Photography Tips & Tricks
Tripod Alternative Tips
Handheld Shots -- When hand holding a shot that normally requires a tripod, try shooting several frames in the continuous shooting drive mode. The first picture is often blurry - like a single shot would have been - but subsequent shots are more likely to produce a satisfactory result.
Light (But Sturdy) Tripod (add weight on site) -- Buy a light aluminum tripod with a center post. Drill a hole through two sides of post bottom. When you set the tripod up for a shot, put sand, rocks, etc. into a plastic bag, then put the plastic bag into a nylon stuff bag (perhaps the bag you carry the tripod in). Hang bag from the center post. Note - replace the tripod's "cheap" head with a good ball head.
String "Tripod" -- Equipment required:
- a thumb-screw that fits your camera's tripod connector
- 4 to 6 feet of string
- a stick about 1-1/2” to 2” long
Tie one end of the string to the screw and the other to the stick. Attach the screw to the camera mount, drop the stick on the ground and step on it. Roll the stick with your foot to wind up the string while holding the camera in shooting position until the string is tight. Adjust the string to your preferred length and re-tie it. Place your legs apart a comfortable distance and step on the stick. Pull up with camera, tightening the string. Take a breath, hold it, and press the shutter release. (Note: using a longer stick with string going to both ends and placing both feet on the stick may be helpful.)
Stability in Sand -- Get three tennis balls, cut a "X" in them and put one on the bottom of each tripod leg. They will prevent the legs from sinking into the sand and stabilize your tripod. As an added measure, you might want to punch holes in each of the 4 "flaps" (with an awl, nail, etc.) and run a string thru the holes and tighten the string to help hold the balls on the legs.
Monopod -- A monopod can be a great solution for many photographers. A "walking stick" monopod with a reasonable quality ball head on top can be a great tool unless you: (a) use slow film, (b) need slow shutter speeds for low light or blurring motion. Backpacking stores will usually carry one or two brands.
Digital SLR Camera Tips
Dirty Sensor - To check your camera sensor for dust, here are a few simple steps to take. Set the ISO @ 100 or the lowest setting. Set the aperture to F/22 or higher. Turn off the anti-shake or any other image stabilizing feature. Take a picture of a grey card, a light colored even surface, or blue sky. Move the lens around during the exposure. Be careful not to over-expose the shot or you won't be able to see the dust. Take a few different shots just to be sure. View the images on your computer. Increasing the contrast shows any dust spots.
Filters on DSLRs with "APS-C" size sensors - If you're using a full-frame lens on a DSLR with a 1.5x or 1.6x sensor, you can probably use a step down ring and a smaller diameter filter and not have vignetting. For example, a common filter size on lenses is 77mm. If you already have 72mm, 67mm or even 62mm filters, you can use a step down ring and may not have any vignetting. See if a local camera store will let you try out various step-down rings and smaller filters to determine what combination works for your lens.
Money Saving Tips
Soft Focus Filter Substitute
Method 1 -- For a quick "soft focus" filter, breathe on the front of the lens (or front filter). For a longer lasting effect take the lens off the camera, breathe on the rear lens element, and put back on the camera.
Method 2 -- Blow out a burning candle and place a UV filter over the smoke so it settles on the filter. It's pure carbon, lampblack so it can be easily removed with a tissue later.
Incident Light Meter -- Use a styrofoam coffee cup over your lens (note: styrofoam cups are different thicknesses, therefore you may wish to "calibrate" this approach using the f/16 rule on a clear sunny day). Stand where the subject will be, use the camera on manual and set the exposure to the reading of the light diffused through the cup, then walk back to your spot to take the picture.
Ice Chest Camera Bag -- Use an ice chest as a camera bag for your equipment and film when you’re at the pool or beach and want protection from the water and sun. It offers heat pro-tection in the car on hot days too. Security may also be enhanced - most thieves wouldn’t think of stealing an ice chest!
Carry a Compass - Keep a compass in your camera bag. When exploring new areas you can determine the direction of sunrise and sunset to help visualize the direction of lighting at different times of the day. Our Sun Bearings CheatSheets can help too.
Step up, or take a seat - A lightweight folding step stool is handy for gettng above the crowd and keeping heads in the near forground out of the shot. Conversely, a simple 3-leg fold up camping stool lets you sit while shooting from a lower vantage point.
Use your lens hood -- Most photographers only use lens hoods when they're shooting into the sun to prevent flare. But the hood also improves contrast, even when the sun is behind you. Objects anywhere in front of you reflect sunlight that can enter your lens, reducing the contrast of your images. A lens hood is the most effective way to minimize this stray light.
Stuck Filter -- Having a filter on your lens that won't come off is a common problem. The solution? Stretch a rubber band over the rim of the filter to improve your grip. Usually, the filter will come off easily.
Day Becomes Night -- To make a picture taken during the day look like one taken at night under moonlight, try using the following filters, and expose for the highlights in the scene:
- light blue filter (82C)
- light red filter (10R)
Use Reflections at Night -- To achieve a sense of depth in night shots and avoid "flat" looking pictures, try to include reflections of lights on water or other reflective surfaces.
"Red eye" Preflash for Indoor Photography -- If you're taking an indoor shot, use the “red eye” reduction feature of your built in flash - even if there aren’t going to be people in the picture. When you take the picture, watch to see if there are any reflecting surfaces. If there are, move to a different position and take a second shot.
Unusual Wedding Photo -- Use a full-frame fisheye and take a picture of the bride & groom seated in the back seat of a limo from the front seat. Because the wedding couple is in the center of the picture, they are pretty much undistorted. However, the limo will appear to be blocks long.
Flash for Snowflakes -- To show snowflakes in a winter scene, pick a viewpoint with a dark background for the flakes and use flash to brighten the flakes without affecting the rest of the scene.
Shooting from a plane -- For the best results, don't rest your hands, shoulders or elbows on any part of the plane - let your body cushion the plane's vibrations. Hold the lens as close to the window as you can without touching it. During landings or takeoffs, use a shutter speed of 1/200 sec or faster. At other times, a 1/100 sec shutter speed will be adequate.