10 pro photography tips that only come with experience (sourced by Henrique Fino)
While it’s relatively easy to wrap your head around the controls of a DSLR and get to grips with the fundamentals of digital photography, there are some skills and techniques that only come with experience. It can take years for working photographers to build up their bag of tricks, and understandably not all of pros want to share the contents with you.
However, we have collected a set of ten tips that can help you take your photography to the next level. Or help you stop making the odd mistake…
Photography tips from the pros: 1 Use full stops for ISO
Typically you increase the ISO in order to enable a faster shutter speed for sharper pictures or to use a smaller aperture for a given shutter speed – or a combination of both.
DLSRs offer fine control over the aperture and shutter speed in 1/3 or 1/2 stops. Many cameras also enable the ISO to be fine-tuned in the same increments too, but this isn’t always necessary.
When it comes to adjusting the ISO and gaining the shutter speed or aperture benefit you’ll invariably want to do it quickly. Having to do it in smaller increments can slow the process down.
Beginner digital cameras typically allow the ISO to be adjusted in full stops by default, while more advanced cameras let you enable this function via a custom function. When you need to work quickly, it can be useful to activate this option – when you change the ISO, you’ll know that each click of the wheel works out as a full stop of adjustment.
Photography tips from the pros: 2 Shoot with three in mind
Three really is the magic number as far as photography is concerned. When composing shots, three elements (and odd numbers in general) lens themselves to balanced pictures. You’ll often find that 3 people in a group shot or three colours in a still life produce more interesting images than those using two or four.
Shooting three frames using a camera’s continuous drive mode is often better than shooting a single frame. Not only does firing the camera in short bursts boost your chances of catching the peak moment, it also gives you a fighting chance of getting at least one sharp image when shooting handheld.
The reason for this is that the action of pressing and releasing the shutter release can jerk the camera and lead to a soft picture, so the middle picture(s) in a sequence may prove sharper.
Finally, think in terms of three shots when you’re bracketing compositions. Shooting a wide shot, a medium shot and a close-up is a classic way to make sure you’ve covered all the angles, and is a particularly good routine when you’re shooting video – it gives you more options when it comes to editing clips.
Photography tips from the pros: 3 Keep filters close
Filters are one of those accessories that you’ll only need to buy once or twice, so it’s worth not underspending in this area.
Using a slot-in filter system such as the ones offered by LEE Filters and Cokin can be more flexible than a circular filter system.
A square, slot-in system can be much more convenient than a screw-on filter when it comes to positioning the transition in an Neutral Density (ND) grad, for instance, and you can easily adapt the system to your lenses using adapter rings.
You can of course use step-up or step-down filters to adapt a circular filter for lenses with different diameters, but it doesn’t solve the problem of fine-tuning an ND grad.
There are a couple of key things to watch out for when using square filter systems though.
The first is to make sure that you always start sliding the filters in the slot closest to the front of the lens. If you don’t, then you may end up with internal reflections on the back of the filter which will be recorded in the picture.
It’s vital to do this with strong ND filters. These usually have a foam gasket around their edges that forms a light-tight seal with the filter holder to prevent light leakage. Always use these filters in the slot closest to the lens, even if you’re using multiple filters.
The second is to watch out for the edge of the filter holder being visible when using ultra wide-angle lenses. Special wide-angle adapter rings can help, although a DIY photography hack where you trim off the outermost filter slots may be in order.
Photography tips from the pros: 4 Remove protective filters at night
When you’re out shooting at night, it’s worth removing any UV or Skylight filters you have in place to protect the front element of the lens.
If you don’t, you may end up with ghostly halos and flare from light sources in the picture. As you’d expect, these problems are much worse when you’re shooting in a city lit up at night, but you can experience these problems with the moon as well.
Instead, fit a lens hood to protect the front element – this will also reduce the chances of flare caused by stray light that would otherwise strike the front element.
Photography tips from the pros: 5 Block the viewfinder
When you’re shooting long exposures with a strong ND filter, or you’re using the self-timer or firing the camera remotely, then it’s worth blocking the viewfinder.
