Thursday, April 16, 2015

3 Products Under $10 that Will Improve Your Photography More than that New Lens

It's very tempting to succumb to the belief that a new, better lens or camera will significantly improve our photography.  We know in our hearts that it won't, but we trick ourselves into believing it's true.  But there are some items that will actually improve our photography skills (and not just the contrast in our images).  And they're all under $10.

Painter's Tape
In the closet drawer it's probably not helping much, but there is a way to put it to good use:  Cut a 2-inch portion of tape and fold over one edge so that it can be easily removed (if you're worried about residue on your camera, stick it to your kitchen counter and then peel it off to reduce the stickiness).  Now put it over the top LCD screen on your camera.  This prevents you from reviewing your settings on the top monitor.

Go into your menu settings and turn off instant preview of your images.  Now, you can't quickly crimp your images to check exposure or focus.

Without info from the top LCD or the ability to quickly crimp, you can focus on seeing everything you need to see through the viewfinder.  All the info is there-- ISO, shutter, aperture, exposure, compensation.  Learn to adjust your settings without taking your eye from the viewfinder; and learn to evaluate the exposure of your scene for yourself as well.  Your camera's meter can be tricked-- so ask yourself, "is the scene predominantly light or dark?"  "Which way do I need to compensate?"  When you evaluate the exposure this way, you're seeing the edges of your frame (and not just your subject). There's no "run-and-gun" method; each picture is a thought-exercise.  It will slow you down at first, but when you remove the tape and turn on Instant Review again, you'll find you shoot both quicker and smarter.  Quicker, because you no longer have to take the camera away from your eye to adjust the settings; smarter because there's less trial and error.  My advice is not to leave the tape on for more than a few days-- it will, eventually, start to harden onto the camera.  But I've found that even a couple of days with the tape improved my evaluation skills and attention to technique.

Camera Remote
I've preached about this before.  It's challenging to practice portraiture because you need a willing subject.  With a remote, you can be both photographer and subject, exploring new lighting and new poses.  I think this is helpful in two ways: First, top photographers like Gregory Heisler always rehearse their lighting ideas before a shoot.  He's known to use a giant piece of paper on the ground so he can mark his lighting positions and take them with him.  That type of preparation separates his photography from the crowd.  Second, doing the poses yourself can help you communicate them to your clients.  Seeing what they look like in the picture tells you about camera angle.


We think of learning as taking in information.  It's not.  It's our ability to process and remember.  Remembering is about recall.  You know that the head of a president  is engraved on a penny (maybe you even remember which one)-- and you've seen it a hundred thousand times.  But you probably can't answer with any confidence which direction his head is facing.  If you want to learn something, anything, practice recalling the information.  My notebook has become a way to process and aid recall.

My focus is at Hurricane Images is "people" photography, and that translates into excellence in three areas:  lighting, posing, and image editing.  I divided my notebook into those categories.

Bonus Product

Websites like this one.  The internet is chock full of free information.  It's almost embarrassing how little knowledge you need to pay for nowadays.  Everybody is giving at least a little bit away for free, with the hope that you'll purchase more, but every little bit is different.  You can cobble together a full set of skills from what's available online.

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