Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Thinking Like a Photography Pro

Recently, I saw someone get chewed out for something that wasn't entirely her fault: she inadvertently deleted the only copies of some photographs she'd taken in a professional capacity. Part of the problem is that she hadn't backed up the raw images to multiple sources, but the other big part: there was only ONE SD card (and a small one at that) to handle the many events she is asked to photograph.

Many years ago, when my dad purchased my first SLR camera (Minolta XG-1, Christmas 1980), he also supplied me with two of Minolta's basic photography books and a two year subscription to a photography magazine. I learned quite a bit from those resources, but the magazine was amazing for little hints from professionals. It is responsible for my patience in shooting pictures of animals, for instance.

One of the tips that definitely stuck with me was: be prepared and carry spares. In those days, it meant an extra roll or two of film. If you're shooting an event, extra batteries for the camera and flash, spare lenses and heck, if you can, run with two bodies with two different lenses. Even now, I have two Minolta bodies and 5 lenses and if I were to use film, I could easily be prepared.

With technological advances, this simple guide can fall by the wayside with newer photographers. They don't realize that batteries fail, media cards fill up and your wifi access to your cloud storage can be hosed. There's no worse thing than being at a celebration and finding your card is full (or watching your child perform in a show, for example) and seeing that 'out of memory' message. Some simple rules to save you from missing those once in a lifetime pictures here. While you're at it, consider the same for your digital video devices:

1. You need MORE storage media than you think you do!
This means you should probably have THREE cards if you're doing something for a client, and at least two on hand if you're taking pictures (or video) for personal use.

Along those lines, higher resolution means your card (SD, Mini SD, Compact Flash, etc) holds less pictures or video. Plan accordingly. For instance, I bought two 32 gig mini-SD cards for my GoPro, but I have plans to grab 2 64 gig cards before I go on my cruise next month. All the other devices use SD cards, of which there are 16 in my office. I know, because I number each one as I purchase it.

2. Have a spare battery-or even two.
I have a cute little Kodak Playsport waterproof digital video camera that is great for our jaunts over to Daytona. However, it is the ONLY camera I have that has an internal battery, which means there is NO way to prepare for that inevitable battery drain while we're having fun in the pool. I haven't made that mistake in a camera purchase since.

My Nikon has two spare batteries and a spare charger that works on AC as well as the car DC outlet. The retro style Samsung digital video camera has two batteries and the GoPro has three batteries and two chargers, as well as being able to plug it into a USB port. Yes, I've been caught short on power if I don't plan ahead, but that doesn't happen all that often.

My digital video class is responsible for me being a camera hog: I am prepared for three camera setups-plus a spare! This is not absolutely necessary for the amateur, but if you decide to purchase multiple cameras, investigate which storage media they use so you can double up on that front.

3. Label your cords and chargers.
Nearly every device has a proprietary connector to charge it. If you have more than one camera, chances are you've been burned by going to charge a device while traveling, and found that you had the cord for the *other* device. I started labeling all of mine with a paint pen, and life is much easier. Heck, I have things separated into ziploc bags to be able to grab what I need when I need it (and all the stuff for the new GoPro got its own VB pouch).

4. Store your images in multiple places.
Hard drives fail. Laptops get stolen (sadly). I'm not completely sold on cloud storage. I have my pictures stored on my laptop, my desktop computer, and an external drive. Periodically, I burn them down to a CD or DVD. At least one of those backups is usually the RAW files, in the event that I may want to crop differently or do some retouching or color corrections later.

5. Take more pictures than you think you need.
I don't know about you, but I've had pictures look great on the digital display on the back of the Nikon, then when I'm looking on the picture in my photo viewer on a 21" monitor, I see a hair, or a shadow or some other imperfection. This especially is true when you're using people or animals as your subjects! Ed took a picture of me the other day, just one, and I *knew* I'd blinked just as the shutter released. Not a big deal, but it's kind of funny when 99.5% of the pictures taken are by me and the rare one OF me is one I'd toss!

No, I'm not a pro, and I don't want to be one-I like photography and videography as a hobby, but these little tips will help you get more pictures and video like the pros.

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