What are your favorite tips/techniques/tricks

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by glenn_c|1, Jun 3, 2009.

  1. I'd like to hear about favorite shooting and other tricks you guys and gals use that you feel help you get better photos. These could be anything from ways to check depth of field before a shot, to pieces of gear that make shooting easier or that are helpful in specific situations, to what your preferred method of carrying gear is for versatile shooting. Anything at all that other people might not have thought of or learned about or that you've just come up with after time spent shooting. I'd like to avoid the subjects of overall lens, body, tripod selection, etc. since those things are covered daily in numerous threads.
    To start things off I'll mention a couple of things I find helpful myself:
    Whenever I carry a tripod I have a medium-sized bungee cord that I pack along. Instead of having to carry a heavy bag to hang from the tripod for best technique, I attach the bungee to a suitable spot on the tripod, and step on it. This has exactly the same effect and helps tremendously to steady the tripod - without bungee/with bungee comparison shots show obvious large differences. My tripod is a vibration-prone Bogen 3431, and this along with mirror delay makes all the difference in the world.
    Next, a recommendation for my favorite lens cleaning fluid. Others I've used have too strong a tendency to dry on the lens surface, especially with coated lenses, making them hard to use. Recently I tried the one recommended by Moose Petersen, called Lens Clens, and found it works much better. The downside it that it is expensive to ship, making it hard to get. I had to order several bottles to make it worthwhile, but for $30 or so I probably have a ten-year supply. Google it to order direct.
    I'm sure I'd have more if I thought about it, but I'm really looking forward to what other people have to say.
    Fire away!
  2. i practice framing and focusing left eye every now and then. joe mcnally has a really weird, really stable grip where you can put the camera basically on your shoulder, wrap your left hand to grip your right and shoot low shutter speeds. been working on that. i don't have a gripped body so it sits more on top of my shoulder and requires more turning than he does, so it's uncomfortable to use for more than a few frames. but for getting a good shot at low iso and shutter, can pay wonders.
  3. When doing event photography in low light with low shutter speeds, looking around for something to brace elbow / shoulder / hands / something on before taking the shot. (In situations in which shots have to be set up quickly, and monopods and tripods aren't practical.) I've learned to do this without thinking, and am glad I have. Sure, I can exhale and hold my breath before clicking the shutter, or practice other techniques to still the camera -- but, in low light at low shutter speeds, it's great to have something solid as a support.
  4. If you're an outdoor/scenic shooter, find places to shoot that are close to where you live. You can learn a great deal about light by visiting the same place at different times of the year, at different times of the day, and in different types of weather and then comparing shots from different visits.
    If time is not a factor (e.g. the sun isn't about to set and a storm isn't rolling in), use a digital camera to capture "sample compositions" of a subject. Move to different positions, use different focal lengths and orientations, etc. Try to come up with 20 different compositions as quickly as possible, then review them on your LCD screen. One or two will stand out as being better than the rest. Try to replicate and improve upon these better sample shots instead of wasting time on less interesting compositions.
    (Something helpful that I read in a magazine years ago): Always remember that you're not taking pictures of people, places, or things. You're taking pictures of LIGHT.
  5. This is not really a trick, more like a suggestion... here it is: if you don't already have one, get a macro lens. I think that shooting macro is really helping me improve my photography. Perhaps it's just me... :)
  6. I never take my cameras anywhere without taking along a microfiber cloth --one of the truly wonderful inventions of the 20th century.
  7. A few more...
    Always double-check critical camera settings before you begin shooting. - I learned this one the hard way. I photographed a friend's wedding with the camera set to the Vivid optimization mode. I had to edit every shot later to restore natural skin tones. Another time I took a beautiful shot of fall foliage in bright morning sunshine. Oops! I had left the camera (D200) on ISO 1600 from a shot that I'd taken the night before. The foliage shots were grainy and noisy. Develop a checklist for different shooting situations and make sure your camera is optimized before you start squandering unrepeatable opportunities.
