You may think you’re a camera geek, but if the thought of a new tripod or head doesn’t get your palms sweaty, then you still have a ways to go to plumb the true depths of your photo-related nerd potential. Personally, I have two tripods, a couple of heads, and a fairly large assortment of smaller stabilization gizmos, and yet it’s always hard to walk past the tripod section at the camera store without stopping to feel the weight of this tripod, admire the new composite material of another tripod, or test the latest locking levers on still another tripod. If you don’t have a tripod fetish, then choosing a tripod might be something of a mystery, as it may seem like little more than three sticks joined at the top. But oh, a tripod can be so much more.

The reasons for using a tripod are many: shooting in low light, shooting with smaller apertures in bright light, shooting time-lapse sequences, shooting self-portraits…and on and on. However, a bad tripod choice can make all of these shooting situations difficult, and of course a tripod doesn’t do you any good if you don’t have it with you, so balancing features against weight and size is essential.

For a detailed discussion of how to choose a tripod and head that’s right for you, check out the following.