5 Reasons to use a Tripod for Food Photography

Silvain • updated June 23 2022 • 6 min read

5 Reasons to use a Tripod for Food Photography

A tripod is a tool that every food photographer needs to have. It lets you take shots from above and keeps you steady. It’s important to pick the one that fits your needs the best. Your food photos look professional with little work on your part.

People don’t use tripods for food photography because they think it limits their ability to be flexible and creative. When you shoot with a hand-held camera, it’s faster and you can try many different angles.

But in reality, a tripod helps you be more creative. Once the camera is on the tripod, you can hook it up to your laptop. You can watch your set change live from the laptop.


 

Why does a tripod make sense for your food photography?

People don’t use tripods for food photography because they think it limits their ability to be flexible and creative. When you shoot with a hand-held camera, it’s faster and you can try many different angles.

But in reality, a tripod helps you be more creative. Once the camera is on the tripod, you can hook it up to your laptop. You can watch your set change live from the laptop.

1. Get your hands free for better composition

You can move plates, cups, and other items back and forth until the result on the screen looks right. The angle of the camera hasn’t changed.

Since your camera won’t move, you can make the most of your composition and take your time getting everything just right, right down to the centimeter. And you can watch as your picture changes in real-time. You can be more creative with a tripod, not less.

2. Do long expose

When you take a picture, the shutter speed tells you how long the shutter stays open. During this time, the light gets to the sensor inside the camera. The more light that can get into the camera, the longer the shutter speed.

The shutter speed is shown as a fraction of a second or as a number of seconds. For instance, 1/80 means one-eightieth of a second, and 2″ means two seconds.
Conditions of light will change based on the time of day and the season. If you are using natural light to take a picture, you may need to increase the exposure.

There are three ways to do this:

  • An increase in aperture
  • Increasing the ISO value
  • Slow down the shutter speed

The shutter speed is the only one of the three options that don’t change the way your picture looks. If you change the aperture, the background will be more or less blurry, but if you keep raising the ISO, the image will start to get noisy.

At first, this isn’t bad, but it might not be what you want or fit the style you’re going for.

In these situations, slowing down the shutter speed is often the best choice. The only problem with this is that if you take pictures by hand above a certain value (around 1/60th of a second), the pictures will be blurry.

Your image will become blurry if you move even a little bit. And a tripod can help with this.

With a tripod, you can use much slower shutter speeds without worrying that your picture will be blurry. This gives you a lot more freedom in your daily life because, even in winter, you can still get sharp photos in the late afternoon with a tripod.

3. Do other things

  • When you put the camera on a tripod, you no longer need to hold it.
  • For example, you can add your hands to the picture.
  • You can hold a plate with soup or a spoon, or put powdered sugar on a cake with it.

This gives your pictures a whole new look, and you don’t need anyone to hold the camera for you. You only need a tripod and maybe a way to trigger the camera from a distance.

4. Sharp images in Manual mode

I almost always used autofocus for a long time when I took pictures. Even though we all used the same equipment, I never understood why other people’s pictures were always clearer than mine.

I thought there was something wrong with the camera or lens before someone told me to shoot with manual focus. Because with manual focus, you can decide to the millimeter which part of the picture should be in focus, not just where it should be in focus roughly.

If you’re shooting with your hands, that can be a pain. If you move even a little bit, you have to readjust the focus again. But if the camera is firmly on the tripod, you only have to change the focus once and can even zoom in more on the screen to double-check everything. This has changed my life in a big way!

5. No back pain

A tripod can save you a lot of work and a lot of weight. It’s not uncommon to shoot food photos from a bird’s eye view. You’ve probably seen them before: the behind-the-scenes photos where the photographer stands with the camera on the table and bends uncomfortably on tiptoe over the food to take a nice shot from above.

You can save yourself that – with the right tripod, that finally comes to an end and you can stand on the floor in a back-friendly way and shoot your photo via remote shutter release.

As you can see, a tripod for food photography is essential. It helps you to let off steam creatively, supports you in taking super-sharp pictures, and relieves your back.

So save on the camera, because it often doesn’t make too much difference which model you use, and invest in a good tripod instead.

