Using a tripod can help close the gap between the image you want to take and the image that you are taking through intelligent and purposful iteration.
When you lock your camera down on a tripod, and look at your scene, you no longer are focused on your lens width and camera placement. You can go “okay, yeah, this is good right here.”
Now that you’ve banished those thoughts out of your mind, you can focus on everything else.
You can focus on the timing of the scene, when people walk past, when the animal pops their head out.
You can focus on looking for distracting elements, and then going and moving them out of the way. Like pulling a branch in your foreground back, or moving a trash can to the opposite side of a wall.
You can really nail down a precise depth of field.
Using a tripod to iterate with adjustments in lighting.
Now, changing the way you mentally approach a scene is all fine and good, but it’s not the real benefit of using a tripod.
The real benefit of using a tripod is being able to see the effect small changes have on your scene immedeatly, on your camera. Just toggle between two images and compare this.
I can not undersell how phenomenally useful this is. It’s not just extremely useful for learning photography, it’s a go-to technique I use on a daily basis. Especially when I’m shooting with lights and/or reflectors. You can get an actual, concrete, useful sense of what effects your variou adjustments have on the scene.
There isn’t a debate and it doesn’t matter. Be able to shoot both ways and adapt as needed. Don’t put yourself inside of a ‘camp’. Your’re just making excuses for why you don’t learn how to use a certain piece of equipment or utilize an approach, strategy, or workflow. You can shoot in different ways on different days.
If you meet photographers with really strong opinions about this… like don’t take them too seriously. In the end, it’s the images that matter. How we got there doesn’t matter, and no technique can make any photographer better or worse.
Knowledge of techniques can make make you more skilled, consistent, insightful, attentive, and so on; but not better. Because at the end of the day, it’s the image - not the technique - that matters.
Tripods are annoying and cumbersome and they get in the way and slow you down. Sure…. but slow is good. Take your time, and try an afternoon of shooting on a tripod. Even bring it on a photo walk. Compose a scene and start making adjustments after you’ve decided your placement. Your photos will get better.
You may even learn some tricks and shortcuts that you can apply when you aren’t shooting on a tripod.
Small adjustments aside, the tripod let me experiment with exposure, timing with the birds and the waves, and an in-camera HDR effect.