Simple Overhead Camera Rig You Can Take Anywhere

If you are looking for something a little more sturdy and flexible than your standard tripod with a horizontal center column for doing overhead camera or video shots than this set up is a great solution. 

Coming to you from food photographer Skyler Burt this quick video shows you a simple and affordable way to build a portable overhead camera rig using components you probably already own. Overhead shots, or Knolling as it's called, are a great way to add detail shots and interesting video transitions to just about any editorial or commercial project. It has increased in popularity as a trend on Instagram but its still used just about everywhere you look in online and print marketing, making it a worthwhile trick to pull out when a job calls for it.

I've seen countless complicated builds designed to make easy and cheap rigs that all seem to just be more complicated than needed. I've used tripods for a quick solution for years but a lot of times its unbalanced and difficult to move into place. Burts solution is an almost perfect setup that uses only a few components and is pretty affordable to put together. The best part is I'm betting you probably already carry a lot of these items regularly on shoots. 

The only change I suggest, you can replace the two pivot clamps with super clamps if you find you don't have a need for or often carry them. As a food photographer, I can see why Burt chose them but I almost never use them in my work. I do however always carry a bunch of super clamps and they will do the exact same job. 

Do you incorporate knolling into your work? If so what's your solution for capturing great overhead shots?

Log in or register to post comments

11 Comments

JJ Casas's picture

I’ve also used my background support kit to hang a (lightweight) camera overhead using a magic grip and attaching a ball head to it. You won’t be limited by the 40” grip arms (even when combined) if you have a wider desk.

Reginald Walton's picture

Maybe it's me, but he seems to be copying Peter McKinnon's style in his video presentation.

Michael DeStefano's picture

Its definitely similar but a big part of McKinnon's income is selling his style and there are a lot of people using it. Not to mention when he first got popular lots of people claimed he was copying Niestat's style. Soooo....

Reginald Walton's picture

Fair enough...I don't know Niestat, so that very well may be the case.

I typically enjoy working with C-Stands with an extension arm to minimize the tension. And if I need counter weight, I'll sand bag the legs.

Michael DeStefano's picture

Yeah, this is a common technique. It still runs into some of the same issues as using a tripod in the same way. Also, I don't use C-Stands as I'm often on location and they are heavy and not as portable. For a studio photographer, this is less of an issue.

Not portable for sure and heavy as hell to travel with. But with this I can easily lower the bar without using step stools to reach my camera or change settings. I'm a small guy so this works for me.

Ronnie Dai's picture

where can I buy that supporting leg?

I bought this rig at Vistek in Toronto. I'm sure you could purchase the same via B&H?

Timothy Turner's picture

I don't care what style the presenter is using as long as good useful information is being provided

Im sure that a better setup then the tripod... but how is that less work to setup then the tripod?....