Professional Photography Tips for Beginners

Professional Photography

Professional photographers are picky about their equipment and once they find success, changing their opinions can be a tall order. As the industry changes, new equipment becomes available. This causes differing opinions among photographers about the equipment they prefer to use, but there are tips and tricks to the trade that they can all use.

The specifics of a professional photographer’s business will dictate the type of equipment and methods that they use. A photographer that specializes in black and white images may prefer film if they are not practiced in altering photos on a computer. Portraits will require different camera settings than action shots would.

Try it you might like it

A new digital SLR camera could require an investment of $1500.00 to $10,000.00 or more. Unless a professional photographer feels that the investment is worth making – they may prefer to use what they already have.

Recently semi-pro digital SLR cameras have hit the market and can be purchased for $1,000 or less. Now may be the time to add a digital camera to the mix. The mega pixel counts are comparable and the new less expensive lenses and filters are closing some of the gaps between the semi pro and the pro digital SLR cameras. Some semi-pro cameras will accept lenses from particular film SLR cameras. Other costs can be offset by deleting bad photos immediately instead of developing them and by using memory cards over and over again instead of buying rolls and rolls of film.

Professional SLR cameras can be rented. Renting could give a photographer the insight to which camera would work best for them before making a large investment. Some companies that offer long term rental agreements include technical support as well as the ability to try different cameras from their inventory.

Why pay the price for a pro or semi-pro camera when there are so many compact consumer models available?

A professional digital SLR is designed to stand up under the rigors of thousands of shots taken under less than perfect conditions such as heat, cold, moisture and dust. Features such as quick power up, fast continuous shooting capabilities and less shutter lag (which allows for movement of the subject) are imperative to meet the needs of a professional photographer.

Take plenty of photos

Photographers hesitate shooting extra shots once they think they have captured an acceptable image, due to the costs of developing the film. Digital photos on the other hand can be taken without the concern of the development costs.

Digital images can be checked for proper focus and lighting simply by using the LCD zoom feature. If the image is not up to par, it can be deleted. Any shot that is a keeper can be tweaked later on the computer using specialized software programs. The hesitant photographer could use both a film camera as well as a digital camera to ease into the digital format.

The camera’s resolution will determine how large the digital image will be. The capacity of a memory card will determine how many digital images it will hold. Memory cards are small in size but they are available in varying capacities (64MB, 128MB, 256MB, 512MB, 1 GIG, and up). Memory cards are capable of saving files in any format, and some allow the digital image to be written to it faster than on others. This can be very important to those shooting in the RAW format.

Digital images can be transferred from the camera directly to a computer. A memory card reader can be used to transfer the files to the computer as well as to other devices. Most readers are USB and some are capable of reading several types of memory cards including Secure Digital (SD), Compact Flash (CF), Smart Media, XD, and Memory Sticks. Once the photos are transferred the memory card can be cleared and used again. Some printers accept memory cards directly and will print a sheet of thumbnail prints without touching a computer.

Backup, Backup, Backup

Regardless of whether your photos are generated by a digital camera or by a film camera, they need to be safely achieved. In other words – backup, backup, backup! Save the photos in the highest quality digital file as possible. Scan film negatives instead of the photos themselves. Back up the digital files to a hard drive (external or internal), removable digital media or burn them onto CD or DVD disks. Prevent a disaster – make a second copy and keep it somewhere offsite.

Don’t run out of juice

Cameras, flash units, lights, laptops, and portable memory devices all need power. Batteries are the weakest link to productivity. If a photographer needs power for a device they need it immediately. Rechargeable batteries and their chargers can be taken along on trips. Fully charged laptops can provide power for some devices such as card readers. Portable battery packs can power electronic devices for several hours.

Match Equipment to the conditions

Understand the different shooting modes of the camera. Shutter speeds will affect fast action and low light shots. A beach & snow setting will adjust the exposure to compensate for bright reflections from sand and snow.

External flash units provide flexibility in various conditions including areas with a lot of shadows. It acts as an auxiliary flash for the camera and can direct the flash in different directions for more accurate meter readings. If an external flash unit is not available, a white card can be used as a reflector to fill in shadowy areas.

A tripod is helpful when shooting in low light conditions or anytime that camera shake could affect the image. Depending on a photographer’s needs there are several tripods to choose from. They are made of different materials, they have adjustable heads, they extend to different heights and the legs can be adjusted to different angles. Water-resistant, as well as water proof cases, may be available for your digital camera. The cases are sealed and have buttons that correspond with the operational buttons on the camera.

Specifically choose equipment that can handle the conditions that they are going to be subjected to. Look for the operating temperature ranges suggested for both the camera and for their memory cards. Most cameras will operate properly in temperatures ranging from 50 to 95 degrees. Most memory cards will operate properly in temperatures ranging from -40 to 158 degrees. Some memory cards are designed to operate properly in extreme temperature ranges such as -13 to 185 degrees. Traditional film should also be checked for the proper operating temperature range.

Keep it in the bag

Organize your equipment and accessory gear into a bag that provides enough pockets and compartments to safely accommodate each piece. Some bags are designed to hold the usual items such as a camera, extra lenses and filters, memory cards, film, and flash attachments. Some will have stationary and some will have moveable dividers. Some will be soft and some will be hard. Extra cushioning may be needed to protect sensitive gear while traveling.

Camera bags may be designed to be worn over the shoulder, as a backpack, or on the hip. Some bags have wheels. You may decide to have two bags; one to carry some of your gear and another one for your essentials. A camera bag should fit you as well as your gear. The straps should be comfortable and the contents of the bag should be easily accessed.

Spread the word

When a client hires a photographer they hire the entire package. They will expect organization and professionalism at every stage of the process. Your appearance as well as the appearance of your promotional materials will impact the client and will form their opinion of your business from the start.

Advertise what you do with everything that you do. If you specialize in portraits have business cards with a picture on them. All stationary-letterhead to thank you cards- should have the same style and logo to advertise your brand.

Having a web presence gives you a worldwide presence. If you have stock photos for sale post them on web sites that specialize in selling stock photos. They are usually very inexpensive and they give you great exposure.

Keep your website simple. Give your clients a convenient place to view samples of your work. Take the steps to watermark your images to prevent unwanted coping. Software is available for they do-it-yourself websites or you can hire a webmaster to build it for you. Either way, make sure that your site looks good on all browsers.

Include website addresses and contact information on all forms of advertisements. Provide your clients with everything that you have promised them. Be the photographer that you advertise and they will come back for more. The client will not care what equipment you use they will care about how the finished product turns out. Understand the abilities and the limitations of your equipment but don’t let the fear of the unknown keep you from trying new technology.


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