Tripod vs Monopod: Which One Should You Use?

One of the common questions I get from my photography students is regarding the dilemma between a tripod and a monopod.

The answer is that there doesn’t have to be much of a confusion since they both serve different purposes and are in no way similar to each other. To keep things very simple, here are the differences:
Tripod:
A tripod is a three legged device and hence can stand on its own but is not very flexible in movement. This makes it ideal to shoot in the following circumstances:
  • Your subject is not moving (landscape, still objects, real estate, architecture, etc), especially if you’re finding that the light in the environment is low (night/evening) and shooting hand-held is forcing you to push the ISO too high. Simply put your camera on the tripod and let all the light enter via a slow shutter speed.
  • When shooting still and tiny subjects with a macro lens, shooting at a smaller f-stop number can result in an extremely small area in focus (like just the eye of an insect). That might be preferable in a human portrait but not in an insect. So a lot of times, macro subjects are shot at high f-stop numbers. This obviously means that you end up losing a lot of light. This is where a tripod can help you to save all the light from shutter speed instead of relying on ISO.
Monopod:
A monopod is a one-legged device. This means it provides more flexibility in moving around but cannot stand on its own and has to be supported by a photographer. Hence it cannot be used in situations where the required shutter speed is very slow since it cannot be perfectly still. This limits its usage to situations where the photographer would like extra stability or support like the ones below:
  • When you are shooting moving subjects with a relatively heavy lens (sports, wildlife, etc) and you need to some support for your arm especially if you have to shoot for a long time. This is why you’ll often find sports photographers using monopods.
  • When you are shooting something where you deliberately want moderately lesser shutter speed but still want to avoid as much hand-shake as possible. The best example for this are panning shots.
  • Any situation where you feel that shooting hand-held is forcing you to increase your shutter speed too much to cancel out your handshake and hence resulting in you increasing the ISO. Using a monopod can give you some room to reduce your shutter speed and thus save on ISO. Of course the subject has to be relatively still like a portrait shot or a still bird shot.
    ​​​​​​​
  • To use it as a weapon against someone who tries to rob your camera 😛
If you’re confused between the two, the obvious choice in most cases would be to go for the tripod. A monopod has its uses but it’s a device that can be thought of as something between using a tripod and shooting hand-held. Something that provides you extra stability.
In case you are planning to buy a tripod or monopod, you can go through our Recommended Photography Gear page to see which one to buy.

About the Author

portrait photographer for portfolio shoot in pune

Hi there, I'm Kush Sharma, the founder of Creative Pad Media, an organization dedicated to simplifying photography and videography education.

We have over 40 online courses that cover various genres in photography & videography, catering to both beginners as well as professionals. These courses are available via Udemy.com. Our courses have been downloaded in over 170 countries.

I hope to see you inside a course very soon!

Similar Posts