Here are some hints and tips you might find useful:
Don’t Run With Scissors!
The most important accessories you can get for your camera are:
Tripod, Filters (see separate page) and inflatable sheep in red dresses, (a must for landscape photographers), chainsaw and angle grinder for those pesky telegraph poles and electricity pylons. (See separate page on Technical Stuff)
Switch on the gridlines on your viewfinder, to make sure you get the verticals upright and the horizontals level. When photographing water bodies, lakes and seascapes, make sure the tide is not going out (crooked horizons).
Allow space around your subjects, and space for moving subjects to move into. Also allows space for mounting the images into window mounts. Don’t cut off feet, tops of heads, arms etc.
Remember the Rule of Thirds, try to position your subjects on the horizontal or vertical lines or where they intersect.
Try Triangular Composition for group Portraits, 2 seated with one standing behind and between them.
The power of three (or five, or seven) - using uneven numbers in group portraits give a more pleasing effect.
Don’t miss the point - be careful when using autofocus on two people - if you point the camera with the subjects off centre, the camera may focus on the background. Place the focus point on the face of one of the subjects, half depress the shutter, and then re-compose the picture.
Switch on Red Eye Reduction when using Flash in Portraiture, to avoid those “vampire” eyes. The camera does this by firing the flash a few times to reduce the subjects eyes pupils before making the exposure. But warn your subjects not to move after the first flashes until you tell them it’s safe to do so. Check the display to ensure you have a good result before they lose the pose.
Avoid subjects casting shadows on the background when using flash by leaving sufficient space behind them. Make sure the background is far enough behind the subjects to avoid their shadows falling on it. This is especially important if you are shooting with the camera in the vertical position and using the pop up flash instewad of a flashgun off camera.
Beyond PASM - where you take control.
Wait for it! - Wait until the light is right, avoid the midday sun, unlike those mad dogs and Englishmen! Wait for those “bleedin’ tourists” to move out of the frame.
Move around before you press the shutter - what if you changed your viewpoint, lie down for a worm’s eye view, stand on a wall or car for an elevated view, move closer in or further away? Experiment with different viewpoints.
Don’t take just one shot - move around, experiment with composition, viewpoint, shutter speeds and apertures. Remember that pixels are free!
Use a Tripod for landscapes so you can use a small aperture (f16, f22 and beyond), and consequently slower shutter speeds. First move around with the camera hand held to get the best viewpoint, only then set up the tripod.
Use Hyperfocal Distance for landscapes - see the links page for an explanation of this.
Use Leading Lines to guide your viewer’s eye to the subject matter. We read from left to right so a composition with lines from the bottom left hand corner towards the top right are most pleasing.
Use Monopods for Sports, or in crowded areas where people could trip over your tripod, or knock it over causing damage to your camera gear.
Check the corners of the viewfinder before you press the shutter, to avoid unwanted distractions and clutter, and the “corner gremlins”.
Clean up the litter and rubbish from the site before you take the photo where possible, it’s easier than having to Photoshop them out afterwards.
Always bring your Camera with you when going out for a drive in the mountains, walk in the park or even just to the shops etcetera - you never know when you will get the opportunity to get a cracking picture. If the circumstances are not suitable, use the outing as an opportunity to do reconnoitre for a later visit, at a different time of the day, or season in the year. Use the Photographer’s Ephemeris (see Links page) to see when the light will be best suited for creating your masterpiece.
What’s the best camera to use? The one you have with you. It’s much better than the one in the camera bag in the bottom of the wardrobe. If you don’t want to lug around a full sized DSLR kit with lenses and flashguns weighing 20 kgs, why not invest in a high spec digital compact like the Nikon P7100, Fuji X10 or Canon G12?
Pixels are free - back in the day when we were all shooting negative or transparency film, every time you pressed the shutter it cost you money for developing and printing. Now that pixels are free, don’t hesitate to experiment with different viewpoints, film speeds, apertures, shutter speeds, filters. But don’t just shoot willy nilly, thinks about your image, composition, lighting, viewpoint etc.
Be careful! - be aware of your surroundings, don’t go down dark alleys, keep an eye out for suspicious characters, and where possible, don’t go out alone, and tell someone where you are going and how long you’ll be. If taking to the hills, ensure you have the proper protective clothing and get guidance from the locals, as the weather can change very fast. Bring a referee’s whistle to be heard over the background noise - sea birds crying, crashing waves etcetera - and a fully charged mobile phone.
Get permission - some places won’t allow you to use a tripod when taking photographs, even though there may be lots of tourists taking pictures on their mobile phones and compact cameras beside you. Also some people don’t like to be photographed, but normally if you ask politely most people will agree. Send them a copy of the picture you have taken by post or e-mail - this is a good way of getting your name about.
Join the Club - The easiest way to learn about your photography is to join a Camera Club or Photographic Society. Clubs or Societies normally have regular meetings and outings as well as workshops, tutorials, special interest sub groups, and are a great way to share and learn. I am a member of our local club in Clondalkin - here’s the link to their website - www.clondalkincameralcub.com - Make sure your club is affiliated to the Irish Photographic Federation, the umbrella body for camera clubs and photographic societies in the Republic of Ireland.
Above all, have fun! This is supposed to be a hobby, not an endurance test!