Mr. Brunner could not be more right. In addition to removing any camera shake, it also allows you to use the sharpest aperture (f8-ish usually) even in low light or f16 when you need the depth of field in early morning light. It makes for sharper photos and gives you much more creative freedom in choice of depth of field. I think it also forces me to slow down a little to really home in on the best composition. I use a tripod for pretty much everything (35mm and large format) except street/documentry photography.
I would say, though, make sure you get a decent tripod (Manfrotto, Gitzo, better Sliks, etc). A cheap tripod breaks, isn't all that steady, doesn't go up high enough and is frustrating to use.....I "saved" money by getting 3 cheap tripods before I got a decent one.
Try one, you will probably like it.
It really adds a lot of options.
If you buy (or borrow) a cheap one it will give you a taste of what it can deal for you. Most likely the experience will have you saving up for a better one.
Fast shutter speed is not an entirely accurate barometer of when one needs or does not need a tripod. Shots taken at 1/1000 second with a sturdy tripod will be sharper than handheld shots at the same speed.
Like many here, I think a tripod is the single most important piece of equipment that factors in improving your photography.
Unless, as others have mentioned, you are doing street photography.
Originally Posted by Markok765
Definitely worth having. It will force you to slow down and compose more carefully and will also reduce camera shake that causes image blur.
Definitely buy a tripod, preferably a decent one as they are generally easier to use and more sturdy in windy conditions.
However even a cheap one can be better than nothing, and my latest was less than $20 new last year, it was all I could find at the time, but it's good enough to hold my 6x17 or Crown Graphic. Buy what you can afford for now, your best bet is probably a second hand tripod.
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A tripod was what really improved my pics and made me confident i my shooting. I started out doing 35mm nature photography and closeups. Everything has been said but to me the most important point is the slowing you down and improvement of your composition. It allows you to make alternative exposures of the exact same composition, see and remove litter before you press the button, finetune your shot and really think about how you want it to look.
Purely technically, the use of a tripod will always give a better result, allowing a slow shutter speed plus small aperture to be selected for best definition and depth of field and also allowing slow fine-grain films to be used in all types of lighting. The BIG downside of tripod use, however, is loss of spontaneity - it's all too easy to produce images of wondrous tonality and sharpness which are as boring as hell! The John Shaw quote is very misleading - it might apply to him, but pros working in sports, reportage, portraiture, fashion and other fields will usually elect to work hand-held. I have had phases of tripod-mounted landscape work - I now prefer to shoot hand-held with 35 mm on a film like Delta 400 simply to gain immediacy. Naturally, I use a tripod 100% of the time for studio still-life.
If you are shooting 35 mm, be aware that you will need a surprisingly large tripod to get really good sharpness - I personally hesitate to use any 35 mm SLR on a tripod unless it has mirror lock-up.
I can't remember who said it now (it may have been Roger Hicks) but the phrase I remember is 'a tripod is the sharpest lens you can buy'.
A quote relating to tripods
I remember reading a quote about photographers that went something like this:
"Amateur photographers argue about Canon vs Nikon, Leica vs everybody else, etc. Semi-pro photographers debate film vs digital, etc. Professional photographers discuss tripods and lighting."
If you don't think you need a tripod, you are not ready the join the last group IMHO.
For all the reasons in all the forums (fora) throughout time, if you have a subject suitable for a tripod, and IFF (if-and-only-if) you want the steadiest, sharpest image you can get, then you use a tripod.
That said, I usually handhold, because I shoot for my own pleasure and my vision isn't that great anymore.
"A full-time job seriously interferes with photography."