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Interview: Photographer John Griffith on Beginner Photography, Tripods, and Effects

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John Griffith Professional Photography: Eyes

Sometimes you want your reflection in the center of the eye.

Photography is as personal and individual as the photographer. The equipment photographers use is largely dependent on what they are photographing, and the intended use of those photographs. Not every photographer uses their equipment the same way, but most professionals use tripods to stabilize shots for macro or time lapse photos, or long exposures, or telephoto to eliminate shake that even image stabilization technology can’t eliminate completely.

For aspiring photographers, choosing a tripod can be a confusing process, with numerous novice photographer blogs detailing different models of camera tripod and their use, but few models fitting every need. This is because for every tripod, there is a particular use and budget. Not all are equal, and even models that appear identical can have vastly different field applications.

To help with understanding how they are used professionally, Portland photographer John Griffith offers these exclusive Blogcritics tips on how he uses a camera tripod to capture shots.

“Since I typically create works of art involving people, eliminating shake doesn’t keep my subject motionless, so I use them a little differently. I tend to use my tripod in situations where I need to be out of the way so I don’t cast a shadow, or to make sure my reflection doesn’t appear in the eye of the subject.”

John Griffith Professional Photography: Glass

Focus on what you want, using your tripod to maximum effect.

“This means that I use a tripod the most in the studio, especially with a remote, either corded or wireless. This has a lot of benefits. It means I’m not stuck behind the lens. Freeing myself from a single position allows me to see the shot up close to position clothing, move a strand of hair, or just keep eye contact with my subject. This is especially true of children and pets. They need that extra attention, or they lose interest. I can also hold an extra light or light modifier for effect. In some cases when I’m shooting without an assistant, I will even use the opportunity to hold a fan for hair effects, or toss my own petals in the scene so the shot captures the spontaneity.

“In short, a tripod allows me to be in control of every aspect of my shot. My style may not require a tripod often, but having one in my inventory that is stable, precise, lightweight, sturdy, and quick to setup or tear down is essential. I didn’t skimp on the model either. Do-it-yourself gear and saving money is certainly important if you’re on a budget, but my motto is, ‘Don’t race in the Indy 500 on a skateboard.’ I’m currently using a Manfrotto 804RC2, but get what works for you, and shoot with confidence.

“Being confident, actually, is really a key element. A confident photographer can mean the difference between poor shots and exceptional shots. Subjects can often sense when you’re intimidated by them, and it comes across in your work. By being confident, you can bring out the best in your subjects, and turn ordinary into amazing. I don’t focus too much on special effects, like Photoshop. Instead, I achieve the results I want through a combination of camera, lens, tripod, and positioning or live effects. I recommend concentrating on what you’re photographing. Make the most out of it, and you’ll see the difference in your shots every time.”

John Griffith Professional Photography: Cityscape

New photographers will need a tripod for timed lapse shots.

“I’d also add in that having a social media presence can’t be overstated. I tend to stick with Facebook, as I’m in the field far too much to manage ten different accounts, but whatever you choose, make sure you keep up with it. Many times I advertise for a particular shot or look I’m after, and social media has been a fantastic way for me to generate leads on models. As a plus, it’s added exposure.”

In other words, if you’re serious about your photography, it’s fine to get a starter tripod to see what works for you and how it helps your shots. As you improve, you can trade in or upgrade old models, allowing you to fine tune what works for you and your photography. Understanding your equipment and your shots will make all the difference.

Image Credits: John Griffith Custom Photography, all rights reserved, exclusive license granted for use in this Blogcritics.org article.

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About Henry Buell

A world traveled analyst, Henry has lived through political upheaval, revolutions, and war. He writes from a different perspective, with a passion for life, tempered by experience. More information can be found on Henry Buell's website.