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Tips

  1. High contrast scenes—meter on the bright area off a gray card or the palm of your hand and then add 1 stop. Bracket (use the auto aperture plus one above and one below) your shots to get the best one or later combine them in Photoshop.
  2. Carry extra batteries, memory card and a microfiber cloth to clean your lenses and keep them in a plastic (zip-loc) bag so they doesn’t get dirty. If you go from the cold into a warm moist area put the camera in a plastic bag for 5 or so minutes so it can warm up to the new temperature and not fog up.

  3. A plastic bag can be used when you kneel on damp ground or to protect your camera if it starts raining. When shooting in the rain keep the bag smooth against the lens. If your camera falls in the water; remove it quickly and immediately take the batteries out; then the memory card. Put the camera in a dry place with everything open for a few days to air out. It might work. In salt water it is probably a loss, but try sloshing it briefly in fresh water and then dry it out.

  4. If you plan to shoot parades or where people will be in front of you take a step stool to get above the crowd or arrive early and stake out a place in front. Try to have something next to you to prevent someone from blocking your view.

  5. Shoot vertical and horizontal photos, as they can be used different ways.

  6. Soft lighting can be achieved by putting a white cloth over your flash or aiming your flash up with white cardboard angling the light forward. It also works well when taking photos outdoors and the object of interest is in the shadows.

  7. Use a polarizer filter to reduce reflections such as shooting into a lake, wet rocks or from leaf reflections. The filter will also work best 90 degrees from the path of sunlight or your shadow. As you turn the filter, saturation will change. Point and shoot cameras can use a filter holder that screws into the bottom of the camera.

  8. Color saturation is best on cloudy days. On bright, sunny days at most shoot the first two hours from sunrise and two hours before sunset.

  9. Batteries. Nickel metal hydride batteries can be recharged at any amount of discharge, but slowly lose power in storage. Alkaline batteries hold their charge well in storage (supposedly 10 years), but drain quickly when cameras are being used. Lithium batteries must be recharged after they are fully discharged because they have “memory”. They hold a charge well in storage. Take the batteries out of the camera if it is not going to be used for a couple of weeks. Leaking batteries might destroy the camera, but try cleaning the contacts with citric acid or white vinegar. When buying a camera check out how many shots can be taken with their batteries and the cost of replacement.

    If you see that the battery power is low, turn off the LCD and flash, use a low f-stop (big aperture) and use a higher ISO.

  10. You can capture a dog’s attention by getting some game calls or sounding like some animal (other than human). A dog whistle might work too. Dog treats can work also.

  11. Night shooting requires a steady camera using a tripod, monopod or sandbag and a remote shutter release (cable on film cameras). Turn off the anti-shake feature. With the lens at the largest opening (low f-stop) try pictures from several seconds to minutes. Shoot in manual using an Exposure Value (EV) table go to www.fredparker.com/ultexp1.htm. Set white balance by using a piece of white paper, and use the lowest ISO possible and meter the darker areas. Bracket exposures. Cloud cover increases the time dramatically and a full moon will shorten it. The longer time might give you a blue sky and appear like daytime. You will have to experiment for car head and taillights.

  12. Movement in a photo can be captured in various ways:
    move the camera or object to create a blurring effect.
    Pan with a moving object
    Pan with the camera and use a flash balance to the light of the background to make the object sharp.

  13. Panorama. Using a tripod, overlap photos by 1/3 and shoot on manual. Use a preset white balance and turn off autofocus. Do not change the focal length or flash. Panoramas can be done vertically too. You can stitch these photos together and I save them with layers so various adjustments can be done later to just part of the panorama.

  14. Zoo shots. Go early during school hours in early Fall or Late Spring when there is less chance of field trips. Check on feeding times at the zoo website. Try to use natural light and avoid bars and glass. If there is glass use a polarizing filter or put the camera lens right on the glass after cleaning with lens wipes. Lip balm will hide scratches. Shoot at high speed to blur the background and in continuous firing mode to capture facial expressions. Spend a lot of time at one exhibit and keep focus on the animal.

  15. Silhouettes. Meter off the sky and block the sun, just before sunset or ˝ hour before sunrise. Use a high f-stop to increase the depth of field and bracket by one stop. Clouds will add interest.

  16. Fireworks. Pick a location upwind of the display so smoke will not interfere. Use the bulb setting and set the manual focus to infinity. I cover the lens between shots with my hat to prevent stray light (like flashlights) from hitting the lens. Normally two or three bursts on one photo shooting for a few seconds after the burst first appears. If there is water or buildings present use them to increase interest in the photograph. 1 to 4 seconds/burst at ISO 100 and f stop of 5.6 to 11.

  17. Snow. Meter the snow and then open up the lens by 2 stops. If you just meter the snow it will be gray in the photo. Use a gray card to get an accurate reading for exposure. If you have a histogram the curve should get close to the right side with a slight gap.

  18. Camera manual. If there is a function that you use infrequently copy that section of the manual and put it into your camera bag or photograph it and view it later.

  19. Hyperfocusing. Set your aperture (f-stop) and then look at the ring next to it. You will see the same number in two different places. Above these places is the distance ring with measurements in feet (ft) or meters (m) and will show the depth of field where the photo will be sharp. Higher apertures give a greater depth of field. Check the manufacturer’s information on the lens to determine the best f-stop resolution.

