applies – leave the room or impersonate a statue for the duration of the shoot, or deal with the consequences later.
What else causes motion blur in interior architecture photography?
Aside from wobbly or wet surfaces, a prime offender in the creation of motion blur (and therefore tripod instability) is simply rushing.
Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to make sure you get the right result for your client or yourself, so do your homework, fully assess your surroundings and pay careful attention to anything that could jeopardise the final product.
Often, the most basic rules of photography are the most important to remind yourself of, and therefore it’s crucial for me personally to prepare, plan and stay focused throughout an interior or architecture photography shoot. Failure to do so (as the saying goes) can lead to mistakes which are difficult – or even impossible – to rectify later on.
Hopefully these tips will come in handy on your next shoot – if you have any other advice on tripod stability, please share them in the comments.