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Photography: Little Known Ways to Avoid Problems in the Field

Photography is all about preparation.  Instead of running into problems when you’re out shooting, understand some easy ways of tackling the more common problems you may run into!

Batteries

batteries Photography: Little Known Ways to Avoiding ProblemsAlways, and I mean Always, keep and an extra battery in your camera bag at all times. You will need to change battery in the field sometimes and it’s important to be well prepared. It’s important to know that if you’re photographing in low temperatures your camera will drain the battery faster so always stack up on some extra batteries when your out in the cold.

Don’t buy cheap batteries, it will only come back to haunt you in the end. In most cases it’s best to buy the “official” battery for the camera. For instance I have both Canon and non-brand batteries for my Canon EOS 350D; my Canon batteries will last for approximately 5000 photographs (using a vertical grip with 2 batteries) while the non-brand batteries will last somewhere around 200-400 photographs (under the same conditions). This is a huge difference, and I can only say that I’ve learned from my mistake.

Unless you really need it, turn off the LCD. The LCD drains the battery like nothing else, just lowering the brightness of the display will add some extra hundred photographs per charge. The auto display feature should be used with care, if you really need it to be on, at least lower the time the photograph is displayed to the minimal time you need.

Changing Lenses & Sensor Dust

Changing lenses will leave the interior of your camera body exposed to the outside world. It’s important to realize that you should be very careful when changing lenses. Have your back faced towards the wind to minimize dust getting inside and try to avoid changing lenses in the most dust filled areas. If possible, only change your lens in areas that are relative dust free, such as indoors or in a car.

When you change lenses, do the following to minimize the risk of dust getting inside the camera:

  • Have your camera hanging around your neck
  • Take the new lens in one hand and take off the back lens cap
  • Unscrew the lens that’s on the camera and quickly switch lenses
  • Put the back lens cap on the used lens

If you get dust on the sensor, be careful — it’s very sensitive equipment. Some people choose to send their cameras in for a sensor cleaning while others clean the sensor themselves, choose which solution you think is best for you.

I personally clean the sensor myself. I use an air blower to clean the sensor, but it’s also perfect for cleaning your lenses and filters. I keep one in each of my camera bags.

If you’re using an air blower, don’t place the tip inside the camera body — always have the tip outside of the camera body. If the mirror would flip down the air blower might otherwise get hit and scratch the sensor.

I’ve never used anything directly on the sensor, just blown air onto it, but there are other methods — I guess I wouldn’t trust myself with most of them.

Lens Hood

lens_hoods Photography: Little Known Ways to Avoiding ProblemsLens hoods are often overlooked, but they can improve your image quality as well as keeping your lens protected. The hoods primary job is to block unwanted light from reaching the sensor and thus prevent glare and lens flare. Lens flare can destroy otherwise fine photographs, it’s unwanted and a lens hood is the best way to prevent it — unless you always want to shoot with your back towards the light source(s).

The lens hoods can also be used for protection. With a hood on you’re less likely to accidentally touch the optics. If you’re photographing kids or animals at close range this will also help you from getting unwanted smudges on the lens, because we all know how much kids and animals love shiny things. Using a lens hood when shooting macro is a perfect way to keep your distance to the object and minimize the risk of accidentally bumping into it.

If you drop your lens the hood will most likely take most of the damage (but interior mechanics of the lens might still be damage from a fall, a hood will not protect against that) and hopefully save the lens.

There is one occasion when you should not use a hood, and that’s when you are using a flash. The lens hood can cast a shadow on the object, which is most unwanted. You can angle your flash to bounce on another neutral surface to avoid this shadow if you still want to use the hood.

You will have to test your equipment and see if your lens/flash combo will cast a shadow or not.

Extra Memory

cf_cards Photography: Little Known Ways to Avoiding ProblemsJust like with batteries, always take more memory than you think you’ll need. You never want to find yourself in a situation where you are unable to photograph due to the fact that your memory card is full. I would also advice against deleting any photograph directly from the camera. No matter how large or bright the LCD is, it will not show you what the photograph really looks like (sharpness and such fine detail). If a photo is a complete failure, such as just black/white, you can usually make the decision to delete it right there and then, but if you for example think that the photograph looks blurry I would strongly advice against deleting such a photograph. Better safe than sorry — so bring extra memory!

