Digital camera tips: 1. Use a solid ND filter to extend exposure times
Solid ND (neutral density) filters are great if you want to extend your shutter speed, but they can be used to control the aperture as well. A three-stop ND filter would allow you to open the aperture by three stops to get a shallow depth of field, even in bright conditions.
Digital camera tips: 2. Polarizers
The effect of a polarising filter is impossible to recreate digitally, which makes it the number one filter choice for outdoor photographers looking to cut down reflections or intensify blue skies. Don’t skimp on price, or you’ll be skimping on quality.
Digital camera tips: 3. Black & white
Unless you know that you definitely want to print black-and-white images from your memory card, it’s best to shoot in color and then convert to mono later in your image-editing software – it will offer a lot more control than your camera. If you decide to shoot black-and-white JPEGs, don’t forget about in-camera filters: red, orange and yellow filters can all add drama to boring skies, while an orange filter will reduce the appearance of freckles and blemishes in portraits.
Digital camera tips: 4. Use a white balance preset
Because they’re processed in-camera, you’ll want to get the color right for JPEG files at the time of shooting. So use your camera’s preset options (Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, etc) instead of relying on the auto option to get it right. Although Auto White Balance is often considered a little ‘basic’, if you’re shooting raw files there’s no reason to choose anything else – you can set the white balance when you process your images.
Digital camera tips: 5. White balance bracketing
If you’re shooting JPEG images and your camera allows it, try activating white balance bracketing. JPEG files take up minimal space on your memory card and it could save you hours on your computer spent correcting a slight unwanted color cast.
Digital camera tips: 6. Using the wrong white balance
Deliberately setting the wrong white balance can add an overall color cast to your images – blue if you shoot in daylight with a Tungsten white balance, and a warm orange if you shoot under tungsten lighting with a Daylight white balance.
During sunsets, an auto white balance setting can try and correct for the overall warm tone, which is exactly what you’re trying to capture. ‘Trick’ your camera by using the Cloudy preset, which is designed to warm up cool scenes.
Digital camera tips: 7. Shoot a color target
If you want your colors to be consistent from shot to shot, include a color target in the first frame of a sequence. When it comes to processing, set the grey point (and black and white points) using the target reference frame, and your software will match the subsequent batch of images.
Digital camera tips: 8. Fill-in flash
Fill-in flash is great for lighting shadows, but it can also be used to create quite dramatic images. Use your camera’s Exposure Compensation to reduce the overall exposure by 1/2 a stop, and then increase the Flash Exposure Compensation to +1/2 to balance the exposure. (Some cameras enable you to adjust the exposure for the ambient light without affecting the flash exposure, and in this case you wouldn’t need to dial in +1/2 for the flash.) The result is a flash-dominated shot where a well-lit subject stands out against a subtly darkened background.
Digital camera tips: 9. Get the flash off-camera
Getting your flash away from your camera will transform your portraits, especially if you use a dedicated flash that can be controlled wirelessly by the camera, and reflectors to reduce any harsh shadows.
Digital camera tips: 10. Changing lenses
So much has been said about ‘dust bunnies’ (small particles of dust that can land on your camera’s sensor and cause dots in images) that many photographers seem paranoid about changing lenses – but that’s one of the main attractions of DSLR and mirrorless photography! There are some simple precautions to take though.
Always switch the camera off when changing lenses, as this removes any static charge from the sensor which can attract dust particles. Shield the camera from the wind and weather and make sure you have the replacement lens ready to fit. Finally, keep the camera’s lens opening pointing downwards when changing lenses, to minimise the risk of anything falling into it.