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By Tom Watson

If there is a piece of equipment in photography that is as versatile and handy as any other, it would be the camera tripod. A tripod is rather inexpensive and can be used in many situations, indoors and out. A tripod will hold your camera steady, and this stability can save your pictures as well as improve your photography skills.

So let's explore some features to keep in mind when looking for a good tripod. First and foremost, we already mentioned stability, and a tripod should be light enough to carry, however, make sure it is strong enough to support the camera you are using. When shooting those fabulous outdoor photos with a heavier telephoto lens, the forward weight can possibly tip over the tripod. Also, the tripod should be able to remain stable when the camera position is changed from horizontal to vertical.

If you want to quickly attach or remove the camera, look for a tripod with a quick-release mounting platform.

Consider the height of the tripod. You should be able to adjust the height so your viewing is comfortable and you don't have to bend over. A good tripod has extendable, adjustable legs and many even come with a bubble level installed. This level comes in handy when the tripod is used on uneven terrain. It is an excellent feature when you have to focus in on a sunset, sunrise and landscape.

Remember this tip: Never carry your digital camera when it is attached to a tripod. It is very easy to have it bumped, damaged and more than likely to fall off.

Keep in mind there are also mini tripods on the market as well. These small and lightweight tripods can easily be stored or transported in a camera bag, and some have the heavy-duty features of their larger counterparts.

When taking group photos, or any photo when the photographer needs to be included in the picture, a tripod is the perfect solution to mount the camera and set the timer. Perhaps the photographer wants a self- portrait? Set the timer, set the stage and smile!

Remember, when pictures require a steady hand, a flat surface (such as a table) to set the camera on isn't always handy, but your tripod is there, ready to serve you.

Tom Watson's website, In Digital Photography, has more information for the beginning photographer. Please visit

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