    Arrive early. - You're not going to nail the best shots if you're scrambling around looking for a parking space, a place to stand, or a decent composition. Give yourself time to explore a location before the people show up and the best light presents itself. Get there early. Pretend you're going to have a picnic before you start shooting.
    Be ready. - Lenses and filters are dust free. The lenses you need are in the bag. Memory cards formatted. Batteries charged. You have your cable release, polarizers and adaptor rings for your lenses, the filters you need, the meters you need. Speedlights are loaded with fresh batteries. Your tripod is handy. The bug spray/sunscreen/gloves/boots/hat/etc. are ready to go. Releases, maps, permits, documentation, cheat sheets, gray cards. You don't want to be looking for this stuff when the light is slipping away.
    There's more to life than sunsets. - Any hour of the day can present excellent shooting opportunities. I can't look at more than five "magic hour" shots in a row before falling into a deep sleep. Variety is the spice of life and the best recipe for an interesting portfolio.
  8. As I get older my hand is less steady. I find that shooting in bursts of three using the CSL setting will usually give me at least one nice blurfree image. My SB800 can usually keep up for three macro shots too.
  9. My most solid recent lesson (which I keep re-learning, which is absurd!), and thus my most helpful tip:

    Quit pixel-peeping and print some photographs! This can greatly change the amount of time you spend fussing about certain things, and can change what you spend your time fussing about. Lots of hair-splitting issues simply go away, even in quite large prints. Many images are far more beautiful on paper than they are on screen, provided they're printed with at least a bit of competence. It doesn't have to be hard, or expensive. But it's worth doing, once in a while - or even more often than that.
  10. Great comments here. This is probably obvious to those of you who already know. But, I never realized how much vibration the mirror causes when you are shooting from a tripod. I was trying to get a clear focused shot of the moon at dusk with my 80-400mm zoom at 400mm on a tripod. I learned that mirror lock-up works and, of course, a solid tripod, solid tripod collar and remote release helps.
  11. Use a tripod for every shot. Use a double bubble mounted to your hot shoe to get those horizons level. Always check/tighten the hex nuts on your camera or lens plates before evert shoot and carry the hex wrench with you in the field. Tighten those quick release clamps shut when not in use. Vibrations from car travel will losen them and you can easily lose needed parts and springs. Check the feet of your tripod every day and make sure the bottom piece is tight. If sunrise is at 6:00am be in place at 5:00am --5:15 am as that is when the light is starting to get good. If applicable, use your self timer to trip your shutter. Why risk moving the camera by hitting the shutter release? Kneel down to take that shot after you have taken it standing up. Pretty soon most of your shots will be taken while kneeling.
    Make sure you know what f stop produces the sharpest image for each of your lenses. Guess what, I doubt if it will be f 2.8 or f 22, so think twice about using these f stops. Make sure you know what diffraction is and how to avoid it.
    Every lens you own is a macro lens if you own and know how to use extension tubes.
    Joe Smith
  12. Street Photography:
    1) Never advertise your gear with words like "Nikon" or "Canon" emblazoned all over you or your bag or neck strap when shooting in large cities.
    2) The hardest part of capturing street shoots for me was capturing the image while the subject is unaware. Here is what I do now and it seems to work great for me.
    I get close to my subject and pretend I am shooting something high up..in a tree etc..so it appears i am uninterested in them. I keep an eye on them with my non eye piece eye...when they are relaxed and natural..click..click..and go immedietly to shooting high in the sky again....Talk about focus and re-compose! LOL
  13. Ergonomics, similar to what Dan Sutton mentioned. After busting up my back and neck in a car wreck in 2001 I've had to make a lot of compromises to continue. What really helped was relying on the techniques I learned in offhand target shooting: good skeletal alignment and breath control. It's helped me be able use a camera handheld below 1/250th sec again, something I couldn't do a few years ago without a VR lens.
