Digital Photo Academy

Learn How To Use Your Digital Camera

Tripods, Window Mounts and Bean Bags

TRIPODS: In general, the heavier the tripod, the more stability it provides. Yet having one that′s too heavy is counterproductive in that it becomes a burden. A good rule of thumb is to purchase a tripod that′s sturdy enough to stabilize your longest lens. If the weight of the tripod is a major consideration, carbon fiber models are offered by all the major manufacturers. They′re light and provide excellent stability but at a higher cost. A great benefit of a tripod is it forces you to work more slowly allowing you to deeply scrutinize each composition. The benefit here is you′ll more easily notice distractions and undesirable compositional elements that can be dealt with prior to taking the picture. Another important reason for using a tripod is all your family shots can now contain every family member rather than leaving out the one taking the picture. Place your camera on the tripod, set the self timer, and the family album will be filled with the smiling faces of you, your spouse, and your kids all in the same shot.


© 2007 Russ Burden

WINDOW MOUNTS: Window mounts are used when photographing from your vehicle. Animals have become accustomed to cars which has lead to many great images in that the car is used as a blind. As it’s awkward to set up a tripod around seats, center consoles, and steering wheels, so evolved window mounts. With a window slightly rolled up, they fit over the lip and are steadied by a section that butts up to the inside panel of the  door creating a solid platform for a tripod head and long lens. When using them there are a few things to keep in mind. Engine vibration is easily transferred so make sure it’s turned off or else the images won’t be sharp. Additionally, if there are other people or photographers in the car, you need to have an understanding that movement is restricted to times when a warning is given. When I know I will be in a specific spot for an extended length of time, I set up in the back seat as it provides more room. I don’t have to fight the steering wheel and pedals if I want to stretch my legs. Additionally, I can use the entire back seat to spread out all my equipment and be able to access it more quickly and efficiently.

© 2007 Russ Burden

Bean Bag: For all the benefits a tripod or window mount have, they are heavy and sometimes not practical. In many instances, you can often get away with just a bean bag. In comparison, they do have many restrictions, but there are times when they do shine. When rested on a car hood or window, a fence or railing, a rock, or even the ground, they add a lot of stability over hand holding the camera. There are many types and models. Each can be filled with an odd assortment of things. Some come pre-filled while most are designed to be carried empty and filled with sand, beans, rice, pebbles, or other small materials on location. Empty they weigh a few ounces. Think of the benefit if you’re backpacking. When you get to your destination, fill it with dirt and you’re good to go. They even have a great benefit when you’re back home and working in the wind. Attach a filled bean bag to your tripod for additional stability.

© 2007 Russ Burden

To learn more about this topic, join me on one of my Photographic Nature Tours. Visit and click on the NATURE TOURS button for more information. Also, pick up a copy of my new book, Amphoto’s Complete Book of Photography. You can purchase a signed copy directly from me or visit your local book store or Amazon. Contact me at to order your signed copy.


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