50 TIME SAVERS & POWER TIPS

   50 TIME SAVERS & POWER TIPS01 CLEAN YOUR SENSOR Even with in-built cleaning system on most modern SLRs or compact system cameras, some dust will inevitably find its way onto your camera s sensor, which takes time to remove from your images with photo - editing software. Either cleaning your sensor carefully yourself or getting it cleaned professionally is the only way to remove this dust. You shouldn t do this too often, but it s worth checking for sensor dust before you start shooting, especially if you ve been changing lenses or shooting in windy conditions. Sensor - cleaning kits can be picked up quite cheaply; we like the ones made by Arctic Butterfly. 02 KEEP IT SIMPLE While it s handy to have the option of an extra lens or flashgun for those unexpected shots, it s also easy to fall into the habit of carrying all of your kit every time you go out. But unnecessary gear can become a burden, so before you set out, check whether there are any items, such as heavy zoom lenses, that you aren t going to need. Remember, it s often better to move closer to your subject rather than zooming right in from a distance with a big, unwieldy lens. 03 FORMAT CARD/CHARGE BATTERY There are few things more annoying than going to take a shot and finding that the card is full or the battery is flat. It s all too easy to leave images on a memory card, and then forget whether you ve transferred them to your computer. So get into the habit of ensuring all of your cards are downloaded and formatted as soon as possible after a shoot, and charge your batteries when you get home. It s easy to take cards for granted, but they re precious! 04 CLEAN YOUR LENSES/FILTERS The front element of your lens and filters can soon get covered in dust, dirt and even greasy fingerprints. This can cause flare or even affect the sharpness of your images, so it s worth cleaning them before you go out. Use a blower to dislodge any dust or dirt, then use a lens - cleaning cloth to remove any stubborn marks. 05 TRY PICTURE STYLES Most recent cameras have preset Picture Styles (or Picture Controls) that can be useful for applying basic adjustments to your images in - camera, such as Portrait or Landscape. What s more, many cameras also allow you to edit the saturation, sharpness and contrast settings to fine-tune the effect to suit your taste or style. 06 MINIMISE LENS DISTORTION On Nikon cameras you have the option of automatically correcting lens distortion in - camera, while with Canon models you can correct for lens vignetting. These correction features are normally switched on in the set-up menu, although this will only be available if the lens on the camera is compatible with the automatic correction feature of your camera. Minimise distortions as you shoot, and you won t have to fix your images post - shoot. 07 AUTO - ROTATE YOUR SHOTS In the set-up menu of most cameras you ll find an option that enables you to automatically rotate images according to whether they are taken in horizontal or upright format. Turning this function on can save you loads of time rotating images once you ve downloaded them to your computer later. 08 CHECK FILE FORMAT AND SIZE For the best quality, you d normally shoot most images at the highest resolution available, and save them in raw format or the highest quality JPEG setting. But remember that you don t always need to use these settings for shots that you only want to use onscreen or print at small sizes. By choosing a smaller image size you can save space on your memory card, and time resizing your shots later. 09 ASSIGN BUTTONS The function of most of the buttons on your camera will be set from the factory, but did you know that you can often customise the function of individual buttons, giving quick access to frequently - used settings and saving time wading through menus. On Canon cameras, like the 1100D, you can assign different functions to the SET button, such as image quality, ISO or flash Exposure Compensation. A similar range of options is available for the function (Fn) button on many Nikon models. Button customisation may seem a faff, but can save bags of time.  50 TIME SAVERS & POWER TIPS10 MY MENU SETTINGS Many cameras allow you to customise the menu so that the most used or useful adjustments are quickly available in their own menu page. So if there are particular features, such as Picture Styles or in - camera effects, that you use regularly, load them all into the My Menu page. Some lower - end models, such as the Nikon D3100, have a recent settings page. This shows the 20 most recently used settings, but you can t fully customise this menu. Power Tip - Popular SLRs allow you to set at least one custom shooting mode. This is great for storing your most used settings, such as ISO, focus mode and white balance, and giving quick access to them. 11 MASTER EXPOSURE COMPENSATION Although the metering systems of most cameras get the correct exposure in most situations, there are still times when you ll need to use the +/Exposure Compensation feature. The basic rule when using this feature is that if the scene is mainly dark you ll need to underexpose by setting Exposure Compensation to a negative setting. For mostly bright subjects, you should overexpose by setting the compensation to a positive value. 