As a commercial photographer, I shoot a lot of product and food images. Often I am asked to work with only available light, so the use of a tripod is essential. I always bring my trusty Manfrotto tripod to every one of these shoots. I have been using an older Manfrotto tripod for almost 10 years now, and it has never failed me. So when I got the opportunity to try the new Manfrotto 190XPRO3 tripod kit, I jumped at the chance.
The first thing I noticed was how much lighter the 190XPRO3 is. I do a lot of shooting on location, so a lighter load to haul around is worth a lot to me. In terms of setting up and adjusting the legs and levers, I was happy to find that the construction is very similar to my older tripod. This allowed me to easily adjust as needed while looking through the viewfinder because everything was located where I remembered it to be.
I am lucky to live on the coast of California, and my first instinct when trying the new 190XPRO3 kit was to take it to the ocean and attempt some long exposure shots. I got up well before dawn and headed to the shoreline to get set up. It was still relatively dark when I arrived, so I was very glad to have the familiarity of working with Manfrotto tripods in the past. I had an assistant on hand to hold a flashlight, but I didn’t really end up needing this, as the setup was quick and easy.
The surface I was shooting on was uneven rock, so I was glad to have the built-in level to make sure my horizon line wouldn’t be skewed. I used a cable release to make sure that I didn’t have any camera shake, and I covered the viewfinder with my hand during each exposure to make sure I didn’t have any light leaking in that way.
I tried a few different exposures to get the effect I wanted with the water blurring as waved rushed over the rocks. The morning I headed out we had a lot of morning fog rolling in, so I went for a somewhat gloomy and ethereal look with the horizon fading into the sky. The shots you see below were captured with a one-second exposure at f22. I was using my 70-200mm lens to zoom in to the water as the tide was all the way out and far from the shore at this time of day.
When I first received the kit I was thrilled to see that it included a horizontal mechanism, which my older tripod does not have. I was dying to try that out, so my next step was to set up a couple of overhead still life shots. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to switch the center column to the horizontal position (I stubbornly don’t like reading instruction guides), but once I figured it out it was a cinch to switch back and forth.
I really liked using the center column as a horizontal arm since it gives a lot more freedom with composition. In the past I have used a C-stand to set up shots like this, and the 190XPRO3 was infinitely faster and easier to get into position. The shots below were done with natural light and a wider aperture. I wanted the jewelry to be in sharp focus with the background slightly out of focus. Using a piece of glass to support the jewelry, I experimented with different surfaces and objects in the background until I got the look I wanted. The photo below of the gold and copper bracelets was shot at f4, and the shots with the flowers and gunmetal bracelet were done at f1.8. For both shots I used an 85mm lens.
The last test I did was really just for fun. It has been a while since I played with shooting objects in motion, and I was inspired to create some fresh and playful food images. I am always building my stock portfolio, and this time of year there are a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables available to experiment with.
I set up a small fish tank with a black background behind it. I filled three-fourths of the fish tank with water and set up the camera on the 190XPRO3 to be level with the tank, just below the waterline. From there I tossed my colorful subjects into the water and did my best to fire the camera and lights at the right moment. After a few frames I realized that I needed help and talked a friend into assisting me with tossing the fruit. For images like this, capturing the subject at just the right moment takes a lot of trial and error, and it was much easier with an assistant. It is worth noting that with water splashing around I positioned the camera a ways back from the fish tank and used a 70-200mm lens.
All in all I was very impressed with the Manfrotto 190XPRO3 tripod kit and will definitely be using it on a regular basis. Like my older tripod from Manfrotto, I know that this piece of gear will last and be at my side for many years to come.
Laura Tillinghast started making art at a young age, discovering photography as her true passion in college. From that point on she has never put her camera down. Shooting primarily advertising and editorial content, you never know what you will find in front of her lens. Also an educator, Laura teaches a series of popular photo workshops that focus on the fundamentals of lighting. Check out her online portfolio here: https://lauratillinghast.com/