No matter if I explore exotic destinations or just cruise through some city, I want to enjoy it. Therefore I try to keep my photo gear on a bare minimum. If I want to lift weights, I can go to the gym. But there is one peace of equipment I often take with me, despite it may weigh more than the rest of my gear all together - the tripod. Let's find out why…
1) Photography in low light
This is pretty obvious, right? If you need to take a landscape or cityscape shot, you typically want your ISO low for noise reduction and your aperture high for maximum depth of field. Which results in shutter speeds beyond safe hand-held range, when the light goes down. Then bear in mind that the most attractive pictures are shot in the golden hour during the sunrise or sunset - and you may draw the conclusion yourself…
2) Long exposure to blur motion
Lack of light is not the only case when you may want to bump up your shutter speed. Even during the daytime you may want to use the long exposure to blur the motion. Landscape photographers like that for waterfalls or sea waves. Cityscape photographers could use this technique also to blur people - useful for removing the tourists from the crowded monuments. Besides the tripod, you will most likely need also a strong ND filter.
3) Photography with filters
Speaking of filters: another situation you would appreciate a stable camera support. Especially when shooting with grad filters, you need some precision as to how place the grad transition. The ND filters mentioned above are a case for themselves. Generally, most special effect filters require that you set them properly and that you adjust them here and there. A sturdy tripod is thus a welcome help, if not a necessity.
4) HDR: high dynamic range photography
The usual approach to HDR is to shoot several photos with different exposures and then combine them into one image in postprocess. Although the advanced software like Adobe Lightroom can deal with slight shifts, for best results you need the photos to overlap with precision. Something you will never achieve when shooting from hand.
5) Focus stacking
Focus stacking is a great technique for landscape photographers who want to get sharp images foreground to background. Similar to HDR, you need to mount your camera on a tripod to take overlapping photos. For each photo you choose different focus point, starting close and gradually moving towards the most distant objects. In postprocess, you then stack them and combine the sharp parts into one final photograph with tremendous depth of field.
Yet another photo stacking technique where tripods get handy to create nice smooth overlaps. Although you may take the photos even handheld, for high quality outcome like for prints, you want sharp results and precise control.
Time lapse videos can be pretty stunning, if you have the patience and eye for the composition. The tripod is an absolute must here, no chance to hold your camera steady for several minutes :-)
Unless you are shooting some stunning action, like jumping off the cliff with your GoPro mounted on your flip-flops, your audience will appreciate a stable and not bumpy video. And as you will most likely need to pull the focus manually, a tripod with a dedicated video fluid head is a videographer's best friend.
When I was a kid, we called them auto portraits and we balanced our cameras on a rock, running back into position before the mechanical shutter clicks. Now we have special sticks for them, but if you want to use your DSLR for a selfie, rather use a tripod.
10) Self defense
Not kidding, there is one tripod on the market, advertised as self-defense tool. Maybe not that bad idea - as I used my tripod to get some distance from wild dogs once...