12 EXPOSE FOR THE HIGHLIGHTS Lost highlight detail is more difficult to recover using editing software than shadow detail, particularly in JPEG images. Burned-out highlights also look more unnatural than completely dark shadows, so when shooting in high - contrast conditions it s generally best to set your exposure so that the detail in the highlights is preserved. 13 USE AUTO ISO Auto ISO is often overlooked, but used in conjunction with Manual mode it s a great way of maintaining specific shutter speed and aperture settings in changing light conditions. This is perfect if you are shooting sports or action, where you need a particular shutter speed to freeze the action, and aperture for depth of field. Auto ISO will allow the camera to alter the exposure if the light changes. 14 USE AUTO EXPOSURE BRACKETING (AEB) If you re faced with difficult lighting, and aren t sure whether you need to over - or underexpose to get the best results, try bracketing. To do this, simply take a number of shots (usually three)one at the  correct  exposure as indicated by the meter, then a further two images that are under - and overexposed. You can then choose the best image. 15 USE A FILTER Even in our digital age, using a traditional lens filter, such as a Neutral Density (ND) grad, polariser or straight ND, can be the quickest, and sometimes the only, way of getting great shots. The high contrast between the sky and foreground when shooting at sunrise or sunset can be corrected in seconds using an ND grad filter. Meanwhile, a polariser is essential for removing reflections on non-metallic surfaces. Power Tip - Even in Program exposure mode (see page 60), you can control shutter speed and aperture via Program Shift. By movingyour camera s input dial you  shift the exposure accordingtothe light conditions. 16 TRY INCAMERA HDR If you don t have Neutral Density (ND) grad filters, or you are shooting a subject where the position of the brightest and darkest areas make it impractical to use a grad, try converting to HDR in camera. Canon s system is called Auto Lighting Optimizer (it s known as Active D - lighting on a Nikon) and these are activated through the shooting menu. 17 USE THE RIGHT AUTOFOCUS MODE Autofocus works well on modern cameras, but for the most reliable results you need to choose the autofocus mode to suit the type of subject that you are shooting. For static subjects, choose One Shot mode on Canon or Single (AF - S) on Nikon. For moving subjects, try Al Servo for Canon and Continuous (AF - C) for Nikon. 18 USE  BACK - BUTTON  FOCUSING Normally, your camera will focus when you half - press the shutter release button. When you are tracking fast-moving subjects it can be difficult to time this with pressing the button fully to take a shot. In these situations, you ll find it easier to set up your camera to allow you to use another button to activate the focus. This is normally set through the Custom Functions menu, and allows you to set the AE - Lock button on the back of the camera to activate the autofocus, rather than the shutter release button. 19 GET TO GRIPS WITH AUTOFOCUS POINTS One of the best ways to get the most from your camera s autofocus system is to take control of the AF points. To do this, select the Manual or Single Point AF mode on your camera, then use the controls to select the AF point that corresponds with your main subject, or the area you want to be in focus - as in the image above. On models such as the Nikon D7000, EOS 7D and above you can also select a group of points, as well as individual ones, which is great for shooting fast-moving subjects such as motorsports. In these situations you know approximately where the main subject will be positioned in the frame, but using a group rather than an individual point allows you extra flexibility when the subject is moving. 20 MASTER MANUAL FOCUS (LIVE VIEW) When shooting macro subjeots or in low light, manual focus will give you more accurate and reliable results than relying autofocus. Rather than just using the viewfinder to check that you ve got the focus spot-on, switch to Live View and zoom into the image to make sure you re focused properly. 21 USE DEPTH OF FIELD PREVIEW The amount of the scene that is captured in focus from front to back can be difficult to predict, especially using a zoom lens. So it s worth experimenting with the Depth of Field Preview function offered by many cameras, which allows you to predict how your shot will look. Using the normal viewfinder you ll find that the preview image will get pretty dark, especially when using small apertures, but with practice you can get used to this. Remember that you can also use the Live View image to assess depth of field (not all cameras offer Live View, so check your manual). 