I know NOTHING about tripods… other than i need a better one.
I know you have to buy the tripod and the head. i really want something better for my food photography, especially for shooting directly overhead.
Manfrotto is great and is what I use (I have 2). You also have more expensive brands like Induro (slightly more expensive) and Gitzo (way more expensive). But I find Manfrotto is a good mix of quality and affordability.
For food photography, you should look at something where the center column can quickly be moved horizontally. Like the 055XPROB model (I have the carbon version). So you can put the center column horizontal, snap in the camera and you can have great overhead shots. Legs only are $140.
If you plan on doing landscapes and being mobile, then you have to think portability and carbon fiber vs aluminium. Carbon is more expensive but lighter. But if you are only doing studio / at home work, aluminium is fine. The carbon version of the link above will run ya $350.
The more sections the tripod has, the less stable it will be. But on the flip side, the smaller it will collapse to and the more portable it is. There are always trade offs. Look at the max weight that the tripod can hold and see if your heaviest lens and camera body fit the bill. How to find the weight of each? I usually just go to the B&H Photo website and look at the product descriptions. Weight is usually listed at the bottom.
For the head, unless you are doing video, I like ball heads (ok, that sounds totally dirty). Gives you some great angles and freedom to shoot how ya want.
I find a tripod is an investment. A good quality tripod and head can last you a looooong time, so it is worth it putting the money down.
Have a question? Feel free to contact me 🙂