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My Top 30 Beginners' Photography Tips (11-20)
11. More Megapixels Don’t Make A Better Camera
A cliched point, I know, but worth making for those really new to photography. The reason you sometimes see photographers getting on their high horse about this is because, some years ago, Nikon and Canon competed furiously to release cameras with ever-greater pixel counts, willfully blinding themselves to other specifications!
Not any longer, thankfully. Suffice to say that the MP count on most modern DSLR’s is so high as to enable large format printing beyond the size that most of us require. There is even an argument that any resolution above 10-12 MP’s becomes just about imperceptible at all but enormous print sizes.
|(What is a megapixel?)|
12. Manual Focusing Is Usually Pointless
Has anyone ever suggested to you that ‘proper photographers’ focus manually? Well, if you didn’t stop listening when you heard the phrase ‘proper photographers’, you should have done so when they made that claim about manual focusing.
Today’s lenses boast immense auto-focus systems, locking on to subjects faster and more accurately than any of us can manual focus. That said, it is important to get the hang of manual focusing. In low light the auto-focus system struggles, and using the focus ring manually is essential. I also use it to find the hyperfocal distance (by focusing on infinity and drawing the focus back as far as possible before background objects become blurry). But, on the whole, auto-focusing is the way to go. (Focus modes)
13. Sensors Get Dirty. Don’t Panic – Just Clean It
It’s understandable why beginner photographers get nervous when they see dark specks in their photos, resulting from dust on the image sensor. I was so worried by this that I allowed myself to get fleeced by a camera store who sent my DSLR off for a full scale clean!
Fortunately, those dust specks are just a common occupational hazard of photography. 9 times out 10 an air blower gets rid of them, whilst sensor brushes and swabs can be used (very carefully) for more stubborn ones. Here’s my step-by-step tutorial on how to do it.
14. Use A Tripod That Actually Takes The Weight Of Your Camera
Looking back on my early days with photography I never cease to be amazed by how many crap decisions I made. Many of the tips in this article are based on the assumption that there are people equally as daft as me out there.
I’ve written a long article on how to choose a tripod here, in which I detail the key specifications to consider when buying one. But do you know what the only specification I took account of for my first ever tripod purchase was? My mate had one - and he showed me a website where it was on offer at 40% off. Sold!
Turns out, the spindly thing barely supported the weight of the magnesium alloy D200 I was using, and I had to gently support it with my hand at the same time! I only had to fart in its direction and the whole structure came crashing down. So blustery days on the beach were out of the question. Needless to say, I soon upgraded to one that could support more than the weight of my camera body and longest lens.
15. Got A Tripod? Buy A Remote Release Device
Camera shake is not limited to hand-holding. The slightest shudder caused by manually pressing the shutter release can translate into blurry edges, especially on long exposures. A remote release device, which enables you to take a shot without actually touching the camera, eliminates this problem.
It makes subjects like fireworks, beach waves and traffic lines a whole lot easier. There’s no need to use your camera’s self-timer as a way of avoiding camera shake, which in turn makes it impossible to take a picture at the precise moment you want to.
16. Window Light Is Brilliant, And Free
In most top-notch portrait/fashion photography galleries that you care to peruse on the web, there’ll be a percentage of images lit exclusively with window light. Most of the time it produces a soft, tranquil side light, but some rooms may also enable back lighting or lighting from both sides.
I’d encourage you to explore the potential of window light before splashing out on basic home studio equipment (not that this would need to be expensive). Get a feel for using the light to shape the subject’s face and influence the mood. If you start to really enjoy it, then start purchasing equipment to increase the level of control you have.
17. “Cameras Get In The Way Of Good Photography”
I heard this quote in a video interview with a well know portrait photographer, and it stuck with me (I know, it’s pathetic I can’t remember the guy’s name). I think many beginners get consumed by the process/craft of creating a photograph (naturally enough). You have to go through this I suppose. The hours spent flicking through your camera’s manual and playing with menu options.
But photography is about real things, and there’s no point in taking pictures if you’re not interested in some way by the subject. I really think that the best photographers are just passionately interested in the visual power of their subject, and that’s what drives everything they do. So try to shift your focus from conjuring a great photograph out of nothing, just by using the right camera settings, and on to creating/finding/capturing great subjects.
18. Don’t Read Too Much Advice – There’s Often A Reason Why It’s Free!
Ok, I’m conscious that this is one of the longest articles I’ve ever written, and that’s it’s provided to you for free. I’m not saying that you should ignore what I, and other photography writers/bloggers, discuss. Just that it’s easy to become paralyzed by too much advice, too many tips, too many rules and too many ideas.
Photography is not complicated, and the biggest chunk of your learning will always be by yourself, out shooting. Pick up thoughts and ideas from other photographers along the way. But keep a clear head and don’t assume the more you read the better you get. There are plenty of photographers whose knowledge is disproportionate to their ability!
19. Get A Memory Card Reader
Scenario a) You’re just back from a long shoot. There’s 1 bar of juice left in your lithium ion battery. You connect the camera to the computer and begin uploading files. Bang – there goes the battery, and you have to sit around for a couple of hours whilst it recharges.
Scenario b) You’re just back from another long shoot. There’s 2 bars of life in the battery, so you attach the camera to the computer and begin uploading. All the files have been transferred, but the battery is down to 1 bar. You decide it’s not worth leaving it in the camera, so let it run down whilst connected to the computer and recharge it later.
Scenario “a” is a pain in the arse, scenario “b” is daft because it shortens the battery life over time (and they don’t come cheap). Solution: a memory card reader. This is one of the best, yet cheapest and simplest little purchases I’ve ever made. I always know that I will be able to upload photos immediately, and that my batteries will last a good length of time.
20. Stop Being A Wimp, Just Get Up Early
If you are interested in light and landscape photography, you have to start shooting at dawn. At 5am I don’t feel like a morning person at all. But at 8am, sitting in my car after the most glorious sunrise, sipping on a coffee and with a clutch of awesome shots, I feel like I want to be up early every day.
Shooting at dawn is wonderful. It requires a tripod, careful control of exposure, as the light constantly changes, and plenty of planning the previous evening. Here’s a full guide to shooting at the magic hours.