Most of the time when I have a photographic problem, it's my own fault. I suspect that's true of you, too. Since some of you are dusting your cameras off for graduation or summer vacations, let's review some of the more common things that you're probably neglecting to do:
- Use the Right Protection. No, I don't mean filters, which I try to completely avoid unless that's the only way I can get a visual effect. I mean lens hoods. Stand at any scenic viewpoint in a National Park and you'll see dozens of photographers shooting without lens hoods. That's one of the fastest ways to reduce contrast and make your lens under perform. Even compact cameras and extreme wide angle lenses should be using as much hood as possible.
- Make Friends With Mr. Clean. If you put the horse away wet, it's going to look pretty ragged when you take it back out. Clean. Before each shooting session. And after. Sensor. Lens. Body. Contacts. LCD. You'll be surprised how much easier this is to do regularly than it is if you wait six months.
- Keep shortcuts handy. The higher end Nikon DSLR models all have a Save Settings function. Did you? Where is the result? And if you use UniWB, where is your master file? If your answer to both is "with me at all times," come get your gold star.
- Get the Tripod out of the Car or Hotel Room, or Off Your Backpack. Yep, getting the tripod out and setting it up will take you all of, oh, twenty seconds. If you wander around the park taking thirty different shots, that'll add a whopping 10 minutes to your visit. Of course, it'll also save you from coming back to get the quality shots you missed the first time.
- Move Your Feet. It's called perspective. Zoom lenses used lazily give you multiple shots with the same perspective. A couple of prime lenses that force you think about where you are and why and sometimes move mean you get different perspectives.
- Carry Some Numbers. If you travel far from home with your equipment, having your serial numbers (and/or Customs 4457 for International travelers) handy is the difference between being able to file an accurate police report should you have an unfortunate theft occur and not. Having a police report is what helps you file an insurance claim. And without serial numbers, you might not get your equipment back should it be found.
- Change the Light. Too many photographers just accept what they find. Instead use: Time of day, subject position, flash, reflectors, diffusers, scrim, flashlights, and anything else you can think of. But take control of the light.
- Read (and Understand) the Manual. Seems obvious, but all the answers are there. Or in my books. But would you believe I've gotten emails from photographers in the field using their smartphones to ask me "where do I find the X setting?" The sad thing is that at least one of them was a pro.