Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Practical tips and basic dos and don’ts of camera gear

I meet a lot of photographers and often the same questions come up so I decided to write this little guide of practical wisdom gleaned over many years as a photographer.

Always make sure your camera is set to standard settings at the start of a shoot. I call this zeroing my camera. For me that means IS0 100; AWB; single shot; centre autofocus point; F4; Aperture Priority; matrix metering; RAW etc. When I arrive for a shoot my camera is always set up in the same way, and batteries are fully charged and memory cards formatted. From the standard setting I then set the camera up to suit the particular requirements of the photo shoot.

Lenses

  • Always keep a UV or skylight filter on your lens. Replacing a scratched filter is a lot cheaper than replacing a lens
  • Leave the lens cap off when you’re at a shoot. Putting it on and taking it off will just slow you down, causing you to miss shot
  • Use a lens hood. Lens flare seriously reduces image quality. Only take the hood off when storing the camera between shoots – not during a shoot. The less fiddling you have to do with equipment the better
  • If your lens gets wet in the rain, dry it off at the earliest opportunity.
  • Keep the lens clean but don’t be obsessive. A tiny spec of dust on the lens will not show on your picture
  • Bonus tip. Do everything humanly possible to keep your lens steady when photographing. Camera shake is the biggest cause of unsharp images
  • Make sure you understand your lens’ anti-vibration and focus options. Read the manual to get the best out of your lens

Camera body

  • Keep you camera clean, but don’t be obsessive and if it gets a little scratch, the worst consequence is a few dollars off your resale value. Cameras are tools to be used and most of them can take the odd knock
  • Keep your viewfinder clean. You can’t judge sharpness and composition looking through a blurry viewfinder
  • Cleaning your camera sensor is very easy, although a bit fiddly. It just takes a methodical approach and a bit of daring. There’s plenty of step by step advice online on how to do it. It’s actually quite hard to damage a sensor. You’ll probably never get your sensor 100 % pristine but it’s not the end of the world to have to retouch one or two dustbunnies. (Disclaimer: you clean your sensor at your own risk)

Camera bags

  • Generally these are incredibly overpriced in my opinion. I bought a padded sport bag aimed at fisherman for £9 the other day. The equivalent photo bag would have cost over £100
  • I don’t have camera bag padding inside the bag because quick access and keeping everything to as small a total volume as possible is more important to me than keeping everything in it’s own little padded cell.
  • The perfect camera bag does not exist. I’ve tried loads. Each one is a compromise between speed of use, comfort and protection. For me speed of use is the most important which is why I ditched my backpack
  • Always take the minimum gear you need for a photoshoot. Lugging everything around including the kitchen sink will tire you out, give you back and neck pain and cause you to miss photo opportunities. And if you do forget something like a filter, never mind – just get more creative and work around it. Necessity is often the source of creativity

Tripods

  • There are no light good tripods. There’s a minimum weight required to hold a heavy camera perfectly steady, especially if you’re outdoors and there’s a bit of wind
  • Make sure your tripod head can do the full range of adjustments and a built in spirit level is very useful
Tips for avoiding dust on your sensor when changing lenses on your DSLR
  • Always switch the camera off before you change your lens. When your camera is on the sensor is electrically charged and dust will get sucked onto the charged sensor – so keep the camera switched off when the lens in un-mounted
  • Hold the camera body facing downwards. Gravity will help keep dust off your sensor
  • Try to change lenses out of the wind or where there is minimal air disturbance if possible. Use your body to shelter your camera
  • Make the lens change as quickly and gently as possible. Don’t bang or grind the lens lock mechanism
  • Once your lens is changed switch on your camera and keep it switched on. It really does not save much battery life to keep switching your camera on and off and I’ve seen too many shots missed by photographers who forget to switch their cameras on before raising them to their eye to frame the perfect but elusive moment

Looking after your memory cards

  • Always format your cards in camera before you begin a shoot
  • Switch the camera off when putting a card in or taking one out
  • Avoid deleting images in camera
  • Try to earth yourself by touching a piece of metal before you touch your memory card

Well that’s all for now. I’m sure there are a million other things I could have mentioned. Maybe more next time.

Till then…

Paul Indigo

www.indigo2photography.co.uk

Post a Comment