Balancing a Tripod in easy 4 steps…
1. Place the Tripod on stable ground and level the head using the bubble.
If your tripod doesn’t have a levelling bubble then place the camera on the tripod and focus on something that is parallel to the floor, i.e. the ceiling line, and level the camera to this.
2. Place the Camera on the Tripod
With the camera in place, set any fluid drag and counter weights to 0. Then aim the camera at the rough height you will be shooting, i.e. above the tripod or below the level of the camera. If you are shooting up or down then the camera will need setting accordingly. It is a common mistake to balance the camera for shooting parallel to the floor, which you might not be doing! Slide the camera forward and backwards until it is roughly balanced by itself.
3. Setting the Counter-weight
Once the camera is roughly balanced it’s time to set the counter-weight. Click through the settings that your tripod has one by one. For each setting tilt the camera up and down. The counter-weight should mean that you can let go of the camera and it will support it’s own weight and not tilt any further. Point the camera down at a 45 degree and let go, slowly. If it drops further, then add more counter balance. If you let go and it springs back to the central position then you have the counter-weight set too high. When done correctly, whenever you let go of the camera it should not move at all.
4. Setting the Drag
With a balanced tripod, the drag settings are for preference. They should not be used as a substitute to the counter-weight. Some camera operators prefer the drag to be very high, meaning they have to assert more force to get the tripod moving, others like it to feel very light. It will often depend on what you are shooting. For a talking head I would recommend having it set as high as your tripod will go, for sport you might want the drag to be less, enabling fast camera movement.
Once you are set, pan and tilt the camera around the full range of movement that you will be doing. Check that nothing gets in the way, and that you are comfortable. Don’t leave this until the shoot starts, it’s too late!
Remember to lock the head whenever you let go of the tripod.