If you don’t, then there’s a good chance that stray light will enter the viewfinder and affect the exposure. In the worst examples – typically when you’re using a 10-stop ND filter – you can end up with a ghostly glow in the middle of the image. This can happen even when you’re shooting with Live View rather than the viewfinder.
High-end cameras have a built-in eyepiece blind, but most DSLRs have a viewfinder cover that can be attached to the camera strap and swapped with the viewfinder eye cup when required.
Holding your hand close to the viewfinder or draping a cleaning cloth over the top of the camera works just as well though.
Photography tips from the pros: 6 Get a more accurate histogram
Even if you select RAW as the image-recording quality on the camera, the preview image, histogram and overexposure alert you see on the rear display are based on a JPEG version of the image.
RAW files also have a wider dynamic range than JPEGs: they hold more picture information that can be squeezed out of the shadows and highlights when you process them.
As the histogram and highlight alert you see is not a genuine reflection of a RAW file’s exposure, you could end up underexposing an image and then brightening it up later, whereas you could probably push things further in-camera.
For a more accurate reflection of what’s actually being captured, switch the Picture Style to one of the low-contrast options instead. A Neutral or Flat setting provides a more faithful representation of the dynamic range being captured.
Photography tips from the pros: 7 Shoot wider than normal
If you’re planning on applying lens corrections when you process your photos, then it’s worth framing shots a little wider than feels natural when you shoot them.
This is because the image manipulation that’s carried out when you use automatic lens and perspective corrections in Photoshop and other image editing software can mean that the subject of your photo gets cropped or starts to look cramped in the frame.
This is especially true if you’re using a wide-angle lens, where the stretching and squeezing that occurs when correcting converging verticals and other distortions can be more extreme than a standard or telephoto lens, leaving the image with a less-than-wide-angle result.
Photography tips from the pros: 8 Vignettes can be good
Applying lens corrections, removing chromatic aberration and reducing vignetting have become a core part of image processing. But while the first two might be considered essential to improve the technical quality of photos, lens vignetting can be a matter of taste.
There are some instances where corner shading maybe beneficial. It can help to lock interest in the middle of the frame, which can suit portraits or still life photos.However, it’s usually better to remove ‘imperfect’ lens vignetting that’s typical of using fast lenses at wide apertures, and then apply a corner shading effect if the image warrants it.
The reason for this is that otherwise any cropping you carry out on the image may lead to an irregular amount of corner shading. If you apply post crop vignetting in Adobe Camera Raw or similar software, then the vignette effect will be evenly applied, no matter how you crop an image.
Photography tips from the pros: 9 Use AI Servo AF when zooming
The majority of zoom lenses manufactured today don’t hold focus when they’re zoomed. This means that if you zoom in to focus on a detail, then zoom out to a wider setting to take the shot, then the detail you want to appear sharp may now be blurred!
A useful trick here is to switch to your camera’s AI Servo or Continuous AF mode. This means that the camera will adjust the focus as the lens is zoomed in order to keep the subject sharp.Cameras such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark III enable you to customise the controls so that the depth of field (DOF) preview button enables quick switching from One Shot AF to AI Servo AF.
The alternative is to switch to manual focus and touch up the focus once you’ve zoomed. Live View’s magnification function can make this easy, although it’s not always practical to use this technique – particularly if you’re shooting handheld.
Photography tips from the pros: 10 Try switching off contrast enhancers
Automatic contrast enhancement functions such as Canon’s Auto Lighting Optimizer (ALO) or Nikon’s Active D-Lighting are excellent at revealing detail that would otherwise be hidden in dark areas.
They’re particularly good on bright sunny days, when the contrast level would normally be too great to record detail in both the highlights and the shadows. But there are times when you should switch them off.
For instance, you may choose to apply negative exposure compensation in order to create a darker image, but with ALO or D-Lighting active, the resulting photo may still be too bright.
In situations like this it is a good idea to deactivate this function in the camera menu. The same is also true in other situations where you need full control over the brightness of a picture, such as when you’re using Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) or shooting the source pictures for an HDR image.
Extracted from “Digital Camera World” website for information purposes and distributed to members of Conwy Camera Club only.