• Make The Most Out Of Your Monopod


 

 
Our monopod is kind of like a superhero…

It’s got a long list of powers and functions, and it regularly saves the day. Without a monopod, the city of Stillmotion probably would have fallen ages ago.

We take it everywhere, and shoot with it so frequently that it’s safe to say the majority of the shots you see in our work are taken on a monopod.

We use the Manfrotto 561BHDV-1 because it’s super lightweight (just over 4lbs!) and compact (great for travel), and it offers so much versatility within its little body.

With a maximum height of 6.56′ and a minimum Height of 2.5′, this monopod allows you to quickly extend and get up over the action, or retract and get in there without having to actually go handheld.

Extend, pan, tilt, suspend in mid-ar… there really is such a wide range of possibilities with this monopod, and once you really learn how to utilize all of its functions, you’ll be surprised at how often you ditch your other pieces of gear and rely solely on its superhero strength to get you through your shoot.

Basic panning…

One of the coolest aspects of the monopod is the tilt/pan bar function. This allows you to bring the viewer into the action, taking them from point A to point B in one smooth motion. The keyword here is smooth — you don’t want any shakiness or you’ll lose the desired effect.
 
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How do you keep it smooth?

Answer: hold it close to your body. You’ll want both the monopod, the camera, and your elbows to stay as close to your body as possible in order to reduce the amount of shake as much as possible.

Go in tight…

Ok, so let’s say you’re needing to get into a really tight space in order to get the shot you want. While it might seem obvious to go in handheld, why not just get crazy with your monopod and keep that stability?
 
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You can retract the monopod completely and it will follow your camera all the way in, keeping its legs on the ground and your camera nice and stable. This is going to help you out immensely when you need to get in there but don’t want to deal with bulky equipment that can get in your way.

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Extend!

If you’re needing to get the camera up higher, you can also adjust your monopod to get up there and use your tilt function to angle it however you like.

Here you see Ray pointing the camera down at the chess board to get an overhead shot. The added stability of the monopod allows him to move the camera back and forth, from one side of the chess board to the other.

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Without the monopod, this would be a difficult shot to pull off, as Ray would probably end up just going in handheld and getting a much shakier image, or needing an elaborate setup like a dolly. The monopod’s extension offers a super simple technique for achieving a not-so-simple shot — so clutch!

Use the sticking point…

Sometimes you might find yourself wishing you had more of a tripod than a monopod.

Do not fear! The monopod’s sticking point function allows you to achieve a static shot right from your monopod.

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There are three small screws at the base of the monopod that allow you to quickly adjust the tension, so you can get the exact position you want.

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The sticking point option can save you so much time and equipment hauling by allowing you to pull off a static shot or even a quick interview without having to break out a tripod. This is an awesome feature of this monopod… do not be afraid to use it!

Keep your friends close, and your monopod closer.

The best way to get the most out of your monopod is by keeping it close, in more ways than one…

1. Close to your heart. Take it with you on all of your shoots, and you’ll find yourself using it all the time… we do!

2. Close to your body.
Whenever possible, always keep the monopod in nice and tight, as it will stay more secure and give you far more control and stability for the smoothest shot possible.

The other thing to really remember with a monopod is that if you’re not adjusting it all of the time, you’re not really using it correctly.

Our 3/1 rule favors three shots as opposed to just one — wide, medium, and tight. We use this rule all the time, and we use our monopod all the time… so that means we’re constantly retracting and extending to get all of those shots.

The beauty of the monopod is that we can get those shots without having to go in handheld and lose our stability… superhero strength from a truly super tool.

Got any funky monopod tips of your own?

Let’s hear em!

