How Many Legs Does a Tripod Have? (+ Main Types to Know)

You may already know that a tripod has 3 legs, but do you also know why? This guide will also teach you the 5 main types of tripods too, so let's dive in.

A tripod has three legs, whether you’re talking about a camera tripod or a tripod used to stabilize another piece of equipment.

Tripods are used to provide stability to whatever is attached on top of them.

As photographers, we use tripods to support cameras, to ensure a steady shot.

Tripods can be used for everything from taking selfies to slow shutter speed photography. Some people even use them to do panning shots.

How Many Feet Does a Tripod Have?

A tripod has three feet. 

The word ‘tripod’ originates from the Greek ‘tripodos’, meaning ‘three-legged stool’.

It’s made up of ‘tri’, or ‘three’, and the word ‘podos’, meaning foot.

Why Does a Tripod Have Three Legs?

Manfrotto Tripod Guide

Manfrotto is a popular tripod brand for photographers.

A tripod has three legs to provide stability while also being quick to set up and not too heavy to carry.

Obviously, an object with only two legs isn’t usually stable, and an object such as a table with four legs may be stable, but it isn’t convenient to set up over and over again.

A tripod with three legs also allows for one or two of the legs to be shorter or longer than the other(s), and for stability to not be overly compromised, as long as the lay of the ground allows it.

For example, if you want to set up a tripod on a slope, you could compensate for the uneven land by shortening two of the tripod’s legs and lengthening the other one. 

  • Can a tripod have 4 legs?

There’s a four-legged tripod called a QuadroPod that claims to offer superior stability than a regular three-legged tripod. However, a tripod with 4 legs is uncommon and not widely used.

What Other Types of Tripod Are There?

types of tripod

There are various types of tripod available to photographers.

The most common types of tripod you’ll come across are the following:

1. Monopods

Monopods are a form of tripod with just one leg. This makes them more convenient to manoeuvre than regular tripods.

Monopods are commonly used by sports photographers who need to change the position of their cameras quickly.

They’re also useful when ‘panning’, i.e. tracking a moving subject by rotating the camera on the monopod to match its velocity while shooting with a slower shutter speed to emphasize movement.

As they only have one leg, monopods need to be held when in use.

  • What is a One-Leg Tripod Called?

A one-legged tripod is called a monopod.

2. Travel Tripods

Travel tripods are usually more compact and lighter than regular tripods. By employing lightweight materials like aluminium or carbon fibre, travel tripods can remain lightweight.

On the flip side, since they are light and compact, their usage is limited to smaller and lighter cameras, and the reduced maximum height usually means photographers need to stoop down to use them.

3. Studio Tripods

Heavy-duty tripods are often used in studios to support larger cameras such as digital medium format cameras or those with long telephoto lenses.

Since studio photography work usually needs to produce the sharpest image possible, optimum stability is required, hence the need for heavy and expensive precision-engineered studio tripods.

Studio tripods needn’t be lightweight or compact since they’re rarely transported and usually used in the same place.

4. Mini Tripods

Mini tripods are useful for when you don’t need your camera to be supported high up, such as for tabletop use.

They’re also really useful for travelling, though due to their tiny dimensions, their usage is limited in nature.

You’ll often see mini tripods used to support microphones or lights when podcasting.

5. Smartphone Tripods

Tripods for iPhones or Android devices help you get a steady shot out of your favourite smartphone.

With mobile photography getting more and more popular every year, so too is the popularity of smartphone tripods.

Final Words

So now you know how many legs a tripod has, plus you’ve learned a bit more about the different types of tripods available in 2023.

Let us know in the comments if you have any other questions.

Shotkit Writer, Product Tester & Instagram Manager

Jeff Collier is an experienced film photographer who enjoys experimenting with modern digital photography equipment, software and apps. He’s also an ex-world champion triathlete and avid cyclist, clocking hundreds of km each week in the beautiful Tweed Valley of northern NSW, Australia.

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