Last season we had a Hints & Tips session.  Many thanks to John Langham for taking notes

I think the maxim is: Planning and Preparation. Remember “If you fail to Plan you Plan to Fail”


  • Always carry a camera with you, even if it’s only a mobile phone – the best camera you have is the one that is with you when you see THE shot.
  • Reset your camera before going out on a photo shoot – how many of us have left it on a high ISO setting after a previous session and then suffered unnecessary noise ?
  • If using a tripod, turn off Image Stabilization (IS) or Vibration Reduction (VR) features and let the tripod do its work.
  • Maximize image sharpness by always using a tripod and cable release or self-timer.
  • If your DSLR has the ability, shoot Raw and JPG simultaneously and set the camera to mono– that way you will see on location if your picture works in mono but at the same time you also have all of the information available to you in the Raw file to be able to make your choice later.
  • Try taking an image using using manual settings and also at least one of the program modes


  • If your camera uses AA or AAA batteries, check them using a torch.
  • Before charging AA or AAA batteries use the torch to ensure they are fully discharged else they can develop a memory effect which means they think their discharged before they really are.
  • If you don’t use your camera for long periods remove the battery as it will discharge in camera.
  • Remember to check / charge your batteries the night before because even if removed from the camera they can discharge over time.
  • If you put your battery on charge overnight put your camera gear near the charger so you don’t forget them in the morning when you rush out
  • Ensure that they are fully charged and not just showing charged when you first switch on your camera i.e. give your camera a few seconds to take a full reading.
  • Always have a spare battery but buy a branded make rather than a cheap one because they can swell and jam in the camera

Memory Cards


  • Always format your memory cards before you leave home – you will have ensured backup of old images before formatting and you will then be starting with a clean sheet and not run the risk of adding to a card already three quarters full.
  • Format cards in camera for compatibility and format regularly to avoid card errors which can develop over time.
  • When purchasing memory card, buy several smaller cards rather than one large card – if a problem developed on your large card you could lose lots of pictures all in one fell swoop.
  • Buy branded cards with best write speeds
  • For older cameras check if they are compatible with newer higher capacity cards
  • Always ensure you have a card in your camera – sounds pretty basic, but how many of you have mistakenly left it in your card reader or computer !
  • Keep some spare memory cards in your camera bag – just in case you have left your main card behind in then computer !
  • But also don’t keep them in one box because if you lose that box you lose the lot
  • Never fill a memory card – always change before it is full because they you won’t be in a hurry and put the full card in your top pocket only to find later that you have lost it


  • Prepare your camera before going out on a shoot – clean the lenses and check that DSLR sensor is clean. Never change a lens with the camera switched on and hold the camera downwards when changing lenses.
  • Do not squirt lens cleaning fluid directly onto the lens but use a cloth – some lens mounts or compact cameras may not take too kindly to liquid applied directly.
  • Always switch off the camera before changing the lens to remove the static charge from the sensor which will otherwise attract dust.
  • Always change the lens with the camera facing down so any dusts falls out.

Camera Bags

  •  Always keep all you photography equipment together in your bag because it’s always the item that you left on the shelf that you need when you rush out.
  • Ensure that your camera bag and pockets are properly fastened when out and about – one member lost cards from a bag and even more expensively lenses fell out.
  • Keep your camera manual in your bag or take a pdf copy with you on your phone.

Taking Images

  •  Before pressing the shutter, remember to check the background as well as the subject –get it right in the camera first time !
  • Take your time – if you see an image, take it straightaway by all means so that you have got it, but then take your time, review the image you have taken and think about alternate views, exposure control etc. –just like we used to with film photography.
  • Think about what the location would be like at different times i.e. sunrise or sunset.
  • Keep it simple – your objective is to achieve maximum impact.
  • When taking pictures of flowers indoors (particularly macro) do not use a flash – you will be in danger of burning out the image detail.
  • Shoot macro work without using a flash which could lead to unexpected harsh shadows –use an LED light array which can cost as little as £50.
  • When shooting directly into the low winter sun, utilize HDR techniques to capture the whole image as you see it. – http://hdrsoft.com/, alternatively try a graduated ND filter.
  • If shooting Amateur Dramatics, there are usually two rehearsals – a Technical and a Dress Rehearsal. Attend both so that you can understand the activity and then shoot at the Dress Rehearsal. The maxim here is preparation and planning.
  • Experiment with your shots – don’t get bogged down with standard record shots – move around and utilize the benefits of digital when taking more images is not costing any more.

Post Processing

  • Store your images in meaningfully named directories.
  • If you use Organizer tag your images to allow easy searching.
  • When using Photo shop or Photo shop Elements, don’t be tempted to mess with brightness and contrast as soon as you start to process – use the Levels control first – this may resolve many issues rather than too much drastic action.
  • Some people find it difficult to remember the effect of Dodge and Burn – just remember that your toaster burns a darker shade just as Burn darkens the image selection.
  • Use the free tutorials on YouTube for Lightroom – search for Anthony Morganti.
  • There is excellent online training for Photoshop on lynda.com– this requires a subscription.
  • In portrait photography remember Mr. Speaker’s maxim ‘The Ayes (eyes) have it !’ – the eyes must be stunning and sharp, use dodge at about 6% to lighten them but never try to paint a catch light in – it never works and always looks false.
  • Always try to do image manipulation in a non destructive fashion
  • For Dodging and burning add a layer filled with 50% grey, set the blending mode to soft light or overlay Set your colours to black and paint with a large feather brush where you want to burn (darken) the image or white for dodge (lighten) your image. If you make a mistake just repaint that area with 50% grey. See http://www.dpchallenge.com/tutorial.php?TUTORIAL_ID=71 or http://www.photoshopessentials.com/photo-editing/dodge-burn/

Image Storage

  • Backup more than once and also have a backup of files stored in a different physical location – if there was a tragic event the home it is likely that both the computer and an external hard drive could be taken/damaged at the same time. Take another copy round to a separate location
  • If you back up on CD or DVD check them because over time they can deteriorate.


  • Always take a note book– really useful when taking a series for HDR or a Panoramic series. This is what I did and why you now have these notes !
  • Have the discipline to make some time for going out to take some photographs –time passes and sometimes tomorrow never comes.