Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tip of the day: Know thy camera II

I realized that I just suggested people to know their camera without really explaining the benefits of doing so. Basically, and I can't believe that I'm about to do this, Ken Rockwell said it best when he said "Good cameras get out of your way. Good cameras are an extension of your imagination."

Problem is, a good camera can get in your way if you don't know how to operate it quickly and efficiently.

There are certain situations where you only get 3 seconds to nail "the shot". Can you zoom, switch aperture and shutter speed to shoot the frame in 3 seconds? What about adding ISO and white balance into the mix? Can you check for blown highlights in 2 seconds?

I think my best training in nailing "the shot" came several years ago when I used to shoot hummingbirds. These little buggers would only visit once every 15 minutes so I'd only get 4 opportunities an hour max to shoot the "resident" bird (that claimed the territory). I learned to be prepared and then to get the shot within seconds because I only had seconds. I missed PLENTY of shots because of autofocus and sometimes because of other settings. I learned my lesson the hard way.

During my shoots, time is of the essence. Sometimes "the moment" happens between "official poses". Once I dial the camera settings in for a particular look, I don't like taking time out to check the settings. That being said, I can't afford to botch the exposure over tens or even a hundred frames so I occasionally still have to check the histogram for blown highlights. Checking the histogram takes time and it can interrupt the model's posing rhythm. The more time I spend futzing with the camera during the set, the more momentum and credibility I lose as a photographer. Sounds extreme right? But it's true.

If you're in tune with your equipment, you should be able to manipulate it seamlessly as if it were an extension of your body. There should be no "separation" between you and your camera. The 35mm dSLRs of today are capable of that, Nikons and Canons alike. It's not the camera getting in the way anymore, it's YOU.

The equipment is more than adequate. I can't say the same for myself. It's time for us to play our part and master the machinery so we don't miss "the shot". Now go and reread the manual ;P

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