Here, you will find articles about photographic and photo imaging techniques, tips for getting better images, and honest opinions, in red, that you are free to ignore. This will be a living document in that it will constant grow as I add more to it.
- General Tips
1) Always carry a camera with you!
The best camera is the one you have with you. I’ve shot plenty with my cell phone, many of which you’ve probably seen but didn’t realize I hadn’t used my fancy DSLR. Even a $5000 camera is worthless if you’ve left it at home or you can’t get a lens on it in time to catch the shot.
2) Understand the limitations of your gear as well as its advantages.
Your $500 cropped sensor or point and shoot camera may not work well for concert photography but that doesn’t mean it won’t be perfect for macro or landscape work. Some of the gear we are using today is far better than most of the professional gear that the masters used decades ago.
3a) Learn the basic rules of photography.
They will help you make great photos quickly. The rule of thirds is one of the best and easiest to employ and get immediate results.
3b) Learn to break the rules creatively.
Once you learn how the basic rules can help you, start trying to break them creatively.
4) Think about different perspectives and points of view.
Stop being a pedestrian and start getting into your images. Bend your knees and climb on things. Shooting children or pets? Shoot from their level. Or climb a step stool or a ladder. Just a little change in point of view will make your images stand out and not look like everybody else’s.
5) Start shooting in RAW…yesterday.
Unleash the full power of your digital camera. Most cameras capture in 16-bit. Why throw that information away when you can take advantage of it? When you do you will immediately wish you could go back and reshoot everything you ever shot in RAW.
6) Get good editing software.
Good software is cheaper than ever and there are plenty of choices. The camera is only half of the image. Learn how to use the other half. Where Photoshop used to be expensive, it is now affordable and there are so many useful tools in it as well as those made for it. It and LightRoom are tool boxes. Learn how to use at leas the basic software tools. Youtube is a great resource for learning.
7) Crop in-camera if you can.
Don’t be lazy and depend on cropping in software to get you up close. Move your body or use a longer focal length to fill the frame. Just like using all of the dynamic range the camera has to offer, use all of the pixels.
8) Process consistently.
Try to do your processing in the same ambient lighting conditions. It will help tremendously with getting consistent results.
9) Calibrate your screen.
Most computer screens are too bright and too blue (to make them look appealing in the store) plus you are trying to edit a transmitted image (display) to eventually become a reflective image (print). A good calibration will ensure that you are getting an accurate rendition of your work. And if you don’t calibrate your screen, calibrate your eyes. Using a file from which a print came out the way you like, bring up that image occasionally to make sure your ambient light is giving you the correct visual perception.
10) Share your work.
Don’t let your images go to waste but share them with others. It helps spread enthusiasm, encourages others to shoot and share, generates conversation, and you will probably end up learning something in the process. And who knows? You may even inspire someone else to pick up a camera.
11) Print your work.
Images certainly look good on a bright monitor but there is nothing as satisfying as seeing your images on paper. Make sure your monitor is calibrated so you can get accurate rendition. And if you don’t have a local pro shop to support, stick with whatever you find that you like so you can get consistency in your prints.
- Hardware-Specific Tips
1) Use a lens hood on every lens. They are sometimes an option but almost always a worthwhile one. They reduce flare from light sources outside of your angle of view and the greatly reduce the chance of your front element getting damaged from impact. There may be times when you need to remove the hood but 99% of the time it will save your lens and your images.
2) Use lens filters when you need the specific effect. Do not use a clear filter to protect your lens. (See #1 above) Why spend big money for the best glass, only to put a $25 piece of glass in front of it?
3) Get yourself an inexpensive set of extension tubes. Check out my article on using them.
4) Stop turning your camera off.
Your camera is designed to turn itself off after periods of inactivity and even so, it will use very little power in standby. I turn mine on when I mount the lens and I turn it back off when I put it back in the bag.
5a) Use your focus limiter switch for faster autofocus operation.
When the focusing ring of your lens only has to travel a short distance, it greatly reduces the amount of time spent searching for a focus lock. Don’t miss shots because your AF is somewhere else.
5b) Turn off your image stabilization for high shutter speeds for faster autofocus operation.
This may not be useful for supertelephoto lenses.
6) Use Live View for precise focusing of dark scenes.
When the scene is too dark for effective autofocus operation, turn on your live view and manually focus. It is so much easier.
7) Tripods are a pain to lug around but they do their job and do it well when needed. Consider a monopod as an easier alternative in many cases. And compact, lightweight tripods are convenient but many are hardly better than hand holding. A good, sturdy, aluminum one can be inexpensive and do the job very well.
8) A good strap can often be more comfortable than the factory-supplied one hung around your neck. I’m currently using single and dual shoulder straps from Black Rapid which attach to the camera or lens tripod sockets for a much more balanced carry.
Interested in getting better pictures? Consider one of my private or semi-private clinics.