22 GO SLOW WITHOUT A TRIPOD While we always recommend using a tripod for long exposure/slow shutter speed shots, you can often get away without one if you have to. The anti - shake or image stabilisation systems can help you shoot handheld at shutter speeds slower than normal. If you can find something such as a wall, tree or railings that you can use to help steady you and the camera, it s possible to get sharp results down to 1/4 sec with a wide-angle lens. Another option is to buy a mini tripod like the Joby Gorillapod (www.joby.com), which can be carried around in a bag easily.  50 TIME SAVERS & POWER TIPS23 MASTER PANNING Panning, or freezing a moving subject while blurring the background, is a great way to convey movement, but it takes practice. It s all about choosing the right shutter speed and keeping your panning movement smooth. Get the subject lined - up in the viewfinder as early as possible, then swivel from your hips to follow its movement, firing the shutter when it is almost opposite your position (try a shutter speed of 1/60 sec). Then continue following the subject for as long as possible after you have fired the shutter. 24 MASTER FILL - FLASH Bright sunshine might seem like the perfect light in which to shoot portraits, but it can actually add lots of unsightly shadows to your subject s face. One of the best ways to minimise this is to use a flash to lighten the shadows. Your camera s built-in flash is fine if you are shooting within a few feet of your subject, but it s not powerful enough for shooting at a distance, particularly in very bright conditions. Then you ll need a hotshoe flashgun. 25 USE A REFLECTOR One of the easiest ways to improve your portraits and macro shots is to add some light with a reflector. In bright sunlight, or when using flash, you should use a white reflector to lighten the shadows on the subject. The reflector is normally positioned in front of the subject on the opposite side to where the light is coming from. In softer, diffused light - when it s cloudy, for example - you can use a silver reflector to create a more directional light. Again, the reflector is positioned in front of the subject, this time to create some shadows that give the image a more three-dimensional look and feel. 26 SHOOT BOTH UPRIGHT AND HORIZONTAL FRAMES For static subjects, it s worth trying to shoot both upright and horizontal versions of the same scene. This only takes a few seconds, and you may find that the format that you initially chose wasn t the best option for that particular scene or subject after all. It s also a great habit to get into if you are thinking of selling your shots, because it doubles your potential market for not much extra effort. Power Tip - Being too fa r from you r subject is a composition sin, so to give your shot more impact, try taking a step or two forward and filling the frame with the subject. Don t rely on long lenses, either. 27 STRAIGHTEN UP Unless you re going for a deliberately angled image, you should always make sure that the horizon is straight in your shots. If you are having trouble levelling your shots by eye, use the electronic level (if your camera has one). Otherwise, you could use a spirit level accessory that fits into the top hotshoe of your camera. 28 USE LIVE VIEW FOR 100% view The viewfinders on many nonpro SLRs only show around 95% of the whole image, so you don t see the edges of your shot as you shoot. Turn on Live View for more reliable framing. 29 RUTHLESSLY KILL ANY CLUTTER Keeping the scene simple is one of the best ways to focus attention on your main subject. Achieving this takes a little practice, so get into the habit of looking around the whole scene to avoid objects that divert attention from the subject, or clutter things up (cars, poles, trees, stray people, etc). 30 REMEMBER THE FRAMING RULES Getting into the habit of positioning your subject a third of the way into the frame, using lines to lead the eye into the picture and including foreground interest, are simple ways to get effective shots. These classic rules won t guarantee perfect composition, but they will definitely help. 31 WATCH THE WEATHER From deciding whether it s worth going at all, to thinking about what to wear and what gear to take, any outdoor photography shoot is dependent on the weather. So get used to checking the forecast before you go out, but don t necessarily wait for bright sunshine and clear blue skies, as some of the most photogenic and dramatic lighting often comes before or after stormy, unsettled weather. 32 THINK TIME AND TIDE If you are shooting near the coast, it s always worth checking the tides, for both the best time to photograph the sea and also for your safety if you want to venture onto the shore. There are plenty of online resources, such as the Weather section ofwww.bbc.co.uk, which will give you the tide times for the next five days or so. It s important to protect your gear when shooting at coastal locations too; grains of sand can ruin the expensive mechanisms inside a camera, and sea water won t do them much good either. 