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We’ve all heard one of the cornerstones of making better photographs is to slow down; be deliberate and take your time. This is very true. In no way am I advocating not being purposeful in your shooting. However, sometimes there are situations when the difference between getting a good image, instead of a blurred and washed out frame, is separated by only a few precious seconds. This is especially true when it comes to working in action filled situations like sports or street photography, but it can also be just as easy to miss moments in nature and landscape photography if you go into situations ill prepared.
Here are three tips that can improve your reaction time and make you more ready to obtain quality images for processing when you find yourself in those “shoot from the hip” scenarios.
Being Ready to Shoot Faster – Never Miss a Shot
“Know thyself.” No, Socrates wasn’t a photographer (though I’m sure he would have been awesome). In this case, the saying of “know thyself” means becoming aware of your surroundings more so than having a deep introspective understanding of your own self, although that’s a good thing to have, usually. We exercise this on a daily basis, albeit almost unconsciously. You notice a stain on your shirt, or you see the little boy chasing a ball towards the street, or you see a dark alley that’s just a little too dark to walk down alone. You can incorporate this same inherent awareness into your photography to make you a faster shooter.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you find yourself taking an afternoon to work on your street photography. When you first begin your expedition, it’s very bright outside. You are probably still able to shoot at a reasonably fast shutter speed and low ISO. As the evening starts giving way to night, there is of course less available light. So, a good idea would be to begin thinking about bumping up your ISO so that you can maintain the same exposure settings. Or alternatively, slowing down your shutter speed or increasing the size of your aperture (remember, low F-number means a bigger opening and more light into the lens such as f/2.8). Keep in mind however, that a higher ISO will introduce more noise into your final image, but it will have less of an overall impact than changing the shutter and aperture settings.
In photography, your surroundings are in a state of constant flux. So, to be a good photographer, you must be aware of the changes in your surroundings and mould yourself the best you can in order to produce consistent and quality work. This means learning to understand what is happening around you, whether it be: changing lighting conditions, approaching weather, wind, the presence or absence of people and objects, – the list goes on indefinitely. Anticipate what is going to happen next and make adjustments now, to save time later.
This would seem to go without saying, but you still see many photographers looking down right uncomfortable or awkward while they’re out shooting. Sadly, the majority of the pain is self-inflicted. To shoot faster and to be ready for the shot when the time is right, your camera must be available for use at a moments notice without restricting your movement or causing discomfort. One of the best ways to make this happen is to have your camera suspended from a quality camera strap. Camera straps, like most things, can become a very personal item for new and seasoned photographers alike. Don’t buy a strap because its got pretty flowers embroidered on it or because its made from the latest space age whatever-foam. Do a quick search for “camera strap” here on dPS and you will find a large number of reviews and write-ups of great camera straps. But don’t stop there. Shop around, read reviews, ask your photographer friends and sift camera forums. Being able to comfortably retrieve your camera quickly is key to not missing great images.
Have a budget? Most of us do, even more of us can’t afford to spend thousands on the latest lens or camera body that we dream of owning. Luckily, the majority of the accessory market is crammed with makers competing to sell you their wares. It’s easier than ever to strike a balance between what you need and what you can afford. If you can, have more than one camera strap in your kit so you can choose what fits best for a particular outing.
This is the big one, yet many people don’t seem to understand that preparation is golden. A close cousin to situational awareness, research and preparation prior to any photo work should become second nature and will pay huge dividends. It will also make you a faster shooter and help to prioritize your workflow, not to mention make you appear more competent as a photographer.
Know what you’re walking into beforehand and prepare accordingly. Are you going on a hike? Find out what wildlife and plants are native to the area and pack your bag with long lenses so you can get close to your subjects from a distance. Travelling abroad? Be sure to read up on the local attitudes towards photography before you start snapping away to avoid any awkward confrontations or worse. Of course, the most unpopular, but useful, aspect of being well prepared is practice, practice, pactice. Practice, and then practice some more. Want faster and more smoother lens changes? Practice at home, so you lose less time in the field and have fewer fumbles. Practice finding your camera adjustment buttons without looking. This will save you loads of time and frustration when you find yourself shooting at night. If you haven’t figured it out by now, the key word here is practice. Practice everything and you will be amazed at how much easier quicker most things suddenly become.
Do you have any other tips for shooting faster and being ready? Please share them in the comments below.