Another quick note when it comes to memory cards, if you’re in extreme environments — deserts, north of the Arctic Circle etc — you should spend the extra bucks on a SanDisk Extreme III-IV card. Not only are they faster but they are constructed to withstand more abuse and have a greater range of working temperatures. (Obviously these cards are faster even under normal circumstances, so it could be worth the money just for the speed alone depending on your set-up.)

24 Comments

  1. Add point Subtract point
    انفجن (1 Point) September 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    fantastic tips being here is the short way to pro world

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  2. Add point Subtract point
    Carlo (1 Point) July 17, 2010 at 3:22 am

    Thanks for the tips
    It helped me a lot
    I hope there would be more

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    Prarthito (1 Point) June 4, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Excellent tips Fredrik. I have only just started with DSLR’s and your tips are helping me a lot. Thanks.

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    Web Design (1 Point) April 26, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    very helpful information. thanks for sharing :)

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    Felix Laboy (1 Point) February 16, 2010 at 10:05 am

    This is cool, im trying to get into photography at the moment actually. I’m still into Digital Art, and i would like to mix my art with photo’s i take. Thanks for the tips on the camera care. :D

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    โหลดเพลงฟรี (1 Point) February 1, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Great post . Thanks150

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    ฟังเพลง (1 Point) February 1, 2010 at 12:10 am

    Great post . Thanks145

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    I have read that you should not use canned air in an attempt to clean out a camera as the pressures involved can drive the dust even further/deeper into the camera and further damage the internal components. Also, put the spare battery into a sealed sandwich bag that way nothing can short circuit and cause a fire. In windy conditions put your camera into a clean trash bag to swap out the lens and/or get into a car and close the door to change the lens.

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    vern (1 Point) May 26, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    hey guys thanks alot for all the insight. really liked the ir section. and iam going to give it a shot. if you have any other good books or sites on the subject, love to hear from you. thanks again.

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    I totally disagree on using namebrand batteries. I’ve used offbrand batteries from sterlingtek in my Canons (Rebel,10D and 40D) and never had a problem with them at all. In fact, they often seem to outlast the original batteries from Canon.

    And Adam FYI, keeping a battery warm in your pocket isn’t a bad idea as long as there is nothing else in your pocket. One of my friends had to drop her pants at a cold football game when a metal object in her pants pocket shorted out the contacts on a Nikon battery and set on her on fire.

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    Thank you for the tip on (not) buying “clone” batteries. I have a Canon, and I was contemplating on buying a cheapo for back-up, but your tip has persuaded me otherwise.

    Good on you, mate!

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    @Fredrik Silverglimth: On the contrary, “Little Known” seems fitting to someone like me (one who only recently has started sharpening their Photography knowledge and abilities). Some of the tips are common sense to most I’d say – but environmental conditions affecting memory cards would be something I would have not thought of, as well as most of what was said in regards to the lens hood.

    Overall, I enjoyed this handy guide quite a bit Fredrik :) Thanks for sharing!

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    @Patrick, I do agree with you. “little known” was not in the original title, but I’m going to update this post to add some more great tips in the near future.

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  14. Add point Subtract point
    Patrick (1 Point) August 7, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Some good tips here, but these are hardly “little known”, just common sense!

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    Adam J (1 Point) July 16, 2008 at 6:40 am

    Re – batteries in cold weather – keep spares batteries warm, maybe in your pocket or some other warm internal pocket.

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    Michael Wilson (1 Point) July 7, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    Also as said below by Fredrik: The built-in flash of most cameras eat at the battery as well, so be sure to watch your battery meter if you are shooting with the on-board flash.

    “Unless you really need it, turn off the LCD. The LCD drains the battery like nothing else, just lowering the brightness of the display will add some extra hundred photographs per charge. The auto display feature should be used with care, if you really need it to be on, at least lower the time the photograph is displayed to the minimal time you need.”

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    I’ll be careful, and thanks.

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    @CJ.H, the only DSLR camera you can find for $200 is a used one. For example a Canon 10D (mid-range camera from 2003), which is a great camera for that price. Just be careful when looking for used camera equipment, it’s quite a large market for scammers.

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  19. Add point Subtract point

    With all these awesome tutorials your writing, its a shame I’m not into photography more.

    Is there any cameras for around $200 that aren’t small digital point and shoot ones? I would like to get into photography, but its hard when you dont have a good camera.

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