33 DOSOME  GARDENING Attention to detail can make the difference between a good shot and a great one. So along with taking the time to find the right composition, don t forget that when possible you can also move, or even remove, distracting elements in some situations. The classic example is when shooting macro or close-up shots, where tidying up any stray or dead foliage from the subject before you take the shot can transform an image from good to great. But remember that taking pictures doesn t give you carte blanche to damage anything. Be very careful not to disturb wild flowers too, as accidentally damaging a rare species can land you in hot water. Leave the photo scene just as you found it. 34 RESEARCH LOCATIONS Not every trip produces award - winning shots, but that doesn t have to mean that it s a waste of time. Use it as an opportunity to scout out locations, viewpoints and subjects for future shots when the light or weather is going to produce better results. When you find a likely location, it s also worth checking where the sun will be at sunrise and sunset for the best light (try www. sunrisesunsetmap.com). 35 GIVE YOURSELF PLENTY OF TIME Get to your location at least 30 minutes before you want to start shooting. It s particularly important when shooting at sunrise or sunset, as the perfect light doesn t last long. Power Tip - After a shoot, remember to change back key settings such as ISO, white balance and image quality. This reduces the chance of taking the  perfect  image, only to find out an important setting was way off the mark. 36 USE IN - CAMERA RETOUCH Similar to the raw processing option, many cameras also offer you the option of applying a range of effects and adjustments to JPEG images. While this doesn t offer quite as much control over the final result as using most image - editing programs, it s a great way of doing some basic adjustments if you don t have access to your computer. Remember that you ll need some space left on the card, though, as the adjusted file will be saved alongside the original. 37 USE IN - CAMERA RAW PROCESSING Shooting in raw format is essential for getting the best - possible quality from your camera, but unlike JPEG it s not the most convenient format for sharing or viewing straight from the camera. Many recent cameras have included an in - camera raw processing option that allows you to convert raw files before you copy them to your computer. This is perfect if you need to view the images on a computer without raw processing software, or you simply want to quickly see the effect of any image adjustment. 38 RECORD WHERE AND WHAT Unless your camera has built-in GPS, you ll have to remember where you took the shot. Try shooting a sign or easily identifiable landmark if you can find one, or record a short video or voice clip for future reference. 39 KEEP YOUR GEAR TO HAND It s all too easy to just stuff everything back into your bag in no particular order once you ve taken your shots, especially if you ve changed lenses or used other accessories. But you ll save loads of time searching for that elusive memory card or cable release if you get into the habit of putting them into the same pocket or compartment of your bag each time you pack up. Or, keep memory cards and short lenses in a fanny pack. 40 CLEAN YOUR TRIPOD Tripods get a pretty raw deal, getting covered in mud, sand and worst of all sea water. So to keep your tripod sections and locks working smoothly, remember to wash off any dirt or salt water before you put it away. Otherwise, the metal components can start to corrode or jam when sand or dirt finds its way into the leg mechanisms.  50 TIME SAVERS & POWER TIPS41 CROP FIRST if you are going to crop your image, it s worth doing this before you start doing any post - shoot editing (this is especially true when cloning out dust, as there is no point working on bits of the image that won t make the final cut). This can even apply to other adjustments, such as Levels or Curves, because extremely light or dark areas that you ll eventually crop out can also affect the adjustments you may make. It s worth saving the original image under a different name before cropping, should you mess things up. 42 RATE AND LABEL YOUR SHOTS No matter how organised you are when it comes to sorting your shots into folders, wading through loads of images can be time-consuming and frustrating. There are plenty of tools in software such as the Organizer in Photoshop Elements, or Bridge in Photoshop CS, but one of the simplest ways to speed up the process is to rate the images you want to work on later. Just don t give all your images five stars! 