Digital Photography Review

tripod arm for overhead shots | Topdeblogs

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Top 5 Best Tripods For Overhead Shots & Food Photography!

A well done photograph of a perfectly prepared meal can drive sales up for a restaurant or a specialty food store. Food and other product photography are essential marketing tools for many types of businesses.

Unfortunately not all tripods are capable of being set up for a directly overhead shot. Because of this, I found 5 good candidates to review as the best tripods for overhead shots. But first…

How to capture overhead photography shots for food & products

One way is put the subject matter on the floor and stand over it. Another way is to bring a sturdy ladder into the studio. But let me tell you, I don’t want to recommend either of those ways.

However there is a much better way through using a tripod with an adjustable extending center column. There is also the option of adding a extendable boom arm to an existing tripod as well.

How to capture overhead photography shots for food & products

This lets me position the camera directly over the subject, looking straight down on it. Besides food items and prepared meals, other products can benefit from this camera placement. Toys and small curios or antiques are good subjects for this technique as well. Any artwork, such as a painting or sketches, will image well with overhead camera placement too.

A final touch I like to add when doing overheats shots are external light sources. Personally I use soft boxes which are a very inexpensive and incredibly easy to setup. This really does to wonders in making an image pop and worthwhile for sharing.

How I found the best tripods for overhead photography

How I found the best tripods for overhead photography

Shopping for equipment to use in overhead photography isn’t much different from looking for basic photographic equipment. There are a few other considerations for finding the best tripods for overhead shots. Let’s look at a few:

  • Size: For product photography, I need the tripod to be big enough to handle the height needed and sturdy enough to hold the camera. So, a travel tripod or a compact tripod probably won’t fill this need. We don’t need to have the biggest one, though. Unless we are using a larger tripod for other uses as well. Medium size, medium duty is more than good enough.
  • Sturdiness, weight: It’s not always the case, but for this type of photography it’s a good idea to have some heft to the tripod. Added weight will usually add a measure of sturdiness, but a sturdy tripod for other uses may not be suitable for overhead shots. It’s a matter of gravity, plain and simple. If we are extending the camera out over a subject, the tripod needs to have some weight to keep it from tipping over.
  • Functionality: Does it actually do the job I need it to do? I’ve reviewed many very fine tripods, but not too many of them would get recommended as the top 5 best tripods for overhead shots. It needs to have a center column that is capable of extending horizontally, or be able to hold an arm for that purpose.
  • Tripod Head: This isn’t going to be a deal breaker for a great set of legs. If I can remove the head, I can replace it with a good head for overhead shots. A good ball and socket or a three-way head would be my top choices. Other heads could still be usable, but these two types are great for the multi-angle positions required for a lot of overhead shots.

Top 5 Best Tripods For Overhead Shots & Food Photography

1. Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT Aluminum Tripod Legs (Best Tested!)

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT Aluminum Tripod Legs Review

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT Aluminum Tripod Legs Specifications

Weight: 5.38 lbs Collapsed Height: 24″ Extended Height: 65″ Maximum Load: 15.4 lbs Price: Click here to find latest price

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT Aluminum Tripod Legs Review

First up on my list is a fantastic set of tripod legs with a convertible center column that can extend in the horizontal as well as vertically. It also has multi angle leg positioning, making this one of the more versatile tripods around for a wide variety of photographic endeavors.

This unit came for the review without a head, but Vanguard offers several heads that match up well with this tripod. One of my favorite heads from this manufacturer is the heavy duty ball and socket head with quick release that I’ve reviewed for nature photography.

This leg configuration comes in aluminum or in carbon fiber. I tested the aluminum alloy legs for this review, since having some counter weight was more important to me than being lightweight. The weight was adequate for me to feel comfortable with my APS-C format DSLR, macro lens, and wireless controller, even when extending the center column horizontally.

If using a heavier rig, mounting sand bag weights is an option easily accomplished by making use of the supplied hook.

It raises to a height of about 65”, adding the tripod head brought it up to 70” or so. The 3 section aluminum alloy legs adjust to 25, 50, and 80 degree angles to enable extreme low angle photography or to set up the tripod on uneven surfaces. The legs lock with a flip lock system that is quick and simple to operate.

The multi-angle central column system is what makes this tripod really ‘stand out’ (pun intended) It allows me to move the central column from zero to 180 degrees angles in various vertical and horizontal positions.

This instant swivel stop-n-lock mechanism securely repositions the central column in one simple movement, in just a few seconds, while maintaining the tripod set up and stability. Using this feature allowed me to extend my camera over the subject with ease while not working about any vibration or tipping.

Overall this Vanguard 263AT felt very sturdy and well made and was very easy to setup and use for overhead photography. Definitely one of the best tripods for overhead shots such as food photography, art photography, or small product photography. Highly recommended!

