A few bits of randomness for your reading and photographing enjoyment:
Take Notes: This is especially true if you’re learning by shooting manually with a film camera rather than a digital, or if you’re learning film after having shot in digital for some time. Digital cameras will, in most cases, give you detailed EXIF data. Shooting with film? You’re on your own in that regard. If the exposure is perfect, congratulations – and good luck remembering what you did to get that perfect exposure. If, on the other hand, you’ve made a proverbial dog’s breakfast of the shot, you won’t know how to avoid making the same mistake later. As a friend used to say, “The shortest pencil is better than the longest memory.” Write it down, bearing in mind that having a pad and pen with you is useful for a number of other reasons as well, like jotting down other photographers’ contact information, giving them yours, taking down emails so you can send photos to people whose pictures you’ve made, jotting down ideas for future shoots… the list is practically endless.
Another Use for Paper: A sheet of paper can be used as an impromptu white balance card* if you’re trying to set custom white balance in a situation with screwy (or mixed) lighting. If it’s small enough, it can be used as a bounce card for your camera’s on-board flash, or even for a speedlight. As if that weren’t enough, it can also be used as an improvised reflector if your subject is strongly back- or side-lit. It won’t work quite as nicely as a purpose-built reflector, but it’s better than nothing in a pinch.
Use Your Hands: Lighting, especially outdoors, can be tricky to meter. This is especially true if you’re dealing with a scene that has numerous changes in light values (much darker or brighter in some areas than others) or when you’re trying to meter for an odd situation. For example, let’s say you’re outdoors on a bright day. You might be standing under an awning, and trying to meter for something under another, similar awning across the street. You and your subject are in shade, and there’s an awful lot of light between you. If you don’t want to use spot or center-weighted metering (or you’d like to but you don’t have the time to go back to the menus), meter on your hand.
Find Some Gaffer’s Tape: Gaffer’s tape is to photographers what duct tape is to handymen and rednecks. Many a photographer will tell you the stuff is great, if expensive. You can use it as it was intended (taping down wiring so nobody trips and breaks their neck), but why stop there? You can use it to cover the logo on your camera, to secure reflectors and other paraphernalia, to make sure your subjects know where to stand, or to make minor repairs. I’ve even seen it used as an impromptu band-aid (though I’m not endorsing that here, so as not to have a lawsuit on my hands). It’s every bit as strong as duct tape, but with a less messy adhesive and a surface that doesn’t shine, making it less obtrusive and also giving you a decent grip if you need it.
Any short tips, odd techniques, or random finds you’d like to share with our readers? Drop me a line!