    Set the D2H to auto-everything by default. That way when I grab the camera and go I know I'll get at least something. This has been helpful when I've photographed in emergency conditions (fires or medical emergencies) or when I was tired or distracted. When I have time I'll reset it to my preferred working style, which is usually with autofocus assigned to the AF/ON button, whatever metering and exposure mode is appropriate for the conditions (I rarely use aperture priority), custom white balance, etc.
    Before putting the D2H away I'll usually switch from whatever lens I used last to a midrange zoom. Again, this is so it's ready to use for just about anything that comes up. I don't do much photojournalism anymore, but it's a habit.
  14. I used to keep my camera in a camera bag.
    After missing too many amazing candid shots of the kids, I now keep the camera set and ready to go on a high shelf within a short dash from anywhere in the house. Fast lens on, white balance set, batteries fresh, optimized for shooting indoors.
    I found that most of the kids' cutest candid moments were disappearing far faster than I could 1) remember where my camera bag was, 2) dig out said camera, 3) change to faster lens for indoor shot, re-check the settings, etc.
    Brutally simple, but itโ€™s already resulted in some keepers that I know I would have missed otherwise.
  15. bmm


    This is a matter of taste and opinion I know so others have different ideas. It also follows a bit from Bubba Fett's post above but takes that idea 'on the road'. For me the thing that has really made me shoot a lot more and fiddle around with my gear a lot less is a change of philosophy in terms of camera bag. For me now the 'official' padded, compartmented brand-name bags are only for getting my gear safely from A to B in the car or plane or whatever. When I shoot I just take a leather satchel (we call them 'man-bags' here in Australia) with my camera and no more than 3 lenses - one mounted and one or two loose. I might have more lenses with me on the overall trip but I'm talking about what comes out with me on a particular outing. Anyway I think this has massively reduced the amount of time I spend sorting myself out, plus it means size and weight is kept down, and as a result I find myself taking heaps more pictures and having heaps more fun. Plus when I'm overseas this concept has the added advantage of not screaming out 'tourist with expensive gear' to all in the vicinity.
  16. always take the lens cap off before snapping the shot.
  17. For me, when it is not an "emergency" shot, the best thing I do is to really look and consider the shot in my viewfinder before snapping it. Decide whether it's worth that frame of film or not. Look at the four corners of the shot and see what else is in there before I shoot. It took longer for me to do this at first, but now it is second nature and much faster. Not only do I save a lot more film, but when shooting digital I have more discipline and take better pictures.
  18. Maybe a little humor? Never drop your D70 an 18-200mm on a solid granite floor - or hang your D70 on a hook that is less than sturdy. While the resulting shrapnel may have some tragic aesthetic interest, you may not have another camera to capture the moment. That was a year and a half ago and I think I am finally forgiving myself :)
  19. A few technical tips that have saved me a great deal of time and effort and have also resulted in better photographs:
    1. Use the SensorKlear Pen and LensPen for cleaning their respective surfaces.
    2. Learn to use layers and layer masks in Photoshop. Makes it easy to paint in or paint out changes saved as separate layers.
    3. Turn on AutoISO.
  20. Composition tips:
    Don't center.
    Don't be afraid to cut or touch elements with the borders of your frame.
    Care more for negative space than positive.
    Look for a weird balance of colors and photograph it, regardless of subject.
  21. Avoid conventional shooting positions. Get closer, lower, higher, or farther away. Get down on the floor/ground if you have to.
    Shoot the world the way that YOU see it. Don't try to mimic someone else's shots, especially at famous locations. Feel how a place makes YOU feel and go with your own vision.
    Try a White Balance setting other than Auto sometimes. Daylight, cloudy, and incandescent are all very useful depending on conditions. For instance, Daylight WB is a great choice for sunsets.
    Use flash when shooting people in bright sunshine even if it seems counterintuitive.
    Accept that the "rule of thirds" is a sophomoric trifle and come up with your own compositional guidelines.
    Take some chances. Even if your ideas stink you can refine them, and they won't stink forever.
    Remember, if you're not having fun you're not doing it properly.
  22. Using Live View to refine focus (when tripod mounted) can be of enormous help in some situations. Especially useful when using PCE lenses.
