A little while ago I wrote in praise of the humble tripod; how it can be used to slow down your photography and make you think about the image you are composing. Of course the tripod’s main purpose is to hold your camera steady especially if you are using slower shutter speeds. But what happens if you have left your tripod at home?
Behold the even humbler beanbag!
In conjunction with a handy wall or a piece of street furniture (bins with lids are quite good if you don’t mind hanging around them!) they provide a relatively sturdy and flexible substitute.
Just to be clear I am not talking about the giant beanbag you might have in the corner of your living room or bedroom which you collapse into at the end of the day to binge watch your favourite TV show and eat ice cream straight from the tub. No this is the smaller variety used in different sports and activities; if you have children you may have come across them on school sports days.
The small beanbag is easy to carry and offers a degree of protection for your camera on a brick wall (or that bin). It also provides some flexibility in positioning your camera. With a little bit of work you can tilt the lens up or down or left or right to get the composition just right.
It does limit where and what you can photograph as there has to be a nearby convenient place to perch your camera safely which means you have to search a little harder to find your composition but when it works it can be very satisfying.
And here are a few photographs taken with the assistance of my trusty beanbag:
I would suggest getting the focus and exposure right before setting up your camera; it doesn’t take much to nudge it out of position. Also, if you can, keep a hold of the camera strap. This is particularly important if you have perched your camera on a parapet with a steep drop on the other side!
The small bean bag is available from sporting accessory and toy shops, and is a handy object to carry with you when you are out photographing, need some stability but don’t want to carry a tripod with you.