Your best portrait tripod is one that will serve you for a variety of portrait taking situations. You need it to work for standing family portrait poses, sitting poses of individuals, and maybe even at floor level for toddlers and babies.
Whether you want to use it for other types of photography may affect your decision on which tripod is right for you. Looking at the characteristics you should consider for a portrait tripod is the best place to start.
A tripod that is too short could be a pain the neck. Literally. You don't want to have to stoop over in order to see through your viewfinder. When you're shooting in remote locations and your subject is a far distance away, like the starry portrait below, you don't need a tall tripod at all.
This won't be an issue for you if you're only shooting portraits a few times a month, but if you are going to use your tripod frequently, you really want it to hold your camera's viewfinder at your eye level. I have a compact tripod I take on strenuous hikes, which is great for carrying and I use it for shooting landscapes. You wouldn't want to use if for portrait photography.Here's more on how tall a tripod you need.
Tall Enough Tripod
You're going to shoot most or your portraits with your camera at eye-level of your subjects.
You'll want your tripod to extend to at least that tall.
That's at least 5 1/2 or 6 feet tall, depending on your height when your subjects are standing up.
Low Elevation Tripod
Are shooting toddlers or young children?
You may want to consider a tripod with a removable center column or a column that slants to horizontal. Legs that spread out wide will get you down at the same level for good children's portraits.
Portrait tripods like these double as great for macro photography too.
If you are taking portraits of a moving subject, having a tripod that can be adjusted quickly is a big plus. When I photograph toddlers on the move I like to be able to re-frame my subject quickly.
If your subjects are stationary, you won't need to adjust quickly at all. You'll have plenty of time to raise or lower your tripod legs as well as time to compose just right.
I used a pistol grip head when shooting portraits for over 15 years. I recently changed to a ball head just because I wanted to force myself into trying something new.
The pistol grips work great for really quick minor adjustments, but may not be able to handle full-sized DSLRs at 90 degree angles too well. It took a while for me to remember to tighten the ball head each time I made a adjustment in position.
There's really no need for you to buy an expensive, high-end tripod for shooting portraits. You likely won't be using long heavy lenses and you don't shoot with a pro DSLR with a battery grip attached.
You can get rock solid tripods that will last a long time if you spend just a little more than you would on a cheap budget tripod.
Let's face it. If your tripod isn't sturdy enough to hold your camera rigidly, then it's not worth using at all. Keeping your camera steady and motionless is the biggest reason for you to even use a tripod. with the exception of shooting selfies
There are plenty of flimsy tripods that you can buy at discount stores. They just don't perform that well out in the field. They're sturdy enough for occasional use, particularly with a small point-N-shoot camera.
Portraits, like the "Glowing Portrait" below benefit by keeping the camera still to get a sharp image sharp, in the event that a slow shutter speed is needed to get a good exposure.
Yes, you can save money by going with a budget tripod, but why buy something that's going to fall apart in a few years? You can get quality tripods under 100 dollars that will last you a lifetime if you treat them relatively nicely. Here are some little know tips on tripod stability.
The tripod head you use will make or break the best portrait tripod you choose. You can use any of these as portrait tripods. Some are better for quick moving targets and some are more versatile for other types of photography.
I used this super quick pistol grip tripod for children's portraits. Squeeze. Adjust. Release!
Requires 3 separate knobs to adjust for tilt swivel, and rotate. Good for shooting video.
Most popular and versatile. One knob controls movement in all 3 planes. Small, lightweight, and affordable.
Intended for bird and wildlife photographers. Must be used with a lens collar to get control of horizontal tilt.
You likely want the best portrait tripod that fits your particular needs and you don't want to spend a ton of your money.
You're in luck! Today's photography accessory market is jammed full of choices and the number of choices for a tripod good for portrait taking is included.
There are too many good places to buy the best portrait tripod for me to recommend just one. I sometimes buy from major camera retailers like Adorama or B+HPhoto.
Usually I buy from Amazon because of their prices, their return policy and because Amazon is by far the best place to read the reviews from other customers who have already purchased. Have a blast. It's a great time to be interested in digital cameras and accessories! Watch less TV. Shoot more photos.