  23. Stick to Nikon.
  24. Sunday morning - if you don't shoot people, or events (I don't) but instead go out into the world looking for "whatever", this is the best time to do that. Sunday morning early, the world is generally very quiet, uncrowded, good light (dependent on weather, of course), and you are generally not bothered by anyone. For me, this has the added benefit of a really peaceful and harmonious beginning to the week, and I have gotten some of my best photographs during this time.
  25. For birds on the ground and other small wildlife (or any subjects for that matter), lay on your stomach and place the camera on the ground. Even moving from a very low crouching position to laying on the ground makes a huge difference.
    Use the AF/AE button (or AF-On if your camera has it) on the back of the camera for focusing and disable the focus on your shutter release button. Set your focus mode to continuous servo and your focus point select to use all points. By doing this you never have to switch your focus settings. Just focus with AF/AE, remove your finger from the button, then recompose for shots of static subjects. If subject is moving, just keep your finger on the AF/AE button to track. And if you need manual focus just keep your finger off the AF/AE button all together.
    I shoot and hike sometimes all day with Nikon's big 200-400 zoom attached to my camera. I replaced the camera strap with a longer one (this also gets rid of the bright yellow logo that screams steal me) and am able to hook the tripod foot to my belt and therefore carry all the weight on my hip so that I never feel the effects of all that weight.
  26. wrh


    Thanks to ALL of you for this great advise!!! When I first saw this thread, I auto-expected most people to just ignore it and keep reading. Man, was I ever wrong! You guys just don't know how much novices like me appreciate you sharing this knowledge.
  27. If going out into the wilds, check the times of sunrise and sunset, high and low water. Let someone know where you are going and when you are likely to get back. Always carry a map, compass and/or spare batteries for the GPS.
    Check all your gear the night before going out and always, always take a flask of coffee.
    After doing all the checks, go out, enjoy and have a lot of fun.
  28. If going out into the wilds, check the times of sunrise and sunset, high and low water. Let someone know where you are going and when you are likely to get back. Always carry a map, compass and/or spare batteries for the GPS.
    Check all your gear the night before going out and always, always take a flask of coffee.
    After doing all the checks, go out, enjoy and have a lot of fun.
  29. Duct-tape over the Nikon logo, on body and lens caps. Black strap.
  30. Something I read once was really enlightening: limitations are liberating.
    So I'll set off with just one lens, leave all the others at home. And usually this is more fun when you take something other than your normal zoom. Try taking just a tele or just a prime (I know, you old-hat guys have been doing that for years, we just need to be reminded:). Or leave the whole SLR at home and take a P&S.
    Or here's an idea: leave your camera at home. :) Go and enjoy the sights you see. As an exercise, imagine how you'd compose shots and account for timing. This lets you think about taking the picture without being distracted by fiddling with the camera. Of course you won't have the picture, but it's still an interesting exercise.
  31. Watch the work of the great cinematographers like Vittorio Storaro, Gunnar Fischer to understand the drama and poetics of composition and lighting, and how to perfect your artistic craft.
    Take responsibility for everything that appears in your frame -- Every Thing.
    Do not take advantage of your subjects. The portrait is as much about your relationship to the subject as it is about the subject.
    Do not forgive your own mistakes.
  32. This is the best thread I've read in a very long time. What a great idea!! Here are a couple of things that have helped me:
    - "F8 and be there"...for nature/landscapes just set the camera to auto-iso, aperture-priority and F8 and focus only on the framing and lighting. If the shutter speed drops below 1/15sec just try to steady your grip on the camera and shoot multiple continuous frames. One of the shots will be sharp (enough).
    - Avoid making excuses and just go out to take some shots if you think the light/weather is right. This includes going out into the cold, dark/stormy weather, etc. Just make sure you wear the right clothing and bring the right accessories.
    - Don't switch systems. Just stick to what feels right. In my case switching from Nikon to Canon and back again was a big waste of time and money.
    - Carry a very small but essential first-aid pack if trekking to remote places. S***t happens.

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