The Truth About Camera Beanbags

Next to the tripod, one of the greatest aids for steadying your images has neither legs nor a panhead. It is, in fact, little more than a glorified beanbag.

Sold under brand names like "Steadybag" and "Cinesaddle," these beanbags on steroids are just the ticket for making low angle shots, allowing a camera to be bungeed atop a vehicle, and generally providing instant support in places where a tripod can not go.

Filled with tiny polystyrene beads, the canvas and nylon bags easily conform to uneven surfaces and provide full contact between the underside of any camera and the ground, a fence rail or practically any other object. Equipped with a shoulder strap and weighing only a few pounds, these easy-to-carry bags full of beads are also perfect for those handheld assignments when there's no way you're going to lug a tripod but are willing to add a little bulk to your load.

If you're on a tight budget or just want to experiment, it's relatively easy to make your own camera beanbag. There's probably no reason why you couldn't use dried beans from your local supermarket, but polystyrene beads are cheap and can be bought in bulk online. You'll need a bag, which can be anything from an old woolen sock to a castoff carry-all or even the custom-tailored container you turn out with your own sewing machine. As long as it can be filled with beads and tightly sealed, you're all set.