Quite simply, a tripod’s sole reason for existence is to hold a camera steady. Traditional tripods are three-legged and have been around since the dawn of photography. If you see a picture of a photographer from the distant past, you’ll probably see a camera as big as a shoebox on top of a three-legged tripod that is almost as big as the photographer himself. Obviously, both cameras and tripods have since become smaller and more efficient.

In place of the traditional three-legged tripod, a “monopod” can often be used to serve the same purpose. Essentially, a monopod is a telescoping pole that the camera attaches to. The height of the monopod can be adjusted by extending the single leg in and out. Obviously, due to it’s single leg design, it won’t stand on it’s own; you will still have to be involved in holding the camera. However, the monopod can be an excellent compromise when you don’t want the bulk of a tripod.

Tripods can easily get in the way and cut down on the different angles you will be able to shoot in a short period of time, because moving the camera up and down or side to side is a much more time consuming task when you have the bulk and weight of a tripod to be concerned about. In tight settings (which you’ll often be using with nude photography), a tripod will really take a toll on the spontaneity of a shoot. In truth, a monopod can also be quite cumbersome.

In a perfect world, being able to handhold the camera and move about freely would always be the preferred choice. However, if you’re going to be working in a variety of styles and settings, there will be times when a tripod or monopod will be necessary. I discuss this topic in more detail in my ebook, “Money Shots: The Insider’s Guide to the World of Nude & Erotic Photography” (available at http://moneyshotsbook.com).

A tripod is composed of two main pieces. The legs form the base of the tripod and give it a solid foundation. The head of the tripod is what the camera attaches to; this head then attaches to the legs.

Tripod heads come in many different styles. I have always used a “pistol grip” style head in my photography. To be honest, I don’t really know why a photographer would use anything other than a “pistol grip”. This style allows the photographer to control tilting and panning of the tripod head with one hand by using a “trigger” like mechanism. More traditional tripod heads have two handles that must be used independently to adjust the camera position. I think many photographers believe “pistol grip” heads are not as stable as the more traditional style. However, I suggest you try the pistol-grip. I think you’ll be surprised.

For doing nude and erotic photography, I recommend using a medium-sized tripod. This will give you the solidity you need while still giving you good ease of use. You won’t need a particularly heavy tripod because shooting erotica doesn’t usually require extraordinarily long lenses that need to be supported. Additionally, you won’t often be shooting in particularly unstable locations that might require an especially durable tripod. You just need something that does the basic job when called upon and something that is not so bulky that you are hesitant to bring it out when needed.

I have always used a tripod produced by a company named Gitzo, and a tripod head produced by a company named Slik. I have been using this setup for many, many years and have never been less than extremely satisfied.

Michael Charles is a professional photographer based in Los Angeles, California. He is the author of "Money Shots: The Insider's Guide to the World of Nude & Erotic Photography" (this book is available for purchase at http://moneyshotsbook.com). For over a decade, Michael has shot exclusively in the world of nude, erotic, and adult-oriented photography. His work has been featured in hundreds of national and international publications and appears on a wide variety of prominent websites.
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