*** I now have a video on my YouTube Channel showing you How / Why and Where***
Pole Photography 101 or How to build a better Pole Video Tutorial
So you might think this shot is a nice exterior but what you may not know, this was shot from 18 ft. up on a painters pole using what we refer to in the Real Estate Photography industry as a “PoleCam” shot…
As the front yard of this home was slopping down the only way to get the composition I wanted was to get the camera up really high, but even though my tripod of choice is a Manfrotto 3046 and goes up about 7 ft. I still needed to go up higher and this is how I got this extra height.
Over the past year so many photographers have asked me about how I built and what I used and how I ended up with the pole I did so I am finally doing this Blog Post for anyone that ever wanted to get into pole photography but didn’t know how.
I started out by surfing the web for the various components I would need to accommodate a height of over 15′ and found several options such as a Manfrotto 269HDB-3U Super High Camera Stand which would get my camera up 24’…
Now this sounds like a really great option until you check out the $650 price tag plus I have received first hand feedback that in practice this is not really the best option and it’s as expensive as Hell.
Then there was always the low budget option ( which I personally liked ) and started researching Painters Poles.. So I went to where every self respecting DIY photographer goes to, Home Depot and went directly to the paint Department and started looking at what they had.. I found many quality poles ranging in size such as 4′ 4-8′ and then there was the 8-16′ pole that I knew would be just right… easy to fit in my Ford Fusion and still close the door and even have room for 4 in the car… but then I started really checking out the different poles, extending, descending, how do they lock, are they stable and most important, would I feel safe with placing my $2,500 Nikon D700 and $2,000 25-70mm and $300 CamRanger up over 16’…
Now this is where my review will really come in handy as I took at least 6 trips to various stores looking at everything I could find and in the end I came to the conclusion that the Wooster 8ft. – 16ft. Sherlock Extention Pole at $36.97 was the perfect pole. And the main 2 reasons I decided on this pole was due to the following…
If you notice this pole is not round like the majority of poles I found, but rather it is 6 sided and when compared to all the round poles was far far more ridged and stable.. I knew this first hand as I extended every pole I could and shook them back and forth. The other feature I really liked was this pole had a unique button extension & locking system unlike all the others that had a screw lock, and at first examination I felt would be a better, easier and more secure design and in fact after well over 200 shots with this system I am confident I made the best decision as it’s always super easy to extend and takes no effort to lock or unlock.
So now I had what I felt was the best pole solution but I needed a way to attach my camera safely to the end of this pole.. Again I started surfing the web and found all kinds of solutions which led me to the company Pole Pixie that specializes in this type of photography.. and I am confident was started by some guy like me just trying to build a better mouse trap. After checking out their site and looking at the price of their products I felt confident I could build something that would do the trick for a fraction of the cost.
So I went back to Home Depot to the PVC department and took along a short version of my pole to I could try out the fit of the PVC once I slid it on the pole.. I was amazed how perfectly the 1 1/4″ PVC fit , super snug with no worries of it falling off, cracking or breaking allowing my camera to fall.. I also found a PVC threaded conduit that would allow me to screw on a metal end cap that I could fit with a 1/4″ bolt so as to eventually screw on some kind of head that would allow me to attach to attach my camera. Notice I spray painted the PVC to look a little more like metal but I am fine with my choice to go with a semi flexible / non rigid material other than metal but again the end cap is metal which I feel is very important to the overall strength of this product.
And now on to one of the key components that after months of day to day use I have found to be the perfect solution to attaching my camera to a 16′ pole.. A ball head that came with my MeFoto BackPacker tripod complete with Arca Swiss compatible clamp… If you go back in my blog HERE you can find a post I did just about this tripod but have found this small ball head far more useful with my pole than as a silly little tripod head.. Only $139 for the whole tripod complete with this head so it was a great deal but you can use just about any head or camera clamp..
And here is where I need to throw in yet another pitch for the CamRanger Wireless Camera Control which completes the PoleCam as a realistic and practical tool for your kit. Honestly without this device I can’t really see using a camera on a pole. It allows you to get Liveview so you can compose your shots and it also allows you to not only adjust all your camera settings and trigger your camera remotely but also review your images without needing to raise and lower your pole several times to get the shot.. And with the purchase of the CamRanger you really need to get the Lifeproof ipad case so you can have hands free use while adjusting your investment on top of a 16 ft. “Stick”
And last but not least you need one item to complete this package, you need a good light step stool so you can reach the the lever and raise / lower your pole.. I went with a $19 stool from Costco but you can use most anything you want..
And if you someday find you need even more height you can do what I did. For one important cover shot for Luxury Home Magazine I needed to get up even higher than 16′ and worked on a DIY solution which actually got my camera up to about 26′ by putting the pole inside an 8′ PVC tube and raising it up within this tube… I am certainly not recommending anyone try this but you can get an idea of what can be done when the necessity comes up.
So take it from me, I don’t think there is any one single investment under $50 that will get you as much “Bang for your Buck” as a camera on a pole.. as it will really set your images apart from the competition. I have found it to be reliable, easy & quick to set up and so far very safe for what it is… and you can even do Twilight Shots like this if there is no wind, just position your car, place your pole against your side view mirror and attach a bungee cord to secure.. my camera was up there for about an hour while I got many exposures to blend.
I now use my Polecam on almost every shoot I do.. and my clients love and request elevated shots most every time.. Be sure to be safe and always lower your pole with camera slowly and carefully…
If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them here or better yet, you can send me an e mail at firstname.lastname@example.org