Tips

This page is still under construction so bare with me and my typos.  I'll try to add some image examples in the future.

First, I should mention that I do have a photographic "style" that isn't especially unique but isn't necessarily common either.  Generally speaking I like the images that I share to look the way I felt when I saw whatever I was photographing.  You see, human sight isn't just recording what photons bounce off our retina; it's much more.  Our minds ignore some details and fill in way more than we realize.  Our mood can also play a part on how we visualize our surroundings.  So I do try to add a bit of "mood" to my photography.  That doesn't mean that I Photoshop in things, but I do enhance and occasionally remove things from images.  Cigarette butts, cars and occasionally people are subtracted from my images.  More often, I just pick the trash up myself and wait for the rable to get out of my shot.  I also never take vacation during the summer which eliminates a certain amount of extra human beings from my images.


I'm dividing this up into 4 sections; equipment, shooting technique and processing.  There are other things to consider, but most important aspects of photography can be placed in one of these.

What to shoot
Tip 1.  Location.  Probably, the best tip I can give is WHERE to shoot.  Yes, you can take some very interesting pictures in familiar places like your back yard, but most people like to see something that either they have never seen before or at least don't see every day.  The US and Canadian National, State, Province and Provincial Parks are great bets.

Tip 2.  Subject.  There is absolutely no reason why you can't take good images of people, but I'm not the one to tell you how to do that.  Instead I suggest you make a habit of looking around all the time.  Specifically, look at the scenery as a whole for landscape shots.  Also look for specific features of the landscape like mountains, isolated cabins, trains, animal herds etc.  things that stand out.

Tip 3.  Detail.
 Many of favorite shots are details of a larger subject; one flower in a bunch, the chrome hood ornament on a car, a wild flower on a path.  Don't overlook the forest for the trees, but don't ignore the trees for the forest.

Tip 4.   Water.
 Psychologically, humans are predisposed to like water.  Supposedly, the most popular paintings are those that show a largish body of water such as a lake, with blue sky and trees nearby.   But waterfalls and creeks are often described as "magical".  An image with water flowing in then out is often better than any other image of the area.  Also, I have noted that areas with waterfall invariably are more photogenic than ones without.  I now specifically look for waterfalls when planning a trip even if I don't always get to them.

Equipment
Tip 1 - Use a DSLR.  Preferably a full frame camera if you can afford it.  Canon and Nikon both make excellent cameras and lenses; you probably won't regret either one.  A full frame camera has advantages over an enthusiast camera especially when shooting in adverse conditions.  For example; a Canon 5DII is much heavier than a comparable 4Ti.  This may not seem like an advantage, but when trying to stabilize a ..3 second hand held shot, the extra weight helps keep the lens from moving as much.  The full frame will do much better in low light, provide more detail and give you better color rendition.  A pro/semi-pro body is less likely to be bothered by dust or a little rain either.

Tip 2 - Don't skimp on the glass.  The Canon 24-1-5L is my primary lens.  It isn't even top of the line but it's head and shoulder over the kit lens or any third party lens.  It wasn't cheap, but I very glad I got it.  I highly suggest getting at least on midrange pro lens or a pro prim lens.

Tip 3.  Filters.  I shoot with a pro grade polarizing filter on most of the time.  By cutting reflection, a polarizing filter dramatically enhances the vibrancy of most scenes; foliage, metal, water and sky are greatly enhanced.

Tip 4.  Carry a monopod.  I often shoot with low shutter speeds.  Typically .5 seconds or slower.  My record is 4 seconds without a tripod, but that was with a monopod and leaning up against the canyon wall (the last shot in Antelope Canyon 2008.)  Slow shutter speeds not only help give you higher f-stops without having to resort to grainier shutter speeds, they are necessary for getting smooth effects on flowing water.  My monopod also doubles as a hiking stick and has saved my arse more than once!  They're very handy for testing the depths of snow, mud and other things you're not sure you should step in.

Tip 5.  Carry lots of memory cards.  I keep enough to shoot at least 2 days at more than 1000 frames per day.  I don't usually take that many frames, but there have been really good days when I have.  You never want to  worry about not having enough memory with you so get stocked up.

Shooting
Tip 1 - Always shoot in RAW.  There's just so much more you can do with RAW files.  I don't usually even bother taking Jpeg at all any more.

Tip 2 - Hold your camera with both hands.  Seriously, don't treat your camera like a cell phone.  You should grip the body with your right hand and cradle the lens with your left.  Keep you elbows tucked in against your chest whenever possible.  This grip technique will help you keep the camera stable in slower shutter speeds.

Tip 2 - Take LOTS of frames.  If I find a scene that I really like, I'll shoot it from different angles, different shutter speeds and different ISOs.  That gives me the luxury of choosing the be shot later and dumping the rest.  For my second and unexpected trip to Antelope Canyon, I shot well over 1000 frames.  It was totally worth burning though 3 memory cards!

Tip 3 - Pay attention to what's around you.  Many of the images in my collection are unique.  Not because they were out of the way, but because I was the only one that seemed to notice.  When I go hiking, I see people speeding on past me without even seeing the scenery.  You need to look down, up and around you at least some of the time.

Post Processing
Tip 1 - Invest in good RAW processing software.  Photography software had a huge leap forward around 2009.  One of the outcomes is Adobe Lightroom.  The software can make short work of making numerous adjustments to a set of images.  With the newest version; I rarely have to even import an image into my retouching program.

Tip 2 - Experiment.  Sometimes trying a different combination of setting on a stubborn image can result in something interesting even if it wasn't what you originally had wanted it to look like.

Tip 3 - Learn burning and dodging.  That's photographic printing terms for darkening and lightening areas of a photograph.  hanging the brightness of objects and areas can help emphasis or de-emphasize them.

Tip 4 - Check the detail.  Little things can add up to make what should basically be a good image look less than professional.  Out of focus, unsharp, incorrect color balance, grainy or chromatic aberrations can add unwanted distractions from your image.  Always zoom in while editing and check the quality of your images and make adjustments if you can.

Tip 5 - Layers.  When you get a "perfect" images, you may want to spend extra time making it even better.  On a few images, I have spent a lot of time in Photoshop (PSP actually) making changes to areas and overlaying them on top of each other.  Softening an area of a lake, sharpening some flowers in the foreground, darkening some distracting details in shadows and burning in detail in highlights.  It can sometimes be time consuming, but if you intend to print an image it can really pay off!

Tip 6 - Don't be afraid to try something different.  I have a few "artistic" images that are more often than not frames that I originally thought were not worth keeping.