In photography, keeping your camera steady is one of the most important things that contribute to what makes a photo look great.
Not only will it help prevent blurry photos, it can greatly improve the quality of your photos in low light conditions.
Granted, you can rest your arms on a table to help keep your hands steady or balance your phone on some objects, but it doesn’t beat using a dedicated camera support system to keep your shots steady and looking good.
In this article, I’m going to talk about the different types of camera support systems available for use on smartphones and some of their pros and cons.
These are by far the most popular type of support system out there. These are basically portable stands with various components and a head on which to attach your phone using a special mount.
It is important that the mount you use is reliable and of top-quality. For recommendations of some of the best mounts, click here.
A tripod’s primary function is to provide stability for your camera and allow you to take photos without having to hold the camera. This can be really useful as it frees your hands, so you can focus more on setting up your shot.
Not all tripods are the same. Before you invest in one, you need to know your tripod. There are those with ball heads and those with pan/tilt heads. Some are made of carbon fibre, others not.
To know how to choose the right tripod for your smartphone, I recommend you read this article.
Pros: Tripods are steady and offer complete stability. They can also be used as stands for lights.
Cons: Tripods take time to set up, so they’re not ideal for shooting on the run.
There are different varieties of tripods, each with their own specific purpose.
Most tripods that are available have telescoping legs, which means that they’re extendable. The legs are divided into sections. These sections extend or retract to adjust the height. The more sections the legs have, the longer they can be extended. Engaging the leg locks will keep the tripod at the set height.
As the name suggests, the distinguishing feature of this tripod is its small stature. Depending on the design, mini tripods can be anywhere between about 10cm (~4 in) to roughly 50cm (~20 in) in height when in use. Mini tripods are also known as table-top tripods because they are often placed on tables or other elevated surfaces.
With flexible tripods, versatility is the name of the game. Not only can you bend and twist the legs around trees and poles, you can position this tripod anywhere you can wrap its legs around. You can even bend the legs for use as a selfie stick or hand stabiliser.
Where regular tripods may have a centre column that extends up to add extra height, the centre column in overhead tripods lies horizontally and serves as a lateral arm. Mounting your smartphone at the end of the arm makes this the perfect tripod for food photography, product photography, or any shot that needs to be taken from directly above.
A monopod is basically a camera support system that only has one telescopic leg. Although they can’t stand on their own like tripods, monopods do have their place in the photographic world.
They support the weight of the camera, so you don’t have to.
At first glance, monopods may look like selfie sticks. They are not selfie sticks. That being said, however, some monopods can double as a selfie stick. In fact, they are quite versatile and can serve a lot of functions.
Monopods take up less space than a conventional tripod so they’re easier to carry around. This makes them perfect for the likes of street photography or nature photography while hiking as they can also function as a walking stick or staff.
Pros: Lightweight and portable. Quick to set up and takes up less space. Easy mobility between shots.
Cons: Can’t stand on its own. Not as stable as a tripod
Although a lot of attention is placed on their cameras, smartphones are, first and foremost, just phones. Therefore, their design is more focused on that than the ergonomics of a dedicated camera. This makes handling the phone to take pictures a bit tricky for some people which may lead to blurry photos.
This is where hand grips come into the picture. A hand grip, basically, allows you to have a firmer grip on your phone. Some hand grips even have controls on them that allow you to activate the shutter or do other things like zoom in and out. In some cases, the hand grip can be used to mount a smartphone on a tripod head.
There are many designs and variations of this accessory. Some have the appearance of a phone cover with a grip to give your phone the appearance and ergonomics of a digital camera, others only boast a handle for your hand to hold on to. These are the pistol grip variety.
Pros: Can fit in your pocket or handbag. Offers better handling of your mobile camera
Cons: Does not completely free your hands
Hybrid camera support
This “all-in-one” type of accessory is designed with the intentional purpose of performing more than one function. Because of this, these systems, basically, fall under more than one of the above categories.
For example, a regular tripod can function as an overhead tripod if it has a collapsible centre column that can be turned into a lateral arm. In the same light, some mini tripods can convert into hand grips by just closing the legs together. A monopod can serve as a selfie stick or, as in some cases, a centre column that attaches to a mini tripod to extend its height.
These hybrids work well for people who travel a lot or capture different subjects in various environments and settings that require more than one type of camera support system. You can simply adjust and change their structure to suit your photography needs.
Pros: Versatile and can serve a number of purposes.
Cons: Depending on design and assembly, there might be a number of lose pieces to carry around, which could easily get lost. May take time to set up
Gimbals, specifically the motorised variety (not to be confused with the telephoto lens gimbal), are more geared towards filmmaking than photography, but I’ve included them here anyway. Gimbals makes it possible to capture smooth video footage despite any movement by the camera operator. In other words, if you’re recording a video while walking, the gimbal will counter your movements. The result will be a smooth video with no camera shake.
Gimbals can be used in the same fashion as hand grips to take photos. In fact, some gimbals can convert into mini tripods, too. What’s also great is that they come with buttons on the handle that control things like the shutter, so don’t even have to touch your phone to take a picture. This is a great option for people who are into photography and videography as well.
So, as you can see, there are many camera support options available for your smartphone. Investing in any of the equipment listed above will definitely change the way you take pictures with your phone. Who knows, maybe you may end up taking pictures worth printing out and hanging on your wall.