I recently got asked if it was possible to do astrophotography without a tripod so in the weeks video on my YouTube channel I answered that question;
Note: The person asking the question is heading off to the Himalayas and wanted to photograph stars whilst they were up there. Buying a tripod was an option but ideally carrying less weight would be preferred.
Gear Doesn’t MatterI’ve always disliked this quote as it’s just not true. Having the right equipment DOES often produce higher quality images with a more reliable workflow, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to achieve good results.
Can you photograph stars without a tripod?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer is yes, if you’re willing to compromise a little bit.
I decided to use hiking equipment to answer this question with as I figured that most people that are wanting to do this are also people that go out walking/people that make the most of going outside so I tried to base the equipment needed off that.
Option 1: Hiking bag/Camera bag
I use the Lowepro Whistler 450 AW camera bag. It has back support which is a fairly firm flat surface. When I put the bag down on the ground this makes a relatively stable base for me to put the camera onto.
All bags are different but I can only base this on equipment that I use.
When would this be useful: If you’re on top of the mountains photographing straight in front of you. E.g. Photographing the tops of the mountains surrounded by stars
Option 2: Use hiking equipment to point the camera at the stars
9 times out of 10 you’re going to need to point the camera up to photograph the stars. In the video I used a hat, gloves. sunglasses case and a coat to hold the camera up. These are things that I often take out with me anyway so finding extra uses for the same thing is a bonus.
Is it a pretty solution? No.
Does it work? Yes.
The other good thing about doing it this way is that the equipment is probably already in your bag meaning you don’t have to carry anything else.
Tips to get better photographs
Use a 10-second timer – The material is probably soft which means that when you press the shutter button you will get some movement. This will create lines in your photographs. If you use a timer you will avoid this.
Stay with your camera – This solution may not be as stable. Don’t touch the camera whilst the photograph is being taken, but have your hands ready to catch it in case it falls.
Watch my video on camera settings for astrophotography for more tips and tricks to get better photographs
Would I trade my tripod for this setup?
No. The tripod lets me set the camera up from a higher viewpoint as I’m not limited to where I can put the bag down. It’s good to know there is a lightweight alternative for if taking a tripod isn’t the practical solution.