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Are tripods going the way of film, specialty items only used by purists? Many modern digital cameras are quite good at taking photos without needing to be stabilized, so you might decide to leave your tripod at home. But there are some shots that are nearly impossible to take without a tripod.

Oftentimes a photo looks great on the back of your camera, but when you upload it to your computer and check it at 100%, you realize it is not as sharp as you hoped.

A tripod helps keep your camera steady, especially if you use a cable release or the camera’s self-timer to avoid even the slightest shake. This means you can use a slower shutter speed, which keeps the shutter open longer and takes in more light—an obvious benefit when shooting in darker conditions. Being able to shoot slowly also means you can show movement in your photos.

If you want to capture the true feeling of fireworks exploding, then you need to use a long exposure, so a tripod is a must. Here, I combined several two-second exposures.

If you are traveling light and do not have a tripod, there are some other tricks you can use to avoid camera shake.

Use your elbows

Lean your elbows on the top of a wall or the hood of your rental car. If you are not afraid to get a little dirty while out in nature, you can even lay down with your elbows on the ground. I shot these daisies while visiting the seaside town of Stonington, Connecticut. Getting down on the ground gave me a unique perspective. It was gray and overcast but the purposely overexposed sky makes for excellent copy space, which customers can use for their text. It began selling as soon as I uploaded it to various sites.

If all else fails, squeeze your elbows against your side to steady yourself and act as your own tripod.

Use a wide-angle lens

If you’ve ever looked through a telescope or binoculars, you’ll know that magnifying your vision makes every little wobble or shake more pronounced. The same is true for telephoto/zoom lenses. So, if you want to lessen the amount of shaking when taking a photo, use a wider-angle lens as opposed to a telephoto lens. Wider lenses let you use a slower shutter speed.

Technological changes such as image stabilization and camera resolution have made it possible to shoot better photos in low light, but one thing hasn’t changed: no matter how steady your hands are or how well your camera or lens is stabilized, you will always be able to handhold a wide-angle lens at a slower shutter speed than a telephoto.

Shooting at night with a telephoto lens almost certainly requires a tripod. But using a wide-angle lens, I easily took this night shot in Louisville, Kentucky handheld. It just sold again on Shutterstock recently:

Wide-angle lenses also have greater depth of field, meaning that most of your image will be in focus. So they can’t be beat for taking beautiful landscape, architecture, and cityscape images when you travel.

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can fund your travels and make an extra income with photography, travel writing, blogging, and more in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Three Fun Ways To Get Paid To Travel: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]