Lights, Camera, Blog Part 08: Shooting a la Jake The Peg style with a homemade tripod


Improvised tripod for an iPhone or similar, made by Barry Davis

Jake The Peg with his extra leg straddled the top of the charts in Australia during the transition from the 60s to the 70s.

It seems it has finally met its match with my homemade tripod whipping up a frenzy of enquiries and having some people DEMAND I get my dad to start production.

Just like Jake, this tripod could be just the thing to help transition between eras (of your business marketing).

If you missed my October Business Month keynote and workshops last week, you would have missed seeing this tripod in action.

I promised I would share its details with you for those people looking to test the waters with in house video and photography on their smart phones but who are keen to ‘do it right’.

As with all handy inventions, this one was brought about by necessity as a short term fix but is likely to stay in use for a while.

So lets recap why tripods are important for making your ‘homemade’ images look professional and then walk you through the ingredients.

Shake, rattle and roll – rarely brings out the best in your camera

the improvised tripod attachment

This is the tripod attachment up close

Despite what you may think about how steady your hands are, if you ever find yourself shooting still images or video in even slightly dull light or anywhere inside, a handheld camera will always deliver mediocre results.

You might not even notice it and may even think your shots are fine, but when you compare them to shots taken by a camera ANCHORED to a tripod, the difference is often stunning!

A good, still camera tends to take good, sharp images when you pay attention to a few rules of thumb, namely:

  • Use the auto focus
  • Use a tripod
  • Select a white balance setting that matches your dominant light source

You learn the hard way, over time, that your camera’s auto focus is better than your eye, your tripod is more steady than your hand, and your results will be ‘whiter than white’ when you can adjust your white balance settings. For example, many still cameras offer a choice of sunlight, overcast light, incandescent light, fluorescent light, auto, etc. Your whites will look more natural if you choose a setting that matches the dominant light in your shooting area. If it is too mixed, choose auto. Of course, you won’t always have a chance to control those settings, but when you can you will notice the difference.

He ain’t heavy, he’s my tripod

Okay, that’s enough with the 60s and 70s song references now.

The tripod pictured above came into existence because less than 24 hours before flying to Darwin for my September workshops, I decided to pack a tripod for my iPhone.

It is spur-of-the-moment decisions like these that force creativity into overdrive.

It is also in these situations that you realise that ecommerce has its shortcomings – when you want and need it NOW you must simply visit a store PHYSICALLY!

In desperation, I visited Harvey Norman and after half an hour of applied innovation to every closely-related gadget in store, I saw a cheap tripod kit for $19.95.

It was light and small (it would never replace a REAL tripod) but it was a foundation.

My next challenge was to find some way of connecting my smart phone to the tripod.

My dad making the tripod attachment

My dad in action, making the tripod attachment

As luck would have it, I ran the conundrum past my father, an ex-builder, and within 30 minutes I was being whisked away from a niece’s birthday for a quick visit to his shed.

A small piece of galvanised iron was cut, approximately 15mm by 100mm. It was bent into an L-shape and had a hole drilled in the short end.

With a small nut, that simple attachment was able to be fastened to the tripod’s mount, leaving us with an 80mm, uppright surface just waiting to connect to an iPhone.

Also as luck would have it, I had a spare iPhone case. (You can buy all sorts of cases for smart phones quite cheaply at markets and online).

By using some gaffer tape to securely fasten the back of the spare iPhone case to galavanised iron attachment, we had created a system that was just waiting for an iPhone to be slipped in and out as required.

Yes, you can buy such things online but I must say it was satisfying crafting one myself (well, with my dad’s help).

Remember, I travel in planes a lot, so needed something light. If you are just shooting locally, you could simply whip up an attachment for your existing tripod.

Let me know how you go and feel free to share links to pictures of your tripod in action.

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