43 WORK ON LAYERS Using Adjustment Layers, or making any adjustments to a copy of the Background layer, can initially take a little more time than simply editing your original image. But if you make a mistake, change your mind or simply want to go back to an adjustment to fine-tune it, this approach will save you loads of time and effort. Because you haven t touched your original image, you can retrace your steps more easily. Remember to save as a Photoshop (.PSD) file to maintain all of the layers if you want to close the image and go back to it later on. 44 LEARN KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS One of the best ways to speed-up editing is to learn the keyboard shortcuts for your most commonly used adjustments or tools, rather than having to select them from the Tools palette or find them buried in dropdown menus. Here are the keyboard shortcuts for some of Photoshop s most helpful tools... Ctrl+L - Levels Ctrl+M - Curves Ctrl+U - Hue/Saturation Ctrl+C - Copy Ctrl+V - Paste Ctrl+J - New Layer via Copy Space bar - Holding this down allows you to temporarily use the Hand tool to drag the image around onscreen. 45 BACKUP YOUR FILES Backing - up your shots onto a separate hard drive, DVDs or using online storage won t seem important until disaster strikes and your computer dies. So store your images in at least one other location, as well as your computer s hard drive, so your images . are safe should the worst happen. Power Tip - When workingon complex editingjobs (particularly on JPEGs), save a new version of the image as a.PSDfile before you start. Then you can resave the image without any gradual degradation of image quality. 46 GET TO GRIPS WITH BATCH PROCESSING Adjusting and processing raw files can be very time-consuming, particularly if you have lots of images to work through. In Adobe Camera Raw you can open multiple raw files at the same time, then depending on whether you are using Photoshop Elements or CS there are a couple of ways to apply adjustments to all of the images. In Photoshop CS you can select the first image, apply your adjustments, then use the Select All option, click on the Synchronize button and choose the adjustments to apply from the list. Alternatively, in both CS and Elements you can select all of the images at the start, and then any adjustments you make will be applied to every image at the same time. 47 CREATE PRESETS ACTIONS Some repetitive tasks, such as resizing your images, are pretty boring and time-consuming, but in Photoshop CS you can create Actions to automate many of these. To do this, open the Actions palette (Window>Actions) and then create a new Action. You can then click on the Record button at the bottom of the palette and simply go through the sequence of adjustments on one image, clicking the Stop button when you re done. These adjustments are then saved, and you can apply them to any open image by clicking the Play button in the Actions palette. You can t record Actions in Photoshop Elements, but in Elements 7 and later there is an Actions Player, which allows you to use many Actions recorded in Photoshop CS. It won t be able to play Actions that include adjustments such as Curves (which aren t available in Elements) though, so make sure that the Action is compatible with the version of Elements that you are using. 48 DRAG ADJUSTMENT LAYERS As well keeping your original image intact, using Adjustment Layers also has another advantage over other types of editing. If you want to apply the same adjustment to another image, for example, you can simply drag the Adjustment Layer from one image to the other. 49 PERSONALISE YOUR WORKSPACE The basic layout of the editing window in either Photoshop CS or Elements includes the Tools palette on the left and a selection of palettes on the right. The content of the right-hand palettes can be changed, depending on what information is most useful for the editing that you are doing. Click on the Window option in the top menu of the screen and you will find a long list of palettes to choose from, which can be displayed in your editing window simply by clicking on each one in turn. These can then be displayed in the panel on the right of the editing window, or dragged onto the main window. Elements will revert to the layout that you last used each time you open it, but in Photoshop CS you can save different workspace layouts by going to 1 Window>Workspace>Save Workspace. 50 SAVE YOUR RAW SETTINGS If you find yourself applying the same edits, such as sharpening and saturation, to almost every image, it s well worth saving these settings so that you can apply them in a single process. Using Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) in Photoshop CS you can save edits as a preset by clicking on the drop - down icon at the top right of any adjustment panel and selecting Save Settings. Both Photoshop Elements and CS allow you to save a new set of values as the default setting that will be applied every time you open a raw i file in Photoshop. This is a great time saver.

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