Quick tips: Use a beanbag

Beanbags allow you to get down low, leading to less predictable pictures Tracy Calder

In today's Quick Tips, we look at the diminutive alternative to the trusty tripod - the beanbag. What's it all about?


When you use a tripod, it’s tempting to shoot at chest height, which can lead to predictable pictures. Beanbags, on the other hand, force you to get down low, or seek out a fencepost or wall to support your gear.

These cheap, lightweight accessories let you use your car as a hide, observing and photographing wildlife in comfort. They can be draped over window frames, providing a safe cushion for your equipment. They support both a camera and much of a lens, helping you to keep everything steady. In the case of DSLRs, they also help to absorb vibrations created by the mirror flipping up to expose the sensor.

  1. While the flexibility of a beanbag will never match that of a tripod, this cheap accessory allows you to be in position and firing away within seconds.
  2. Choosing a beanbag is simple: just decide how much surface area you require (taking into account the longest lens you use), look for tough, waterproof material and decide on a suitable filling.
  3. If you’re planning a bird-photography session, fill your beanbag with a plastic bag of bird seed and scatter small amounts in strategic positions as required. Remember to refresh the bird seed regularly.
  4. Some beanbags have a screw thread on the top, allowing you to attach a camera directly to them – this can be great for panning. If you use a standard bag and slide your hand under the camera, you can achieve similar results.
  5. Beanbags are often available in camouflage fabrics to help you keep a low profile when photographing wildlife. Wildlife Watching Supplies (www. wildlifewatchingsupplies.co.uk) has a fantastic range.
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