HOW TO: A Third Leg


In my opinion, a monopod is the second most important tool for an outdoor photographer. The first would be a tripod. Outside of a camera, of course.

Even with the advent of super high ISO speeds, anti-shake lenses and camera bodies, tripods and monopods provide the essential support needed for blur-free photographs. The use of either of these tools also enables you to scrutinize your composition before pressing the shutter button all the way.

But as we all know, a tripod is not always the most convenient support system to use.

For instance, tripods are not usually permitted indoors in many museums, historic buildings or conservatories. A tripod can even get in your way at certain sporting events. Even architectural street photography could be bothersome to some folks with a three legged apparatus spread out across the sidewalk during rush hour.

So what is the intrepid photographer to do? Have faith…there is a solution. It’s not a fix-all, but I have found the simple, rarely-praised monopod often saves the day. These one legged support systems have plenty to offer.

Their conveniences are many. They are lightweight, easily carried, unobtrusive, quick to set up, and adjustable in height. Mount a ball head onto a monopod, and the camera positions available are almost limitless.

The stronger ones can be used as a walking staff, and most importantly, monopods provide a good bit of stability. When braced against an immoveable object or even yourself, a respectable steady platform is the result. And they are usually allowed where tripods are not. That benefit alone opens up all kinds of possibilities. Plus, monopods are fairly inexpensive.

A monopod certainly will not replace the stability offered by a tripod, but they sure do work well in a pinch. If you know someone who owns one, give it a try for a day. I’m sure you will be pleasantly surprised…and you may even add one to your cache of photographic tools. I keep mine in the car at all times.


  1. August 5, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Excellent post, David. I have to say, I’ve never considered getting a monopod. I have 2 tripods, one which I keep in the car and another which I have at home. But you are absolutely right, there are many places where a tripod is just not allowed, the monopod would be a great solution. I guess it’s time for me to get one.

  2. August 5, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    I find mine extremely useful and use it quite a lot. It even works laying on the ground…just turn the ball head and you have ground level shooting. The ball head makes all the difference in the world! I think the set-up I have weighs 2 pounds or so…way easy to carry around!

  3. tedgriffith
    August 5, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Great post, David. I often use mine shortened so that the foot sticks at my belt and the camera at eye level. It isn’t as stable as on the ground, but it allows for quick mobility like on a tour or an event.

    • August 6, 2013 at 10:14 am

      Thanks Ted, great idea to use your belt! I’ll have to try that sometime! I imagine it would work pretty well in a crowd of people!

  4. August 6, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Great tip and been meaning to get one of these…one day maybe.

    • August 6, 2013 at 10:15 am

      Thanks Teri, once you try one…you’ll be hooked!

  5. August 8, 2013 at 9:29 am

    You always pass on such useful information, David. Thank you for sharing…it is very kind of you.

    • August 8, 2013 at 9:53 am

      Thanks Karen, I believe in helping folks out any way I can…I’m glad the info I post is found to be useful!

  6. August 14, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    I didn’t even know these existed, David, but I can imagine how handy one would be. Thanks for the info!

    • August 15, 2013 at 11:54 am

      Aww man John these are the greatest! They are lightweight, unobtrusive, compact and add a good bit of steadiness. Plus they can ward off big dogs, small bears, obnoxious people…

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