“The difference between great photographers and a not so great photographers is that the great ones don’t show their crappy pictures.” – Bill Boem
- Learn how to use your camera. Read The Friendly Manual. Then read it again with the camera in your hand, trying stuff. Some tech writer poured a year of their life into that manual. Don’t settle for automatic modes. Someone as good-looking and intelligent as you is surely smarter than the camera’s software.
- Now that you’ve read the manual, set the camera’s date and time.
- If there’s more than one camera in the crowd, and you’re going to pool pictures, synchronize the date and time. More fun to sort pictures and easier to make movies if you hit the jackpot on an outing. If you neglect to synchronize, here’s an easy-to-use tool to correct the times.
- No need to put the picture date in the picture (like you did for your film pictures) – it’s in the EXIF data stored with the image – along with a lot of other interesting data.
- Vary the camera’s point of view. The eye level shot has it’s place, but there are more possibilities. Get on your belly. Get on a chair or ladder. Use silhouettes. Get the camera underwater.
- Learn the rule of thirds. Try it. Learn some other compositional techniques. Try something you haven’t heard of. It’s digital – try it and if it doesn’t work out – you have a delete key, right?
- Take lots of shots. Let’s define “lots of shots” – hundreds (it’s digital now). Vet them harshly. Show only the best 10% or so. If you get better ratios than that, I want to learn from you.
- Learn how to do simple photo editing. Crop. Rotate. Change the lighting. Go crazy. Think you can’t afford a photo editor? Picasa 3 does a lot of stuff for free. GIMP is also free and offers a Photoshop level of ability for your more sophisticated editing needs.
- Ever wonder why you can’t get that dark area without washing out the light areas (like in a slot canyon)? Or vice versa? It’s not (all) you – it’s your camera. It has a much more limited dynamic range than your eyes. Read about it. Now that you know about dynamic range…
- Your camera does histograms. What are those for?
- The Exposure Triangle.
- Using EV Compensation.
- Panoramas are fun. Learn how to shoot for panoramas and stitch the pictures together.
Stuff I do all the time:
- Outdoors, the camera is carried in Landscape mode with the focus set to infinity. Infinity to my camera is anything over 10 feet away. I’ve been burned too many times by auto focus. Landscape mode ensures maximum depth of field.
- Playing with depth of field can be fun. Having a near object in focus and the background out of focus can make for dramatic shots. Try macro mode.
- I know where to find the EV compensation quickly. A stop or two down in exposure often makes shots more dramatic. It’s also possible to go overboard with this.
- A quick trick to use instead of EV compensation – if a scene is too bright, point the camera up towards the sky and press the shutter button halfway down. The camera has now metered the extra light and adjusted. Then frame the picture you want and press the button the rest of the way. This works the other way too – to lighten a picture, focus on a darker area. This could get tricky if you’re using auto focus.
- In technical terrain, I have the camera tethered to me.
- In low light (canyons, caves, dawn or dusk) rest a corner of the camera against something solid – like a rock – and press the shutter button gently. If you have people in the shot, they need to hold still.
- Last trip we learned how important it is to keep the lens clean – easy to overlook amongst the sunblock, bug repellent, sweat, etc. Also when you take your camera out from underwater, it’s important to get water drops off the lens – unless you like the dreamy look they give to photos.
- First thing when I download pictures is to burn them unchanged onto
an optical disk (CD or DVD)a thumb drive. Then I always have the originals. I worked on hard drives for 20 years and I basically expect them to crash at any moment.
- After I have the originals preserved, I fix the time stamps (if necessary) and rename all the files with this free-and-easy-to-use utility. In addition to quicker sorts (by NAME is much faster than by DATE), you can add a descriptive name to the picture file name.
Hope this little epistle helps. At the end of the day, the main thing is to have fun and make memories.
It turns out that I don’t actually know everything. Here are some good links:
- DPS: Digital Photography Tips for Beginners
- DPS: 21 Settings, Techniques and Rules All New Camera Owners Should Know