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Photographers nowadays generally rely on cameras that are light enough, and they have the ability to use high ISOs, to that the use of tripods is not longer as important as it once was. In the early days photographers used large and cumbersome view cameras, and needed to make long exposures, so using a tripod was mandatory for most purposes. Even after the development of smaller cameras in the 20th century landscape photographers like Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, Hollywood photographers like the legendary George Hurrell and even the photographers who shot centerfolds in the heyday of Playbody used larger view cameras to create images with the greatest possible detail.
Even in the digital age many landscape photographers still rely on tripods. Shooting outdoors in various light conditions it is often necessary to use slower shutter speeds. Hand holding a camera, even when the body and lens might also have image stabilization, it is often difficult to get the absolutely sharpest possible image. This is even more the case when you are working with medium format cameras like those from Hasselblad and Phase One. They are too heavy to hand hold at slower shutter speed and be guaranteed a really sharp, crisp results.
Studio photographers who work in fashion or do automobile photography will often mount their cameras on a tripodto achieve the highest possible standard of technical excellence and quality. Food and product photographers often make use of tripods as well.
Another advantage of using a tripod is that you can absolutely dial in your composition. It is true shooting digital you can include more in the photo than you want and then crop later in Photoshop or Lightroom. But the less you have to crop the more info in the photo, the more pixels and the highest possible file is created. Plus there is the fact that much of being an excellent photographer is learning to make clear aesthetic and technical choices. If you get in the habit of shooting "just about" what you want in a photo it is difficult to work to the highest standards of quality.
Tripods are also usually required when working with very long lenses for sports, events or nature photography. You are better off doing photos of a bear using a 600mm lense from a distance rather than getting right in his face. But even at reasonably fast shutter speeds you need a lot of stability to obtain the sharpest images with a lens that big and heavy. And that means using a tripod.
By the way, one alternative to the tripod is the unipod or monopod. They make some excellent models nowadays, even some that have small tripods at their feet for extra stability and balance. If you are walking around shooting a golf tournament with a long lens you are much better off with a unipod than a more cumbersome tripod. And they are so relatively small and light it is easy to carry them with you in case of need than it is a full tripod.
Unipods often in handy when you are squeezed in among a lot of other photographers, which was often the case when I was doing coverage of fitness and bodybuilding contests. In fact, it was often necessary to use both a triod and unipod - the main camera for full of the stage on a tripod and a second one for either close-ups or wide-angle photos using the unipod.
BILL DOBBINS PHOTOGRAPHY: www.billdobbinsphotography.com