While a good, sturdy tripod is often best for stabilizing your gear, there are times when a monopod is more convenient and/or can be a big help in supporting larger camera/lens combinations. In keeping with Nasim’s mention in the Focus and Recompose Technique article that we would be doing some posts on basics and Tips for Beginners and since we have had a couple of monopod reviews, it occurred to us that some people may not know how to use a monopod properly, so we decided to share some pointers. The main differences between the three methods that we will discuss here is where you place the foot of the monopod.
Method 1: Straight Out in Front
Most people will first use this method as it is the logical way to use a monopod. With their own legs standing square and spread to approximate shoulder width, they will put the foot of the monopod roughly centered between their legs and straight out in front of them so that the foot of the monopod forms a triangle with the photographers two feet. This more or less mimics a tripod with two legs supplied by the photographer and the third from the tripod. To increase the stability, the wrist strap should be utilized by using it to firmly seat or push the monopod foot into the ground.
Try it and you will see that the strap isn’t for carrying the monopod only, it functions to minimize the monopod head from rotating on the foot as a pivot point. As pointed out in our review of the Oben CTM-2500 Monopod – some wrist straps can be too long resulting in your hand hand being off of the padded section of the leg. Therefore, I would suggest checking the length of the wrist strap and seeing where it places your hand before selecting a monopod.
When using a large telephoto lens, this is the method that I use most because when using the next two methods the monopod leg is tipped at an angle, resulting in the need for a monopod head to adjust the camera angle to maintain a level plane.
Method 2: Braced Against the Instep of Your Rear Foot
In this method, you stand with your hips at a slight angle to your shoulder, similar to a boxer, with one foot slightly back and the foot of the monopod is placed or braced up against the instep of the rear foot and the pole angled to the photographer’s other leg for additional bracing. The hand is pushing the monopod into the ground with the hand on the shaft and the wrist strap pushing down as well, just like in the first method.
Method 3: Between the Legs
In this method, you stand similar to method 2 but the leg of the monopod goes between your legs with the foot of the monopod closer to, but behind the leading foot. In this stance the leg of the monopod braces against the leading leg of the photographer to give more stability. As always the monopod is pushed down into the ground.
Using a Head on the Monopod
While using the monopod without a head is preferred by many sports and wildlife photographers, if one desires, a head can be used but just be certain that the head and the screws can support the weight of the camera and lens. Heads range from a simple tilt to a ball to a gimbal head. Many feel a simple tilt head is all that is needed since the monopod pivots and rotates easily. If you feel you would like to utilize a head on the monopod, a ball head works for landscape shots with a wide angle lens, but a gimbal head works better for larger telephoto lenses.
The bottom line is that when possible, using another part of your body to brace the monopod against it will increase stability. Try each method and see which is best suited for your shooting needs and style. As for what type of head to use if any, that is up to you. Finally, since we all learn from each other, we would love for you to share with us how you use your monopod in the comments section below.