Beginning to Use Your Camera

WendyMay

Well-Known Member
Beginning to Use Your Camera

The time has come to finally pick your camera up for some real life photography. Enough reading and learning. Let's get to it. Oh yeah, but before we do, let's talk about some important topics. I'll break them down below to make everything easier to get through. Basically, I'd like to discuss how to go about shooting in different environments and different subjects. There's a lot to know here. You'd eventually figure this all out through experience, but we can certainly hasten the process.

How Often to Use Your Camera

First, I'd like to talk about the frequency of using your camera. For many of us, buying a DSLR or mirrorless is a big investment. The last thing we want to do is to damage what we just spent so much money on. I can remember my very first DSLR. It was a Canon T3i and I loved it. I had my favorite kit lens in the world attached to it - the Canon 18-135mm. The thing was, back in the beginning, I was terrified to bring the camera out of the house, lest it get dirty and damaged. Over time though, I realized that these types of cameras are actually tougher than I had ever imagined and by following some common sense practices, it was entirely possible to keep the camera clean and safe. Through the years, I've become much less terrified and I now bring my camera almost everywhere I go. So, my point is, if you're a new photographer and if you own an expensive camera, go outside and start using it. Don't worry about damaging it. Simply keep it firmly in your grasp and keep it clean and you should be fine. One of the things that's very important is to turn your investment into an extension of yourself. You want to become extremely comfortable bringing your camera with you almost everywhere you go.

Photographing Animals

One of the primary drivers of people purchasing new cameras and getting into the hobby is to go wildlife shooting. We've all seen the photos online and there's nothing more we want than to join the ranks of those who have gotten tremendous shots of soaring eagles and galloping deer. Those types of photographs are truly inspirational. The thing is, that type of photography is challenging. Wild animals don't just stand around waiting for people to take pictures of them. Unless...

Here's a tip for you. To gain the practice you need, begin with taking photos of household pets. Doing this will get you used to learning how your camera operates and which settings work best under which conditions. Try taking photos of your dog or cat at night, during the day, and everything in between. An even better tip though is to visit your local zoo. Remember when I said that animals don't just stand around waiting to be photographed? Well, at the zoo they do. You'd be surprised at how many professional photographers have gotten their "wildlife" photos from some zoo they've visited. So while we're all sitting here looking at their incredible shots wondering how they did what the did, they merely went to the zoo and pulled off some excellent shots of the closest giraffe. Sort of like cheating, but that's what zoos are for.

When you do venture outdoors for some real wildlife photography, there are a few rules to follow. First, you want to keep a very low profile. Make sure you're not out there in the woods during hunting season though. You may get shot, but not by a camera. Wear clothing that blends in with your environment and walk around very quietly. Be prepared to spend a good amount of time sitting very still. Sometimes you can't find an animal. It needs to find you. If you've got a blind, use it. A piece of plywood with a hole cut in it? Hide behind it. A small cabin? Try sitting inside and waiting. It might be worth the wait.

The primary rule with photographing wild animals is that you should always remember their welfare. No photo is worth placing an animal in harm's way. You don't want to set up situations where you'll stress the animal in any way either. That's a mean spirited and selfish thing to do, besides being flat out stupid. And beyond that, you want to watch out for your own safety too. Don't try hanging over cliffs to grab a shot of an eagle's nest to chasing a deer down a slippery hill. Not only will you likely fall down that cliff, you'll end up damaging your camera in the process.

Photographing Landscapes

The number one issue folks face when heading out to do landscape photography is that they don't dress for the occasion. What the temperature is down on the ground might not be what it is up in the mountains. So make sure to study the weather forecast very carefully. Also, while the skies may be clear down on the ground, they may be cloudy and either snowing or raining up in those hills. Don't waste a trip if that's not what you're after. Again, check the weather.

Another issue is that people oftentimes don't bring enough (or any) food and water with them when they head out on excursions such as this. Pack a lunch, stick a few protein bars in your bag, and bring along a bottle of water. Photography outings can certainly last longer than one expects and one needs to be prepared.

If you plan on hiking through the woods to make your way to a scenic spot, make sure the land you're hiking through is open to the public. If it isn't, you'll be trespassing and you may get yourself arrested. There are many apps these days that can tell you exactly who owns the land, so take advantage of them. It's easy enough to get landowner's permission and many of them are fairly good natured, so just ask.

