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As a photographer, there are so many things that you learn and do on a regular basis. Creating habits in your craft is a good approach to making it become second nature. Here are a few things that most professionals do that you can incorporate into your workflow to help you take better photos.
Pros use the highlight overexposure alert. If you have this turned on in your camera, you will no doubt understand one of its more common name, “blinkies”. When this feature is turned on, it gives a preview of your image with blown out highlights slowly blinking black and white, as a warning.
Blinkies (or blown out highlights) are not always wrong, but if it is in an area you want to show detail, then this information will be useful. You can then correct the exposure as necessary and review the image again.
Knowing how to quickly move your focus point where you want it is a definite plus. On the opposite side of that is locking focus, which is another great skill to have. Both tell your camera exactly where you want to focus. Moving your focus point helps you place it exactly where you want while locking your focus enables you to grab your focus point, lock it in and recompose your image.
Knowing when to use both of these can also help you get more creative, so practice.
The in-camera light meter helps you determine how to adjust your exposure settings by measuring the brightness of the scene. The default metering mode in your camera is most likely set to Matrix mode (also called Evaluative or Pattern metering).
Evaluative metering works well in most situations but pros know that there are times when they need to switch. Spot metering evaluates only the light around your focal point and calculates exposure based on just that area. Some examples of when a pro would use spot metering include; photographing the moon, someone on a stage, or any scene with a lot of contrast.
A good way to learn when Spot metering is the right choice is by switching to it from time to time and looking at your results.
A handy little trick is using the LCD monitor at the back of the camera to set your White Balance (WB). This way you get a real time preview of what your final shot will look like comparatively. This is especially handy if you are shooting jpeg and don’t have the luxury of changing the White Balance after the fact.
Simple enough is to walk with extra memory cards. A trick that you can only get from experience though is not cramming too much on any one card. If you are shooting for any paying client, split your shots into several cards because believe it or not, cards can fail on you. If your shots are spread out, you may still have enough images to salvage a shoot.
Bonus memory card tip: Invest in good card recovery software. If you take your card out and for some reason are not seeing the images on your computer, do not put it back in and shoot. Good recovery software has saved many a pro.
Bracketing in short, is taking several shots of a subject using different exposure levels. It is one of the easier ways to produce images with a high dynamic range. Pros also use bracketing when they unsure about exposure or dealing with tricky lighting.
By now you may have realized that everything looks sharp on a 3” screen – only to open it up on your computer and see that it is blurry. You could save yourself some heartache by zooming in and checking the image sharpness while you’re still in the field as the pros do.
When packing your gear, always make room for extra camera batteries. This seems obvious enough, but of note is that if you are shooting in cold weather you may even need to supplement that. Batteries are the one part of your camera that is affected the most by cold weather. A drop in temperature causes your battery to deplete faster and thus not last as long. Keep this in mind the next time you are outdoors targeting golden hour into twilight time.
The main reason to use a lens hood is to prevent side light from hitting the front of the lens. A lens hood thus reduces or eliminates lens flare that can occur when shooting outdoors during daylight hours.
But, most pros keep their lens hood on even when shooting indoors for more than just blocking light. They use it as protection against scratches, cracks, fingerprints and even some impact. It’s a good habit to use a lens hood.
Backup your images. Pros will tell you that this is at the top of their list. One recommended backup strategy is twice before formatting your memory cards – once to your computer and make a secondary copy to an external drive. If you are even more paranoid, it does not hurt to back up while out in the field. There are a number of portable drives available where you can copy your cards over without a computer.
Those were just a few of the many things you can keep in mind and add to your own routine. What are some of the things that you would suggest to help newbies take better photos? Share in the comments section below.