  20. Scrims. These are used behind an outdoor subject that has a bright background. They are black mesh or netting and will cut down the background light. Talk to Ken about other ways to use a scrim or reflector.

  21. Sunset. Try shooting in black and white for a classic look. During sunset meter the sky with the sun blocked out. 15 minutes after sunset try shooting your subjects using the afterglow.

  22. Autofocus. Single AF is best most of the time, but continuous mode is good for jumpy action and will fire even if the object is out of focus and you are moving with the object. Dynamic focusing uses multiple focus points in the camera and will keep the object in focus all the time.

  23. Streetlights as stars. Use the smallest aperture (highest f-stop) and the lens diaphragm will make the stars unless it is an arc shaped diaphragm. Naturally, this requires a tripod.

  24. Water shots. To capture individual drops use 1/500 second. For a bit of blur try 1/15 that will still show ripples or splashes. For the silky look ˝ second or longer. For speeds between 1/60 and 1-second lock the mirror up so you don’t get vibration during the shot. In addition, extend the legs of the tripod and not the center column.

  25. Infrared remote. If your camera supports infrared remote firing then you can modify a universal remote to do the job. Set your camera to IR mode and hold down the set button on the remote until the LED stays on. Press the equipment button (TV, VCR…) to associate with your camera. Next, press the Power button at 1-second intervals: each press sends a different IR code from the remote to your camera. Eventually, one of the codes will fire the camera; press the Enter key to save the code.

    If no codes work, turn off the camera and the remote. Remove the camera’s batteries and then replace them. Do the first paragraph over again using a different equipment button, as this will send different codes.

    If a friend has the same type of camera and a remote trigger, use the trigger to teach your remote. Press and hold the Code Search button on the remote until the indicator light turns on. Press and hold the desired mode button (TV, DVD…). Next, press and release the Learn button; then press and release the button you want to use to fire the camera. Position both remotes with their infrared LED’s facing each other an inch apart. Finally, press and hold the trigger button on the camera remote until the indicator on the universal remote blinks once and stays’ on, indicating the code has been stored.

    *** Source: Remotely Possible by Chieh Cheng and Auri Rahimzadeh and adapted from the ExtremeTech book, Hacking Digital Cameras )ISBN 0764596519) published by John Wiley and Sons.

  26. Weird Effects. Make blurry pictures by shooting with a wide aperture (f2.8) and using manual focus. For dynamic shots try zooming the telephoto when the aperture is open. Use different f-stops to see the effect. You can also bounce the camera or twist it around for other effects.

  27. Camera freeze… If the buttons don’t work, take the batteries out and then replace them. The camera should reboot. If the batteries die during shooting you may get one or two more shots by taking them out and cleaning the contacts with an eraser. If the camera will not play back your images replace the card immediately and use a different one. Using SanDisk’s Rescuepro or Lexar’s Image Rescue may reclaim the old card’s photos.

  28. Lens changing. In a dusty environment put the camera and lenses in a plastic bag and change them there. When getting a DSLR cleaned take a picture of a matt gray surface and up the contrast. You should see the dust. After it is cleaned take another picture to check if everything is clean.

  29. Candid Portraits. Shoot in burst mode so you get one good picture—works with animals and talking humans. Try to use an 80 mm lens or it’s digital equivalent. Set the focus on the eyes and then move the camera to take the photo. For soft focus you can put oil from your nose or forehead on the filter and/or use a slow shutter speed like 1/8 second.

  30. Parties and Weddings. Take photos of people away from the walls or use an off camera flash so you don’t have a shadow behind the people. Use slow-sync to show motion of dancers and the flash will give a clear photo. Inside you may want to use manual focus as there may not be enough light for AF (autofocus).

  31. Cityscapes can be effective when shot just before sunrise or just after sunset to get the warm glow and the city lights. Meter the sky and bracket the exposures.

  32. Reflective surfaces like cars, motorcycles, windows, etc. Hide yourself by wearing black and try to blend in with the background. If you use a flash have it off camera and to the side. If there is direct sunlight come earlier or later in the day so the area is side lit.

    When photographing people that wear glasses have them tip the glasses down slightly or turn their head.

  33. Slow motion with a flash - use shutter speeds 1/8 to 1/30 for runners, etc. with the flash set to trailing sync. The faster the motion the longer the blur trail

  34. Trouble getting a meter reading use the sky above (away from the sun) or use your hand and add one stop.

  35. Get rid of people in photos by using a neutral density filter and shooting at very slow speed, low ISO like 100, and large aperture like f22. Compose the shot with the filter off the lens. Get the speed and aperture reading and then put the filter on. Double the exposure time for each number on the filter. #1 filter twice as long. #3 filter 8 times longer.

  36. Shoot buildings at a distance with the camera level, to prevent the keystone effect. Later you can crop out the unwanted parts of the foreground.

  37. Candlelight photos. Set a high ISO, wide aperture like F4, shutter speed 1/100 and white balance set to tungsten. Use continuous advance or progressive capture.

  38. Outdoor flower photos use a backdrop such as black cloth or paper, a fuzzy painted surface or shoot upwards and use the sky. You might want to use a white reflector like a T shirt.

    modified December 2009 by Donn
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