WRITTEN BY: BRUCE LOVELACE
UPDATED: DECEMBER 27, 2023
You're wondering what's the best tripod for shooting portraits.
The best portrait tripod is one that will serve you for a variety of portrait taking situations. It's got to be sturdy enough to support your DSLR and a portrait lens.
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. I've owned over a dozen tripods, starting with using my father's tripod in the mid 1970s and, most recently, upgraded to a pro landscape tripod that is perfect to use in my portrait photography business.
Looking at the characteristics you should consider for a portrait tripod is the best place to start. Check out the following 6 aspects you want to consider for getting a tripod that's a good match for your portrait photography.
This is the first thing you should look at when searching for the right tripod. The best tripod height for shooting portraits is one that gives you the ability to shoot at eye level. Generally, an eye-level perspective gives you the most flattering angle for photographing people, but your tripod should go higher if you ever want to take photos from a high perspective with your subject standing up.
One of the biggest shortcomings of compact tripods is the maximum height that they can achieve with your camera. For long photo shoots a tripod that is too short could lead to neck or back pain.
You don't want to have to stoop over for extended periods of time in order to see through your viewfinder. Additionally, if you will be using your tripod for other types of subjects besides shooting portraits, you'll want to have extra versatility.
When you're shooting subjects that are higher than you, like the starry portrait below, it's good to have a tripod that raises the camera to slightly higher than eye level.
Maximum height won't be an issue for you if you're only shooting portraits a few times a year, 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 a more in-depth post on this website on how tall your tripod should be.
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.
Are shooting toddlers or young children?
You may want to consider a tripod with a short center column, a removable center column, or a column that slants to horizontal. Legs that spread out wide will get you down at their same level for good children's portraits.
Portrait tripods like these double as great tripods for shooting 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 super-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.
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.