I work with some ‘young’ photographers… some young in years, some just new to professional shooting. Here are some tips I just sent to someone to improve her skill set and to really get great shots at an event she is covering for me next week.
Try to get in close and experiment with shutter speeds: Faster to cut the effects of ugly florescent bleeding into your nice flash color (say 1/200th or 1/250th of a second)… to dragging the shutter a bit if they are in dimmer light with nice light behind them (say 1/30 or 1/15th of a second). That would be the Shutter Priority on your D200.
Ummm… check the display dude… better shoot a few more frames!
Lots of Frames:
If you can do the playground, just shoot multiple frames of everything… A series for me is never less than 3 frames, and usually 6–8 frames… sometimes 20 frames as I watch a situation develop… looking for the right moment.
Control the situation:
Don’t be shy to ask kids to look at you and smile for some.
And look for reflectors in the shot! Well, this is from a series of 32 images… I’ll find a good one.
Chimp and check your exposure and focus…
Pre-check and Test:
Pre-check all of your settings to be sure they are decent… Test it once you get the camera out to be prepared. Test it at home the day before an event to be sure you instantly know where all of the buttons are, how each setting affects the image, etc.
Take a few shots with different settings in the series. Use the feedback you get from chimping (checking the display… we look like chimps doing it…) to tweak the flash power or exposure… I’m always changing my + — settings on flash or ambient exposure (when not doing flash). To really nail the exposure.
Even with the color manually set to Florescent… it’s too Magenta. I’d tweak this manually to add some Green and maybe Yellow.
Always set your color manually… I use cloudy for the average outside shot (sunny is too blue still). And Flash for flash shots. Auto color is awful on every camera I’ve ever touched or read about. Even with Flash, I think it must vary the Flash color to take into account a bit of the ambient color around the subject… giving poor color on the subject… Yuck.
For bonus points:
when you are in a consistent setting, tweak the color even more with your menus. Often I’m adding or subtracting a bit of yellow and in florescent lighting, I’m always set on the florescent tube setting, then adjusting it more or less Magenta… and sometimes more or less warm/Yellow.
Image Quality Settings:
Shoot Jpeg Fine files. A normal file for me is like 1.21.8 megs.
ISO around 400–500 is usually good for indoor flash, maybe down to 200 if you are in close and/or are trying to have your flash overpower some strong ambient light like tons of florescent or sodium vapor.
Without flash on that camera outdoors if it’s dusky, up to 800 could be OK with very accurate exposure (don’t underexpose high ISO shots… you’ll get nasty digital noise).
Depth of Field:
Keep an eye on your focus and depth of field (how far in front and back of the subject is in focus). Focus on the nearest subject, or part of the subject you want in focus… Depth of Field is narrower in front of the subject, so if you back focus, you are pretty much assured of soft front subjects… if you focus on the front subjects (like in a group with a front and back row), you have a fair amount of focus *behind* the front subject to hold focus on the back row. And even if they are a tad soft, the perception is of a fairly sharp image with the front subjects tack sharp.
Fast Fast Fast:
The only thing is to practice doing this over and over (and at home, at parties, on simple shoots… doing much more than is needed) to be able to in 10 seconds, get 3 fast shots, with chimping on one of them and tweaking the exposure, angle of the flash, watching the background, etc… Fast fast fast, so people don’t mind your standing there.
Invest in a few sets of NiMH batteries around 2700–2900 miliamps. I’ve been happy with a set of Duracells I got recently, but that power level is cutting edge, so it’s been hit or miss on what brand is good. These batteries are so good now that I bagged using a Quantum Turbo pack (and my turbo was frying a flash every year from the power/overly fast recycle time). You should easily get 2–3 shots off with almost instant recycle with good batteries. And I rarely need more than 1 or 2 sets in a day of heavy shooting.
Get a cat. They are warm and make you feel better after goofing up all of the above 😉
Unless you disturb their repose 😉
(Cat photos by Colin Huth)