What you should look for in a tripod for food photography

There are tripods in all price categories, sizes, and designs. It’s hard to keep track of them all. Here are a few tips on what features you should look for when buying a tripod for food photography:

Stability

Most of the time, you’ll probably be photographing your food indoors. So wind and weather don’t play too big a role. Still, your tripod should be firmly planted on the ground to reduce camera shake as much as possible.

Therefore, make sure you have a hook on your tripod where you can attach a weight to weigh your tripod down. Also, your tripod should not be too light. Adding weight to your tripod will increase its stability.

Since you probably don’t want to take your tripod hiking, you can choose a heavier tripod. This will reduce the risk of knocking your tripod over or the camera being too heavy for the tripod.

Adjustable height

Depending on your height, the height of your setup, lens, and focal length, the height from which you shoot will vary. So, having height adjustability is important.

Adjustable angle/90-degree center column

The most commonly used angles in food photography are 90 degrees (i.e. a top view from above) and a 45-degree angle. You should therefore pay attention to a so-called deflectable center column.

With this, you can place your camera above your subject at a 90-degree angle. Relatively few tripods can actually do this. This narrows down your choice quite a bit.

Spirit level

For both 90- and 45-degree angles, it’s handy to have a bubble level as a control for both 90- and 45-degree angles. With it, you can make sure that your pictures are straight. Make sure you have a built-in level on your tripod.

Stable stand

Tripods are available with a variety of feet. Since you’ll mostly be shooting indoors, your tripod will primarily stand on slippery or smooth surfaces. Your tripod will probably stand more on a laminate floor than on a field.

That’s why you should opt for a tripod with rubber feet instead of metal pins. This will both prevent your tripod from slipping and prevent you from scratching the floor or table with the feet of your tripod.

Leg-locks

The leg locks are the pieces that connect each section of the legs. They let you extend the legs and then lock them in the position you want. There are mainly two kinds.

Twist-leg locks can be opened and closed with a twist, and each twist makes the compression tighter. When the flap of a flip lock is closed, it makes the leg tighter by pulling it together.

Check the leg locks, if they suit your needs. The most frustrating thing in the world is a bad leg lock. 

Payload

Your tripod has to support a lot of weight. Your tripod must be able to safely support the camera body, lens, and all additional mounts.

In addition, with a folding center column, all of the weight hangs outside of your tripod’s center of gravity. Also, keep in mind that you’ll be adding to your equipment over time.

A new lens, a bigger camera. So that you don’t have to buy a new tripod with a new camera, plan for a little more weight. The payload should be at least 7–10 kg.

Tripod head

There are not only different tripods but also different tripod heads. This is the part that your camera is screwed onto. Mostly, the tripod head has to be bought separately from the tripod. Which one is best for you depends on your personal preferences.

Once you get past the cheapest tripods, you usually have to buy the legs and the head of the tripod separately.

For food photography, there are three types of heads: the ball-head, the 3-way pan and tilt head, and the geared head.

  • The least expensive of the three is the ball head. The frustrating part about a ball head is that when you make a small change to the position, the head drifts a little, which makes a big change to your setting.

    The bulkier and heavier your camera is, the worse this problem gets.

  • We like the 3-way pan and tilt heads. These heads have a number of knobs that let you move and reposition them very precisely in each plane of view. The one and only big drawback is that the head alone will probably cost a few hundred dollars.
  • Geared heads are much like pan and tilt heads, but they are fancier. Instead of a handle that you use to move the knob, a geared head has a mechanism that controls the motion, making it more precise.

    We think this is an extra-fancy feature that, while it looks nice and lets you position things very precisely, is not necessary for food photography. If you buy one of these, you’re likely to spend a lot of money.

Quick-release plate

Most good-quality tripod heads have a quick-release plate that fits on the bottom of your camera. To free the camera, you just pull a lever on the tripod housing, which is attached to the head.

It’s best to find one with a backup lock so that your expensive camera doesn’t fall off the tripod, if you don’t attach the quick-release plate correctly.

It also enables those of us who don’t always check to make sure the plate is properly fastened because it’s clear that the lock-lever isn’t in the “closed” position.

 


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By Furoore team member Silvain

Silvain is a French/German national and has been with the Furoore Team since the beginning. He likes to write about various photography themes, especially food photography. If you leave a comment, he will come back to you to answer any questions you may have.

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