Getting the perfect tripod for your style of shooting and the genre you most commonly shoot can be a little tricky. Here is a guide to the different tripod heads you can buy and what each of them is used for.
Tripods are a tricky area for photographers, beginners through to professionals. They aren't nearly as sexy as a new camera body or a new lens, and they aren't even as interesting as a new filter set. All you want a tripod for is to keep your camera still when you take a shot, so why would anyone want to spend time researching and then lots of money on a top of the range tripod?!
Well, it's difficult to overstate how important they are if you are using tripods regularly. When I first started out, my father-in-law went up into his loft and pulled out his tripod from when he did photography in the 1970s. Perfect, I thought, now I don't have to buy one. I attached my camera to it and it stood proud and tall in the living room, awaiting instructions. Then I took it out for an early morning landscape excursion.
I noticed a few things straight away. Firstly, it weighed an ungodly amount and didn't pack down very small either. Secondly, despite being cumbersome, it wasn't sturdy and in the strong wind, I had to brace it; funnily enough, I didn't want to be my tripod's tripod. Thirdly, it was really finicky to adjust, particularly in poor weather. Eventually, I just invested in a Manfrotto with a ball head and the difference it made was incredible. It was smaller, lighter, far more sturdy, easily adjusted, and so on. It felt like a boring purchase but few items you can buy in photography will impact your quality of life more than a good tripod.
Then comes the tripod head. I will let Mike Smith go through them, but a ball head — which is the most common — is far from your only option and it might not even be right for what you do!