Buying guide for
The selfie tripod combines the best features of the one-handed selfie stick and the traditional three-legged camera tripod. It allows for a quick switch from a stable position on the ground to handheld operation. It’s compact and lightweight, making it a perfect travel companion. For photographers of all skill levels who want to amp up the interest of their still shots or videos, a selfie tripod is a great addition to the equipment bag.
Choosing the right selfie tripod, however, takes a discerning eye. Will it remain stable when taking freestanding shots? Will the post bend and shift away from center when fully extended as a handheld selfie stick? Can you attach different types of photography devices to it? And how much should you expect to pay for a selfie tripod with all the features you want?
How to buy the best selfie tripod
What is a selfie tripod?
Selfie tripods are a variation on the classic camera tripod but scaled down so they can be held with one hand. They also include smartphone-friendly attachments or the capability to swap attachments so that you can switch between a phone or camera.
- Clamp: Part of the tripod head assembly, the clamp holds the quick-release plate in place securely. On selfie tripods that don’t have a quick-release plate, the clamp holds the camera device, like a smartphone, in place.
- Quick-release plate: The quick-release plate allows users to quickly remove and mount a device on the selfie tripod with minimal adjustment needed. The plate typically is bolted to a camera with the appropriate receptacle.
- Casing: The casing attaches the head assembly to the rest of the selfie tripod and protects the ball head.
- Ball head: The most common universal adjustment option, the ball head is shaped like a ball and enables the camera to swivel 360 degrees and tilt at several angles.
- Adjustment knobs: These knobs allow users to quickly adjust the position of the camera and lock that adjustment in with a twist. The number of adjustment knobs on a selfie tripod can vary.
- Center column: The “stick” part of the selfie tripod, the center column can extend up to three feet in length.
- Tripod legs: Unlike a traditional tripod, the legs of a selfie tripod are short and not adjustable. They close to form a sturdy handle for handheld selfies.
Using a selfie tripod
You’ll choose the best type of selfie tripod for you if you first sit down and decide how you plan to use it. If you’re a casual user who wants to snap some photos of yourself on a hike and share them with friends on Instagram, a lightweight, easy-to-hold monopod with a smartphone attachment may be the best choice. If you want to create professional-quality videos or use multiple types of image recording devices, consider a selfie tripod with swappable attachments for all of your portable cameras.
Stability of selfie tripods
The point where your recording device is attached to the selfie tripod must be snug-fitting with no loose parts, rattling, or shaking. Any looseness will translate to shaky video or motion-blurred photos.
Selfie tripods are often more simply built than their traditional tripod counterparts, with fewer features and extras. That said, quality is just as important for these compact tripods since you’re also trusting them to securely hold expensive photo and video equipment.
A selfie tripod that instantly converts to a handheld stick or monopod is important for photographers who need to travel light.
A combination of spring-loaded clamp and adjustment knob to precisely control how securely a camera or smartphone is attached to the tripod is important.
With a Bluetooth remote you can snap photos or turn video recording on and off with a click of a button, rather than recording yourself reaching for and walking away from the device.
This feature is included on bigger, freestanding tripods for stationary shots that need to be level. However, selfie shots are rarely taken at a straight-on angle — that’s part of their appeal.
Quick-release mounting plates
A selfie tripod that allows you to use multiple mounting plates is ideal for those who need to switch cameras quickly.
A wider base equals much better stability. Consider a selfie tripod with extendable legs. This feature adds weight but keeps your camera standing stable.
Selfie tripods are compact enough to tuck into a backpack or purse, but being able to attach a strap offers extra security while filming in crowded areas or out in the backcountry.
A gimbal stabilizer is a motorized one- or three-axis self-stabilizing mount that is ideal for smooth-looking selfie video, especially when recording action. Many gimbal stabilizers include tripod features or can be attached to the center column of a selfie tripod.
A selfie tripod with an auto-tracking feature keeps you in frame even if you’re moving left or right of center.
How much do selfie tripods cost?
For $14 to $38 a variety of lightweight and compact selfie tripods can be found that are ideal for beginners and those needing a low-maintenance travel tripod.
Be vigilant when looking for selfie tripods in the $39 to $88 price range. Some are fantastic, with stable center columns and neat extras, but others may disappoint.
To get premium high-end features, like three-axis gimbal stabilization or auto-tracking, expect to spend $89 to $149 on a selfie tripod.
- Keep your selfie tripod free of dirt, sand, and muck. Debris can get into the extender joints and locking levers, making the tripod difficult or impossible to adjust.
- Always be aware of your surroundings. Don’t walk backward while using a selfie tripod. When your attention is focused on using the tripod, you may step into danger without realizing it.
- Selfie tripods are much less stable than traditional camera tripods, especially when fully extended.
- When the tripod is set on level ground, point one leg toward yourself (or your subject). This can help stabilize and level the shot.
- If you’re filming downhill from the selfie tripod, place two of the legs in front and extend them farther than the rear leg if possible. If this isn’t possible, try setting the legs on a brick or rock.
- When holding the selfie tripod for a mobile shot, try not to jar the tripod as this will cause a shaky shot.
- If you film frequently on uneven terrain or while doing activities that shake the camera, use a selfie tripod with a gimbal stabilizer to drastically reduce shakiness and blur.
Q. Is there a way to stabilize a selfie tripod when its legs are fully extended?
A. A major flaw of selfie tripods is that they’re inherently unstable — users are trading that stability for an ultra-light combination of selfie stick and tripod. But you’ve got a couple of options. One, you can grab a few rocks or bricks nearby and place them carefully on the tripod legs to hold them in place. If it’s a windy day, the camera will still sway a bit. Two, you can place the tripod on a chair or bench or any other stable surface so that you don’t have to fully extend the center column. You’ll get a more stable shot, with less chance of the tripod tipping over.
Q. What is the advantage of having a Bluetooth remote control on a selfie tripod?
A. An optional Bluetooth remote control allows you to snap a selfie hands-free or start and stop video recording from afar. This is ideal for taking solo selfies or videos. The remote is detachable from the tripod so that you can control the camera from a distance without any issues.
Q. When I shoot handheld selfies, the shadow of the tripod and sometimes the smartphone is visible in the photo. How do I get around this problem?
A. You’re taking the selfie with the sun directly behind the smartphone or camera, so the shadow of the tripod is in the frame. A quick fix is to adjust the angle of the shot to the left or right of the sun so that you still get full sunlight on your face but no shadows. Another option is to use a ring light to keep your face well lit even if you aren’t facing the sun.