Traveling with a Monopod

by Sue Barthelow

Most photographers use a tripod to ensure that their images are sharp. However, traveling with a tripod can be difficult. A tripod is heavy and takes up a lot of space. It's cumbersome to carry around all day and is always in the way. To make matters worse, many attractions are too crowded to use a tripod safely or have regulations against using one. If you're a professional travel photographer, keep that tripod with you. Otherwise, consider taking a monopod.

A monopod is a one-legged tripod. It provides a somewhat stable platform and usually comes with a ball head. Use it with an extra quick release plate so you can attach and detach your camera with ease. Most monopods are built to hold only the weight of your camera. However, you can find ones that also serve as walking sticks - a bit heavier, but a great bonus feature.

Learning to use a monopod takes a bit of practice. The monopod stabilizes vertical movement; you control horizontal movement. Find out what works for you. Try using your body to help stabilize the horizontal movement. Lean into the camera, lock your elbows to your waist and touch the camera to your head. This lets body and legs become the missing two legs to form a tripod. Additionally and depending on your camera and lens, you may want to turn your lens' image stabilizer (VR or IS) switch off if it has one. A picture taken using a monopod may be sharper when that feature is off.

  Photo taken inside a cavern

This image was taken inside a minimally lit cavern. Without the help of a monopod or tripod, it would have been extremely difficult, and impossible for me, to keep the camera still enough to get an acceptable photo during the long exposure.


Things to consider when you buy a monopod - collapsed length so it fits in your suitcase, weight, horizontal strength, ease of use, quality of the leg locks, ball head's camera-holding strength and potential use as a walking stick.


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