More on Composing With a Tripod
In an earlier tip (October 21, 2001), I talked about the use of a tripod to help with composition. Essentially, once your camera is held stationary by the tripod, you have the luxury of being able to take your time to check the corners of the frame, the placement of your subject within the frame, and other aspects before you press the shutter.
One important aspect that I didn't address though is how you go about positioning your tripod to begin with. Too often, I see people setting up their tripod and fastening the camera atop it before they even know what they're going to take a picture of. They then walk into a field, limiting themselves to the perspectives they can see from their fixed-height vantage point.
A better method is to keep the camera off the tripod until you find a view that looks promising, then set up the tripod to steady the camera and proceed with fine-tuning your composition. With the camera hand-held, you can now be much more mobile to scope things out, trying views from different vantage points, both high and low. Once you find something you like, then and only then should you set up the tripod.
So, there you have it. The best of both worlds: the mobility of finding an interesting composition hand-held, and the benefits of stability that a tripod gives you for fine-tuning that composition.