We first met Michael Greene when we reported on his wonderful landscape work. Here is his contribution to our ongoing series, Five Photography Tips. Enjoy!
- Always shoot in raw. Similar to a film negative, a raw digital image is the unprocessed information and data obtained from your camera’s sensor. The purpose of the raw image format is to save, with minimum loss of information, data obtained from the sensor at the time of capture.This allows you to go back and re-edit the original data file without any substantial loss of image quality. Think of it as having your original image and being able to manipulate it from scratch as much as you want without causing any image degradation. Remember, once your image is converted to a tiff, jpeg, psd, etc. if the raw version is not saved or erased from your memory card, you have essentially lost the ability to re-edit from scratch.Why is this so important? With the ever increasing advances in technology, more opportunities are readily available for photographers to reprocess and continuously improve their older images with better state-of-the-art software.
- Make sure your camera lenses, filters and other equipment are clean. Before any photographic excursion, I clean all my equipment. For some reason, my lenses and filters attract fingerprints, which sometimes show up uninvited on my images. It can be very disheartening to discover a smudge on your best image from a week long photography trip. If you are shooting in the Southwest, you’ll get lots of sand and dust in your equipment too. For my Induro Tripod, I simply shower it off making sure the dirt is out of the legs and I air dry it in the sun. Compressed air also works well.
- If possible, follow the weather. I regularly check the forecasts when planning a trip. It is hard to get a reasonable expectation of what the conditions will be like more than ten days out. However, within that time frame, if the forecast doesn’t look beneficial, consider switching dates or locations of your excursion. I know this can create a large hassle or is just not practical, but it’s certainly worth your time to at least consider other options. For example, while traveling home to Arizona from Wyoming last October, I originally planned to shoot fall colors in Zion NP. However, the forecast of clear blue skies with slow developing autumn color coerced me to reroute my trip to Moab in Eastern Utah. Coincidentally, the only place in the state they were calling for clouds around that time. If you can’t change your trip, make sure you plan ahead and locate places where shooting will be practical.
- Use manual focus. Don’t leave your images up to chance with automatic focus. Generally speaking, auto focus yields acceptable results, but not optimal. However, if you are like me and want to try to squeeze the absolute most out of your images, then you should manually focus. This is especially true if you have a camera live view. Turn the auto switch on your lens to “off” and use live view to compose your image and set the basic focus point. (This does drain your battery, so make sure you carry extras.) After that, I hit the zoom once to focus in a five times the actual size and then again to tweak the focus at the maximum ten times the actual size. If time permits, I will focus in on different parts of the image to ensure best possible depth of field. If necessary, I take the same picture multiple times with different focus points and blend for depth of field when processing.
- Make best use of your camera equipment. This is a combination of several other points that we’ve discussed so far plus additional information. To summarize: shoot in raw, keep your equipment clean, manually focus and finally know your lenses’ sweet spots for aperture. Every lens is different. Here are some suggestions: test the them out at different focal lengths and apertures, looks at the meta data for images you like taken by others with the equipment that you own. Do research about your lenses online. It’s a lot of leg work up front, but it pays off and is more efficient and effective in the end.