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Shooting Tips!

Categories: General Information,Projects No Comments

Good morning, everyone!  While I was sitting at the breakfast table, drinking my tea this morning, I was thinking about you all shooting your first assignment this weekend.  I thought that it might be helpful if I gave you a series of tips and things to remember when you are shooting this weekend.  For those of you using your own cameras, these are also VERY important as well!  I’ve divided my advice into two sections:  Preperation before you start shooting, and then things to keep in mind while you are shooting.  I hope these things help:

PREPERATION: Before you start shooting, check these things:

  • Do I have a charged battery in my camera?  If it’s not fully charged, do I have a second one I should bring along?
  • Do I have a storage card in my camera?  Is there enough space on it, or do I need to download the images to my computer first so that I can fit my assignment on it?  (Remember, you need to shoot ~100+ images!)
  • Is my file type set to RAW?  If you are using one of Penfield’s cameras, they should all be set to that for you already.  If you are using your own camera, you will need to figure that out.  It is usually in the first menu option, but if you’re not sure, just do a quick Google search.  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT – WE DO NOT WANT JPEGS FOR THIS CLASS!!!
  • Is the color space of my camera set to Adobe RGB?  I have changed all of the Penfield cameras to Adobe RGB already, but if you are using your own camera, you will want to set it to Adobe RGB.  Again, a quick google search will probably tell you how to do this for your camera.
  • Is my camera CLEAN?  Does the lens have fingerprints and smudges on it?  Can I actually see through the viewfinder?  If not, use a good microfiber cloth to clean the lens.  NEVER USE YOUR SHIRT TO CLEAN A LENS!  The fibers of a shirt are way too rough – they will put micro-scratches on the lens and strip the lens coatings right off, making your image less sharp.
  • Do I have my camera bag with me?  Plastic baggies in case of rain?  Cell phone?  Pocket knife?  Whatever else you think you might need for your shooting.  I always bring a whole huge host of things, most of which I never use, but always have with me.  Things like white and black trash bags for controlling light, clothespins for holding things, duct tape or gaffers tape, zip ties, velcro strips, and all sorts of other stuff.  It’s honestly a little crazy how much stuff I bring with me on a shoot.


If you have everything you need, and your camera is all set up, then it’s time to get shooting.


SHOOTING: Now it’s time to shoot, and there are a bunch of things to keep in mind:

  • AM I SAFE?  This may seem like a bit of  a joke, but it’s not.  It’s very easy to get so focused (pun intended) on the image that you forget where you are.  Don’t put yourself at risk for a photograph.  Train tracks are beautiful, but not a good idea, for example.  Also, don’t shoot in the middle of a road, no matter how rarely used it often is.  When professionals do this sort of thing, they contact the police, and pay for off-duty officers to shut down roads to keep everyone safe.  Beware of cold water:  Putting a model or yourself in colder water may not seem like too extreme of an idea in the fall or the spring, but hypothermia is much easier to get than you think.  So be smart, use common sense, and NEVER put yourself or a model in danger!
  • FOCUS: Am I focused on the subject? If the image is a little blurry in the viewfinder, then it will most likely be blurry when you take the photo!  Also, if you have a shallow depth of field, and you focus on the tip of a model’s nose instead of their eyes, you have now made their nose the subject, not the eyes, so make sure you are photographing on the most important part of the subject.
  • EXPOSURE:  Is the camera telling me that I have the correct exposure? If I am over or underexposing the image, is it only by a little?  Can I get a better exposure by changing my settings somehow? If I change one of my settings, how will this change the look of the photograph?
  • SHUTTER SPEED: Is the shutter speed I am at good for the situation?  If I am handholding the camera, can I honestly hold the camera steady to get a sharp photograph?  Is my subject moving quickly enough that I need to increase the speed of the shutter to capture the action? Remember, if you change the shutter speed, this will force you to make an equal and opposite change with either the aperture or the ISO!!!
  • APERTURE:  Is the aperture I am using going to give me the depth-of-field that I want for this photo?  Do I need a deeper depth-of-field?  If so, then I need to make the aperture smaller (larger number). Or, conversely, do I want a shallower depth-of-field, to elimate background distractions?  If so, I can move to a wider aperture (smaller number) to make the background (and possibly foreground) more blurry.  When you move to a wider aperture, the precision of your focusing is all the more important!  Remember, this will also force you to change either the shutter or the ISO!!!
  • ISO: Lastly, I will check to see if I am really at the best ISO possible.  Generally speaking, the lowest ISO possible is always the best.  Every camera is a little different here – some cameras are beautiful at 800, and others may be really grainy and horrible at the same speed.  So you’ll just have to shoot to see, and get used to what your camera can do at certain ISOs.  (In general, this is where the price of your camera really comes into play – a more expensive imaging sensor will produce a much nicer image at higher ISOs, whereas a cheaper camera will look really grainy very quickly.)  If you change your ISO at all, you now must compensate by making an appropriate change to compensate with either the shutter speeds or the aperture!!!
  • COMPOSITION: Finally, once you know you are going to get a technically good photo, now it is time to make an aesthetically beautiful composition.  Change your angle, get closer, change the lighting, etc.  Remember that many of these changes may very well force you to make adjustments with focus, shutter speeds, apertures and ISO!  Photography is a lot like juggling – one minor change can affect everything that you have up in the air, and it means constantly adjusting to be successful.  The keys to success in this area are complicated, varied, and very individualistic.  But this is where lighting, and use of the elements and principles of design really start to come into play.  Always watch your background, because you can have beatiful lighting a beatiful POV, and a beautiful subject, and a bad abckground will still ruin the whole thing.

Okay, that’s my list of advice for taking a successful photograph – for now.  Of course, there’s even more to it than all of this, but I think all of this will do for starters.  Photography is great practice in multi-tasknig, and keeping you mind on many different things all at once.

And my most important advice of all:  Have fun!  Photography is one of the most fun things ever (biased, I know), so enjoy the process, experiment, and laugh.  Your photographs will be better because of it!

See you all on Monday.

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