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48 Thoughts on “Make The Most
Out Of Your Monopod

  1. I experienced the sticky problem after using the monopod couple times…so I tried cleaning and lubricated the join with WD-40…seems working pretty well. I had put together a “How to Clean” video on YouTube if any of you are interested:
    http://youtu.be/e_PqkjCN-UM

  2. I borrowed this monopod and shot this music video entirely with it. It was so quick to get the shots i needed and versitile! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKzKRiB09FY

    Loved it so much I ordered one right after and use it for most of my work. Only thing I could see that would make it better is if there was a lock on the ball joint for greater stability when you want to use it as a tripod. I find it some times wobbles a bit when trying to find the ‘sticking point’ would be great if you could just lock it down!

    • Dave, I enjoyed your video – and it is exactly why I also have started to build up my Monopod skills. I love the subtle handheld feel, but still having great control. What body/lens did you shoot most of that on? I’ve been playing around a lot with a 35m 1.4 and renting a 24-70 2.8. You captured some great views that felt really expansive, without suffering from the wide-angle distortion I would have expected.

  3. I got this monopod when I first started based off your recommendation four years ago. I use it almost 90 percent of the time, if not more. Such an amazing piece of gear that is essential for almost everything worthy of capturing. I agree on the WD-40! If your in a pinch, you can run hot water over the ball joint and it will loosen up if it gets sticky. We’ve used that trick many times at hotels and other venues. Great tips!

  4. Have been using these monopods for several years now. It was good to get a refresher course on using this tool. Sometimes I feel like I forget the substantial value in my equipment until I get reminded like this video did for the monopod. I was even looking for other monopods right before I watched this video, and now don’t see any reason to look or replace our Manfrotto 561BHDV-1 at all. So thanks SM for saving me some dough. And the trick on tightening the little fasteners on the base/feet of the monopod is TERRIFIC.
    Cheers and if I can ever be of assistance for you guys in Houston, Texas, I am here to help.

  5. Further to Tim’s comments about buying 500 head instead: in my book, the only thing missing from the 561 BHDV is some 3/8″ taps, which I notice the 500 head has.

  6. To ensure the best slider type movement, stand on the base, and lean it over to the full angle and then move the whole monopod side to side. Because it is resting on the limits of the ball housing, the movement is quite smooth. It is obviously moving in a circle but because the camera is tracing a big arc (when the monopod is extended) it is not too noticeable, and approximates a slider type movement over a short distance.

    Just a great piece of kit.

    • Personally, I’ve found better results with it near the center position. If your monopod is smooth, i find you can get great slider moves and more variability. I also try to avoid stepping on the legs as a general practice, unless you are in an extreme position and it’s needed

      P.

  7. To use WD-40, or not to use WD-40? That’s my question. I just ordered this monopod a few days ago after reading tons of glowing reviews. However, despite all the love, nearly every review mentioned the ball joint being stiff, or popping… thus making some shots unusable. Some people use WD-40, some simply loosen up the ball joint area, and others use grease. What’s the best option?

    • Yo Rusty,

      Here’s the deal: we’ve recommended WD-40 in the past because it’s readily available in every hotel’s janitorial closet, and it gets the job done without doing damage to the monopod. We use it on our monopods, and they’ve been going strong for four years. WD-40 or any other kind of simple lubricant is going to do the job and loosen the dirt!

    • WD-40 may work, but for a slightly different reason. It is NOT a lubricant, it is a lubricant solvent. Imagine there is still some grease left (all in wrong places) on a part that has gone stiff. Applying a bit of WD-40 to it will solve the grease and will make it flow into tight spots. Apply too much WD-40 and you will remove all the grease from the stiff part.

      Too much grease will attract dust and dirt which will impede smooth working of the joint. Use grease sparingly, and push it into places using WD-40. SPARINGLY!

      To remove dust and dirt, use lots of WD-40 followed by a compressed air blow. Then lubricate the part as in the paragraph above.

  8. Have you ever had to get one fixed? Manfrotto isn’t returning calls or support. Mine fell over with the DSLR 7D on it and the neck/head snapped off. Hoping to get it fixed instead of replaced. Bought at BHPhoto 3 months earlier.