CHECK BEST PRICE ON AMAZON

2. ZOMEI 72 inch Tripod With 360 Degree Ball Head

ZOMEI 72 inch Tripod With 360 Degree Ball Head Review

ZOMEI 72 inch Tripod With 360 Degree Ball Head Specifications

Weight: 3.48 lbs Collapsed Height: 18″ Extended Height: 72″ Maximum Load: 17.6 lbs Price: Click here to find latest price

ZOMEI 72 inch Tripod With 360 Degree Ball Head Review

Next up on my list is the mighty Zomei aluminum and magnesium alloy tripod. While Zomei is a relatively new brand in the photography world, I have yet to be disappointed with the quality and versatility of their products. This tripod also follows that tradition.

Two nice things about this tripod is that it collapses and folds up to a very compact size, useful for travelling to on location restaurant photoshoots, or whatever type of location photography you’re needing to do. Also the legs are in four sections, which is part of the reason it becomes so compact for travel or storage. They twist lock very securely with minimal pressure.

Using the center column in horizontal position wasn’t the simplest or most elegant solution imaginable, but it got the job done, which is what I was looking for. It also doesn’t extend very far compared to other tripod options available, but I found it adequate for the intended use of overhead photography.

The supplied ball and socket head was very sturdy and yet was very smooth and simple to operate. The quick release system lived up to the “quick” description. Using the ball and socket head was one of the highlights of reviewing this tripod, it’s really that good. Overall a good pick.

CHECK BEST PRICE ON AMAZON

3. Neewer Tripod Monopod with Rotatable Center Column

Neewer Tripod Monopod with Rotatable Center Column Review

Neewer Tripod Monopod with Rotatable Center Column Specifications

Weight: 4.8 lbs Collapsed Height: 24″ Extended Height: 75″ Maximum Load: 26 lbs Price: Click here to find latest price

Neewer Tripod Monopod with Rotatable Center Column Review

Another great offering from Neewer, this convertible tripod has an additional feature I found very useful. That feature is the built in panoramic markings on the underside of the very well made ball and socket head it came with. Probably won’t replace my nodal mount for spherical panoramas, but it sure came in handy for on the fly panoramic shooting.

Horizontal column mounting is also possible with this versatile tripod, making it ideal for overhead shots. Since the tripod is heavier than some of the other compact tripods, it can sturdily hold a modest sized camera rig. The legs lock by means of twisting knobs and also are capable of multi angle positioning, making this a very usable photographic tool.

As for the ball and socket head with quick release mounts, it was very smooth, secure, and fairly heavy duty. One of the better choices for anyone needing added versatility in addition to overhead shots.

CHECK BEST PRICE ON AMAZON

4. Vivitar Horizontal Arm Professional Camera Tripod & Monopod

Vivitar Horizontal Arm Professional Camera Tripod & Monopod Review

Vivitar Horizontal Arm Professional Camera Tripod & Monopod Specifications

Weight: 3.5 lbs Collapsed Height: 18.5″ Extended Height: 67″ Maximum Load: 15.5 lbs Price: Click here to find latest price

Vivitar Horizontal Arm Professional Camera Tripod & Monopod Review

Vivitar is a well known brand among photographers. This tripod continues the tradition of quality at value prices we have come to expect from them.

Even though metal, this tripod is light weight. Good for travel, but I would apply a counterweight to secure the camera rig when extending the column horizontally. Just like a couple of other tripods I tested, setting up the center column in horizontal position wasn’t the simplest or most elegant solution around, but it got the job done.

It also doesn’t extend very far compared to other tripod options available, but I found it adequate for the intended use I was reviewing of overhead photography.

Using this Vivitar tripod was enjoyable in the field, with all the versatility of its features. But I felt somewhat limited in the studio due to the shorter center column in horizontal position. Still, it is easily one of the best tripods for overhead shots.

CHECK BEST PRICE ON AMAZON

5. Tycka Tripod Boom Arm

Tycka Tripod Boom Arm Review

Tycka Tripod Boom Arm Specifications

Weight: 1.1 lbs Length: 12.6″ Maximum Load: 11 lbs Price: Click here to find latest price

Tycka Tripod Boom Arm Review

If you are already comfortable with your current studio tripod, but would like to branch out into overhead photography, then adding an extendable boom like this one may be your best option.

Fully adjustable, the Tycka tripod boom is designed to be fully vertical and horizontal adjustable. It can hold your camera at your preferred height and angle for as long as you need. The bubble level allows you to adjust the angle precisely. It really is an excellent idea for use in studio, outdoor and macro photography.

Installation is simple, it can be screwed onto the tripod like a tripod head and then the head can be mounted to it. So, any tripod you have and are comfortable with can now be used for overhead shots and product photography.

CHECK BEST PRICE ON AMAZON

My Conclusion

Overhead shots are a great way to image food and other products in a pleasing perspective. If buying a new tripod for this use, these I reviewed are your best choices. You can learn more about overhead shots and food photography here.

The availability of the boom to add to an existing tripod system gives us options that can make our images stand out. Our photos are not going to like everyone else’s social media lunch pics. Our images will sell product and get us repeat business. Also check out my guide on the best Manfrotto tripods for photography and videography.

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