08/11/2006

Ruts And Habits

In this article I thought I would just go over some of those ruts and habits that any photographer could easily find themselves slipping slowly into - at times.
Some of the items may well be covered in other chapters, but a few gentle reminders can't go astray.

Release those ties that bind!

1. Sensitivity, film speed or ISO rating:
One rut or habit that some happy snappers find themselves in is sticking to the one ISO rating, one that they feel covers all situations.
A fact worth remembering, is that a low rating, such as ISO 100 to 200, will give you sharper and clearer pictures in bright sunshine, with strong saturated colours and good enlargement properties, provided there is no subject or camera movement.
However, because of the slower shutter speed, a good sturdy tripod may be a useful requirement at this low sensitivity.
If you still persist in using a film camera, there are of course a few 400 ISO films on the market that promise, similar results, as 200 ISO, but basically, the higher the ISO rating, the more chance there is of getting poorer quality prints. (Graininess on film, noise on digital) Particularly at the enlargement stage, as well as less saturated colours.

However, these higher ratings can be very useful in adverse, or low light conditions.

2. Portrait or landscape:
We have to remember to make the conscious decision, whether to shoot landscape mode (camera held horizontally), or portrait mode (camera held vertically). Unfortunately, most cameras are designed in such a way, you are naturally forced to think that they should be operated in the horizontal position. If you were shooting a landscape or group of people, nine times out of ten, that is probably the way you would use the camera, on the other hand, if you were photographing just one or two people or single flower head, etc., if you were to then use the camera in portrait mode, that would enable you to get more of the main subject in the image and less of the unwanted surrounding area or "negative space".

3. On-camera flash:
If you have a camera that offers you the options of manual or auto flash operation, don't fall into the rut of keeping your camera in auto flash mode. It is far better to set it to manual and use it when you consider it necessary to do so. To give you a case example, you are photographing a person who is wearing a hat, standing in bright over-head sunshine and you have your on-camera's flash set to auto. In this situation and because it is so sunny and bright you camera's flash will not operate, right? So the resulting image will show your subject with a hat on, but unfortunately you will not be able to properly see the person's face, because of the dark shadows formed by the hat. Even if the person was to remove the hat there would still be harsh noticeable shadows caused by protruding hair, brow, or other facial features.
A bit of fill-in flash in this case, would bring about a far better result and the person could even keep their hat on, providing they remove their sunnies, of course!

4. Tripod? Oh yes, the tripod!
How many of us spend good money on a good old sturdy tripod, just to fall into the habit of leaving it at home? And even if we remember to take it at all, it gets left in the car boot or trunk anyway.
The trusty tripod or monopod can get you out of many a
sticky situation. Even if you are not using it have it with you at all times. If you are with someone else who is not taking photos, perhaps they would be good enough to carry it for you to enable a more freer rein. A bit like the golfer and his caddy. Hmmm, I'd better be careful what I say here, hadn't I?

5. Angle of view:

Don't fall into the rut of just taking photos from the same old dreary angle (standing, upright position). Try various shots of the one subject from say, the squat position, bent forward, lying down, or even climb a tree, for an over-head shot. You'll be surprised how it will change the perspective and make your shots more interesting to look at.

6. Take your time!:
Don't get into the habit of going at it like a ram in a paddock full of ewes. "Wham, bam, thank you ma'm!" (Sorry 'bout that!)

But take some precious time to consider your composition, angle of view, viewpoint, etc. It pays off big time!

7. Home and away:
When you finally get time to take some photos, do you travel miles from home, to other surroundings, because you have become bored with your own? Then you really need to reconsider your photographic options, otherwise, you could find yourself soon looking for another interest.
Perhaps with close-up or macro photography, you will be totally surprised what your own backyard has to offer. And perhaps, that may rekindle the interest in what this great pastime has to offer. (See the chapter on "The Art Of Seeing")

8. Accept change:
You may take great portrait shots, or you may take great landscapes, but don't get into a rut, expand your photographic skills. Put them to the test. If you only shoot colour, try black and white. If your expertise is nature photography, try a bit of portraiture. It doesn't hurt to be a little versatile anyway. And it helps to keep the brain active, trying new skills. Join a camera club. That will keep you doing different things and you'll have fun while your doing it!

9. Point and shoot Vs manual op:
If you are in possession of one of the later model SLR type cameras, do you habitually use your camera in automatic mode?
Why not get a little adventurous and learn how to be more creative in your image making by studying the attributes of manually applying shutter speed and/or aperture settings.
The camera will do just brilliantly in auto mode, as no doubt you have already found out, but there will be times during certain extreme conditions when it just can't quite cut the mustard on its own. So a little knowledge on manual operation will definitely not go astray. It also puts you more in control with what you are doing and you'll find your achievements well and truly worth while.

10. Time and weather permitting:
Photography is not restricted to sunnier climes and neither should time of day or night, for that matter, restrict your image making.
During the cooler months of the year do you pack your camera away to hibernate out the winter? Don't fall into that trap!
There are many great photo opportunities to be had on those cold winter mornings, you just have to be brave or keen enough to get out there and explore the winter wonderland at its best.
Just how do you think those photographers survive in the deep south or the far north, where warm sunny days are far and few between?
You need to learn to diversify and get into the habit of taking your camera with you wherever you go and at what ever time or season of the year. Rain, hail or shine!

Well, that was ten bad habits of photography that I could find, can you think of any more?
Why not print this lot out, then add your own to it and keep it in your camera bag for reference?