    Thanks

    • We’ve sent in some before and had the legs replaced. The head is often easier just to purchase a new one and pop it onto the monopod

      P.

  9. just a reaction to 1:58 of the video. throughout the video there is no soundtrack – which I think helps us watch closely how smooth the monopod footage gets. Then at 1:58 – the music fades in and I thought it was another open tab with some autoplay ad!

  10. I’ve been watching your videos and reading your blog for a while now. Instead of getting the Manfrotto monopod, I opted to get different design called a “Mogopod”. It has the advantage of being able to be extended and contracted faster than any other monopod that I’ve seen. It can also take any standard fluid or ball head with a 1/4-20 thread, and has an additional 1/4-20 thread on the bottom.

    Now, I’m wondering if I could take the feet from the Benro, since you can buy them separately, and attach it to the bottom of the mogopod. Might be worth a look.

    • Hey Brian,

      Which version of the Mogopod did you get, was it version 2 or 3? Does your Mogopod have any sort of play when it’s extended? My wiggles left and right even if I just extended it a little bit from collapsed position.

      After couple back and forth with the support team they said all of them were designed / made that way, just wondering if it’s the same way in your case since there’s hardly anything regarding this monopod out there on the net.

      Looking forward to your response!

    • @Joe C, I have the Mogopod 3 and yes, I have play in mine as well, although I just noticed it now after 3 months or so of ownership so I’m wondering if it developed recently. It feels like there’s something coming loose in there and if I could just get inside and tighten it down, it’d be solid once again. But the Mogopod itself is really fantastic.

  11. I need a monopod that could be used also as a sturdy walking stick, and as an occasional weapon against stray dogs. Extreme lightweight is secondary. Seriously. Any recommendation?

    • The challenge with that one is no head or legs for the pan/tilt/dolly action you can get with the Manfrotto. To be fair, we are focusing on cinematic moves over defense against stray animals, so for your use the Dynex certainly may be the better bet.

      P.

    • Patrick:
      Being the man of my word, I bought the monopod I recommended. That taught me a lesson. The monopod delivered was made of five telescopic parts (not three as per the ad pic), and so is flimsy, wobbly an overall unsuitable as a weapon. I plan to keep it though: when disassembled, parts alone are worth more than $23. They can be useful when rigging a non-standard support for a camera or some lights.

      Now, the idea of a monopod that can be used as a walking stick is still a good one, IMHO. Imagine trekking the Rockies, with a backpack full of gear, food, basic survival equipment, etc.. Would you like to add a tripod to it? I would not. A stiff monopod / walking stick is another matter. When jammed against a tree or a rock, it could be stable enough to allow wildlife shots with longer lenses, in addition of being of trekking help.
      Just my $23 worth.
      Vlad

  12. I have a Manfrotto Monopod – without the feet – and am currently using it to shoot stills “In The First Person”. I am learning about the philosophy of “Objective Photography”.

    I am shooting stills (and eventual video) for a learning brochure/video; and the Learning Designer said to make the pictures look natural (from the viewer’s point of view). This means that I have to sit behind the camera, reach around it to demonstrate the construction technique.

    I built a simple clamp around the foam part of the monopod and clamped that to the edge of the table. I set up the backdrop, turned on the lights, colour balanced the lens and plugged in the 7″ Marshall and VIOLA!

    The angle of view has to be from the head-height of a 5’10″ person sitting at the table and working on the project. I am shooting with my 7D and a 24mm lens. It doesn’t look that bad, and there’s always POST.

    The point to all this is the monopod is doing what my tripod couldn’t do…in the same way. I am able to sit close to the camera, focus and reach around it to do the work.

    Just another use for my monopod.

    Regards,

    Rachael

  13. My two cents on this monopod. Buy the head and monopod separately.

    Instead of the manfrotto 561, buy the 562 and 701 head.

