Before the shoot

Clean lens1. Clean your camera lens and sensor.
Cleaning the lens is a quick and easy process to be done often when shooting.
Cleaning a sensor is best done by a professional camera technician. However, if you are prepared for the risk, are super-delicate, and you use a high-quality sensor cleaning set up, you can clean it yourself. Beware, though. One false or rough move and your sensor will be permanently damaged.

2. Never take your camera to a shoot without a memory device and a battery.
Even if the memory device is empty before you start, there’s no guarantee it will not malfunction in the middle of a photo shoot. A spare memory device is an emergency backup step. It also allows you to shoot more images if your first memory device is full.

Batteries can discharge more rapidly than expected. If your camera uses many functions such as autofocus, power zoom, or video recording, your battery can drain quickly.

3. Do not use an over-large memory device.
An overlarge memory device is tempting because it will hold so many shots. It’s not always a good thing to shoot many scenes, events, and moments over a period of time. When you access the collection of images on the memory device, you can have images shot so long ago that you don’t remember them, who is in the photo or where they were taken. Worse: if the card is lost or corrupted, ALL of your images will be gone.

4. Reset your camera.
The chances are that whatever you shot last time will not be the same as this time. So, reset your ISO, aperture, white balance, and shutter speed.

6. Format, do not erase.
Formatting your memory device erases all the images, but also prepares the equipment for use. Erasing does not prepare your device for use.

6. Use the camera setting for best end result.
If your end result is to run down to the local photo store or drug store and print out the images, you just took, (Straight to Print, or Camera to Print) set your camera to shoot jpeg images. Jpeg is a format readable by most photo readers. Jpeg images also use little space on your memory device.

If you are going to process your images with a computerized photo-processing program, consider shooting in RAW. It uses more memory space, but each shot records more digital information, so you have greater flexibility when editing.

At the shoot

Golden hour5. Avoid camera shake
Don’t free-hand it. If you’re not using a tripod or monopod, use a pillar, post, rail, or other immovable objects. Depending on the shutter speed, sometimes even the clicking of the shutter and the movement of the camera mirror in a DSLR will make enough camera shake to cause a blurry image.

7. Use the Golden Hour
That last hour of daylight or the first hour of the morning, shadows are long, and the colors are warm. The landscape glow. Portraits are warm and inviting.

8. Practice good set up
Remember to use photo principles such as “rule-of-thirds,” “leading lines,” and “bokeh” (blurry background).

9. Understand your camera’s histogram
Yes, that sounds technical and distracting from your purpose. However, once you get used to using the camera’s histogram, it will become second nature, so you only need a glance to tell you how the scene is lit. It will tell you if the image is too dark or too light, too over- or too under-exposed.

9. Finally, keep in mind the five foundational, fundamental photo factors. Every shot you take will include every one of these – so make them work for you. “TICLS” Timing, Image processing, Composition, Lighting, Story.

  • Timing: Capture the image at the right moment
  • Image processing: white balance, contrast, exposure, cropping
  • Composition: Rule of thirds, leading lines, etc
  • Lighting: Not too bright, not too dark, use shadows to show texture
  • Story: What the shot is about.

After the shoot

Stored Images10. Home Storage
Do not store your images on your computer. They can hog the computer memory. Instead, use two external storage devices. One external storage is to hold the images as you bring them in, fresh and unprocessed. The other holds the final edit image

11. Learn don’t buy
Push your existing camera equipment and skills to the limits and beyond. Buying more or higher priced cameras will not make you a better photographer if you’re not the best you can be with a lower-end camera. Learn first, buy later.