I really shouldn't have to say this again, but don't go hanging over a cliff to get that "shot." There are far too many stories of people plummeting to their deaths doing exactly that. Stand back and take your photos. Enjoy yourself, but by all means, don't go anywhere near the edge of that cliff. Gravity is strong and tough to fight.

And finally, respect the land upon which you walk or hike. Don't break branches, mess with stone walls, or leave a mess. If you were to do any of these things, there's a good chance you'll be met with a "NO TRESPASSING" sign the next time you show up.

Dealing With Extreme Weather

I mentioned above that cameras are pretty tough and that you should plan on getting used to having yours with you. That's true, but I'll also tell you that these little devices certainly have their limitations. If you want your camera to last, learn what they can handle and what they can't. And realize that many times, it's not something blunt that can do a camera in. Oftentimes, it's facing the same detrimental conditions repeatedly. I'll discuss some of them below.

Heat & Dry Conditions: Don't ever let your camera sit out in the hot sun. That's a surefire way to warp or bend some important piece of it. Always keep it in the shade and a relatively normal temperature. Treat it like the small computer it is. Also, if you're in dry heat and it's windy, be very careful when changing your lens. When the lens is off your camera, the face is wide open, meaning that dirt and dust that's flying around can easily find its way into and on the mirror and sensor, not to mention the countless tiny little crevices that are also on the inside.

Freezing Conditions: Did you know that the colder a camera battery is, the faster it loses its charge? It's true, so when photographing in the cold weather, make sure you bring along a spare battery. Also, I can tell you this from experience - the first thing to freeze on your body while taking pictures in freezing weather is the tips of your fingers. If you've never experienced this, I can tell you it's no fun. Do some research on mittens and gloves for photographers. You'll save yourself a lot of pain.

Humidity & Temperature Changes: I remember one time when I stored my camera out in my cold car while waiting for an event to take place. When the time came for me to fetch my camera to record the occasion, I was met with a lens that simply wouldn't stop fogging up. Apparently, the room I was in was very humid and since my camera and lens were cold, that humidity condensed on the glass. And probably on the mirror and sensor inside. What's the moral of the story? If you're expecting to capture wonderful photos of a momentous occasion, be sure to acclimate your camera to the conditions in which you'll be photographing. Otherwise, you'll probably end up like me. Stuck with a foggy lens.

Rainy Conditions: Cameras don't like rain, no matter what they say. Water seeps into the camera through tiny cracks and crevices and when the raindrops dry, they leave stains on both the camera and the glass in the lens. So, if you're heading out into the rain, be sure to shield your camera and keep it dry. Use a shelter or an umbrella to take care of this.

Photographing People

Taking pictures of random people is one of the most fun things you can do as a photographer. Besides the fact that you'll get out there to meet some new friends, you'll also potentially take the photos of your life. I can assure you that the effort you make to get candid shots and more composed ones will be worth it. But, before you head out, there are a few considerations you'll need to keep in mind.

First, start off taking pictures of people you know. There's a comfort level that needs to be on both sides of the lens and since those you know are going to fit into this category, it'll make your job easier. On your side of the lens though, surprisingly, you need to feel at ease as well. The first few times you take photos of someone might not go as smoothly as you'd think. You need to get used to the fact that you're dealing with a living being who might offer pushback at times. Get your practice in with friends and family while you can.

Never take photos of someone who doesn't want their picture taken. Always ask before you shoot. You get much further in life by being polite and if a person you meet on the street is on board with what you're doing, that's all the better. Also, if you only follow one rule today, let it be this: never take a picture of a child without the parent's permission. You know why. It's creepy and everyone knows it. Make friends out there on the streets, not enemies. And while you're asking, be sure to say please and thank you. Again, being polite is an adult thing to do. It's important.

If you think about it, asking someone if you can take their photo is really a sales job. You'd like them to be comfortable and to act a certain way. If you've got no personality, everyone involved is going to feel awkward. Be sure to smile and use your charm. You'd be surprised at how far a smile can go. But beyond your smile, make sure you're not the only one with a camera in hand, meaning, if you notice that no other photos are being taken in the area, you may be in a culturally sensitive area. Check with local customs before photographing anything.

If there's one thing you'll learn when engaging in human photography, it's that almost everyone wants to see their photos after they've been taken. Be ready to show them. They may even want you to send some of the pictures to them via email. Write down their email address and make sure you send them after they've been processed. They'll love you for it.

Well, that's it for today. I hope these helpful tips come in handy for you. If you've got any additional tips, please be sure to add them to this thread.
 
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