    The 561 monopod ships with a ’561 head’. This is essentially a 701HDV head with the pan lock removed (pan lock not needed on the monopod as the base does the panning). This makes the head useless without the monopod. If you buy them separately, you can use the head for other stuff (slider etc..).

    You pay a little more to buy them separately, but the money I retrieved by selling the quick release that comes with the 562 monopod made my money back.

    Some may argue “why would I want to use my head on anything else but my monopod”, and this maybe true for some, but I’ll throw in another point; it’s great if you want to upgrade.

    Manfrotto have just released the 500 head, which replaces the 701, and it’s a huge improvement (better fluidity and side snap plate). By purchasing the 562 monopod and 701 separately I was able to just sell the 701 head and replace it with the 500. I wouldn’t have been able to do this with the 561, (as previously mentioned) the head is useless without the monopod.

    And just incase if anyone’s wondering. The new new Fluid Monopod with 500 head suffers from the same problem as the 561, the head is useless without the monopod.

    So buy the 562 and 500 head!

    • At roughly $300, i love the simplicity of the kit – and it works exceptionally well. I would agree with your points – a great alternative – though i feel we get more than 100x the value back from these in time, crew, and shots

      P.

    • Hi Patrick,

      Sorry, the above mentioned kit isn’t an alternative, it’s exactly the same setup as the 561 :) Except by buying the head and monopod separately, you gain the independent pan lock on the head. Meaning you can use the head for alternative uses/sell the head on it’s own when you want to upgrade without having to buy the whole monopod setup again.

  14. Hi All. I saw a video where you put the monopod upside down (outside a trailer window) to get a low angle of the bus moving. When you go upside down do you reverse the image in post? Or is it best to mount the camera right side up? Thanks Rose

  15. Any ideas on why using WD40 is not recommended? I’ve taken the monopod stick out of the ball socket before, the construction really is simple, there is a little dimple in the middle of the ball, that’s how it stays at the sticking point, other than that the metal ball just sits in the plastic socket.

    Perhaps it’s not recommended because Spraying with WD40 will attract the dust and debris to the ball joint? Can someone else enlighten us?

    • WD-40 will remove any grease from the ball joint. Althouth it leaves a film, it is also a solvent. I know this because I use it when cleaning the bearings on my bike. I also use it as cutting lubricant when drilling aluminium. WE-40 WILL NOT grease or make the joints or bearings last very long. It is petroleum based and therefore a solvent.

      Grease is needed (if put there by the mfg) to not only lubricate, but to hold any dirt or grit that may enter the bearing or joint.

      Regards,

      Rachael

  16. Great stuff! I love this monopod and wasn’t even aware of the option to tighten that sticking point! I’ve just gotten lucky and had it balance right a few times. So I can’t wait to get out and use that “new feature” thats been there all along!

  17. I have the same monopod and I use it all the time too. It’s so versatile tool. Quite often I also try to think new ways how to use it in shoots.

    • I have clamped it to a table edge. extend it and shoot straight down. I have also held it out, extended, and held the camera over a ledge to get the shot down the cliff. I too have held it down a hole to get a shot of the bottom of the well…auto focus and with a wireless remote and an LED light.

      Regards,

      Rachael

  18. Great tutorial – even after using a monopod for years it’s so handy to learn how others work it too! I never consciously realized keeping the monopod closer to your body is what helps keep the shots stable – and now I can implement that all the time!

    Thanks again for taking the time to do this, you guys are all-stars.

  19. Bought this monopod a year back on your recommendation and I must say its my most trusted piece of kit for every shoot.

  20. After seeing how you used the monopod at your seminar last year, I ordered one the next day. As you mentioned, this is now my “go-to” tool and I love it. Light. Easy to manipulate. Steady. Versatile. Thanks for the great tip!

  21. I know a lot of people notice the monopod’s ball joint gets a bit stiffer over time. It’s been said eslewhere, but WD-40 will fix that right up.

    Anyone have any tips for keeping the leg locks tight? Mine have started slipping…

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