Mounting a camera overhead can be a difficult task if it’s not something you need to do regularly. Many of those that do need it regularly have permanent camera installations so they’re always ready at a moment’s notice. For those who prefer to take the DIY approach, we’ve covered quite a few options before. Sometimes, though, you don’t want a permanent fixed rig.
What do you do for those random occasions where you just decide you want an overhead shot, and need to setup in a hurry? Well, this video from the folks over at Wistia offers three different ways to help you get the overhead shot with minimal extra kit.
Method number one is the much hated “stick the camera on a tripod and point it straight down” technique. It’s not that this technique can’t work, it’s just not very reliable. The legs can easily appear in the shot. They can also can get in the way of you actually being able to perform whatever you need to do for the camera.
In short, it’s the reason why dedicated overhead rigs were created in the first place. But, in an emergency, it can still be a viable option. You just have to be very careful about how you do it.
The second option uses a light stand and a monopod in combination with each other. This is a method I’ve used myself a couple of times. It also isn’t ideal for every situation, but it offers distinct advantages over just using a tripod.
Going with this route means you need a pretty sturdy light stand. In the video they suggest C-Stands and you’ll want to weigh down the legs with sandbags, as it will be quite top heavy. The main weight is also well out from the centre of the pole, so prone to tipping without them.
Basically, you attach a grip head & boom pole holder to your light stand, put your camera on a monopod, and then combine the two. This gives you a boomed camera over the top of your scene that can point straight down. You also have more room to move freely under the camera without worrying about knocking into tripod legs.
The third solution is one I hadn’t even considered before, but could actually make life a whole lot easier, especially for operating the camera. Here we use a mirror, and simply record the image reflected in it.
Working this way means you can have your camera set up at a more realistic position. You won’t have to use external screens to monitor framing and composition. It’s also a lot easier to get to your camera’s controls, as they’re all at normal tripod height. You’ll also need to flip your image horizontally, and possibly vertically depending on the orientation from which you shoot.
Of course, most photographers don’t carry mirrors around in their gear bags, so this is something you’ll need to plan ahead for, but it’s an excellent option for setting up a temporary overhead rig.
Do you find yourself using overhead rigs away from your regular shooting space? What do you use as a portable or temporary overhead camera rig? Or do you just shoot overhead in one location with a fixed rig? Let us know in the comments.