Tips and Tricks

A few quick photography tips and tricks for today’s post.

These are based on my actual experience as an instructor and from observations in the field, not on what is written on Internet Photography websites, though these have all probably been covered by someone somewhere. No hardcore rules here, just food for thought. The same mistakes get repeated by all of us.

Using flash for wildlife is okay. I’ve never had an animal spook when I fired a flash. They don’t know what it is and it poses no threat to them.

When using flash for fill light on a subject, I generally set my camera metering for spot metering and meter on the subject. I then set my exposure for a half stop underexposed. I use my flash with ETTL enabled and then set my flash exposure for a half stop underexposure. What this does is keeps a balance between fill and natural light to about 50/50. It won’t always be perfect, but it’s a great place to start.

Format your camera memory cards in the camera, prior to starting any new event. I see it all the time, people never clean off their memory cards and then find out later they have old photos sitting on them, causing their card to fill up while they are in the heart of the current business. They stop everything they are doing and have to find another memory card. Then, when they get home and download the images, they download all the old images again.

Another big one I see all the time. Charge your camera battery before you start your shoot. Charge a second battery and keep it in your pocket. I’ve witnessed countless interruptions caused by not having a charged battery in the camera and a charged spare in their pocket. It’s a beginners mistake. You can’t take photos with dead batteries.

Keep a length of twine or light rope in your camera pack. Maybe 20 ft or so. When you are out in nature and composing an image, some times there is a bush or tree branch sticking into what would otherwise be a great composition. Use that piece of rope to tie around the bush or branch and pull it back out of your field of view. You don’t have to damage the plant and you don’t have to move to a different spot.

If you have UV filters on your lenses, take them off. I’ve never seen a UV filter make an image better and I have seen them ruin images. If you’re worried about damaging your lens, lose the worry and just keep the lens cap on your lens until you are ready to make photos.

If it’s cold out and you are working from a vehicle, take the lens hood off of your lens. The lens hood can trap warm air in front of your lens when you step out of your vehicle. End result, soft image.

If you are shooting from a vehicle, turn the engine off before you stick your lens out the window. Exhaust fumes can drift into your field of view. End result, soft image.

When photographing wildlife, never walk or move in the direction of the wildlife. The animal won’t like that and will turn it’s butt towards you. If you keep moving towards the animal, it warned you and it will then leave you nothing but it’s rear end to photograph.

Never photograph the south end of a north bound animal. Nobody wants to look at a moose ass.

Don’t do anything that alters the animals behavior. The first thing an animal will do is stop and look at you. That’s as far as you go. If the animal gets nervous about your presence, it will change what it is doing and try to move away from you. Once the animal notices you, that’s pretty much all you’re gong to get and you should not press the issue. Never move out in a direction that puts you in the animals path thinking the animal will come right to you. If the animal knows you are there, it will alter it’s path or it will stomp on you when it gets close enough.

I see this all the time. Bald Eagle sitting in a tree. The photographer starts moving towards the eagle because the eagle is 70 yards away. Don’t walk towards the eagle, don’t try to sneak up on the eagle. Take what you get. All you’ll do by trying to get closer to the eagle is spook it off. Eagles don’t tolerate humans moving towards them.

If you own a second camera body, keep a lens on it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a second body with a different lens on it that I could switch to and get a shot that I would have missed by having to swap lenses. Avoid swapping lenses in the field. I keep a 200-500mm on my D810 and a 70-200mm on my D850 when shooting wildlife. I keep a 24-70mm in the bag if I need to swap to that focal length, but with wildlife it’s pretty rare.

Keep extra lens caps and body caps in your bag. I’m always misplacing a lens cap, and nothing makes me more nervous than losing a lens cap early in a shoot and not having another to keep my lens from getting dirty. They are cheap and can be purchased in bulk on eBay or Amazon for next to nothing.

Keep a clean cloth hand-towel in your camera bag. I personally use what are called flour sack towels, which I get at Target. They are great for keeping your gear clean and dry when working in foul conditions.

Keep a small plastic trash bag or two in your kit. Kitchen size garbage bags are great. You can use them to keep rain and dust off and out of your gear. You don’t need expensive protective covers, just throw a garbage bag over you camera.

Own a good tripod. There is no substitute for a good, sturdy tripod. I prefer a tripod that will support 20 lbs or more. Use it when you can and should.

Own a good monopod. When I’m working outdoors, I don’t always like lugging around a big tripod, so I keep a good monopod with me. I prefer to use a monopod when photographing wildlife. It’s always more stable than hand holding your camera with a super-telephoto lens.

Lastly, and probably most importantly.

Don’t be an asshole.