Getting the Camera Ready

Getting the Camera Ready

Chapter 2 will go into great detail about your equipment needs and setup. However, for this overview, I've listed a few key thoughts about how to have your camera ready to create the best input data for the rest of the process:


Many pros like carrying a compact camera as a second or third camera. You can be assured of having it with you all the time, it makes it easier to shoot from extremely low or high angles, and it is especially well-suited to macrophotography (extreme closeups) due to the greatly extended depth-of-field afforded by their tiny sensors.

  • Keep your basic lens on the camera unless you know you're about to shoot a special situation. For instance, if you normally do photojournalistic work, you'll probably want to keep the 35mm equivalent of a 28120mm lens on the camera.

  • Always keep a strap on each camera and wear the camera you use the most around your neck, ready to shoot. Then all you have to do when the moment comes is "ready, aim, fire." If a passerby bumps you and the camera flies out of your hands (or someone tries to steal it), it stays around your neck.

  • Neutralize the camera settings. That is, set them so that you're most likely to be ready for what happens next. If you're shooting RAW (read Chapter 3 to see why you should beand when you shouldn't), if you have to shoot JPEGs, turn off all the settings that cause the camera to preprocess the photo: color balance, saturation, and special effects (such as sepia or infrared), and situational settings (sun, shade, snow, portrait, etc.). You can always turn them on when you need them.

  • Most cameras give you the choice of naming all files in sequence or restarting the sequence each time you change a card. Make certain that this setting always stays at the default of naming all files in sequence.

  • I like to keep my camera set for sequence shooting. If there's fast action going on, I'm more likely to catch the peak moment. If there's any doubt about whether the camera will be steady enough to ensure a sharp shot, shooting a sequence makes it likely that one or two of the shots will be sharper than the others. Remember, there's no such thing as wasted film in digital. You just delete whatever doesn't work out.

  • It's a good idea to carry two camera bodies. I often use a full-frame body and back it up with a slightly less expensive DSLR. On the other hand, if your base camera is relatively affordable (for some time, mine was a Digital Rebel XT and now it's my No. 2), it's worth considering simply buying two of them. Any pro will tell you that the only time your camera breaks down is when you can least afford it. You're on the vacation or assignment of a lifetime when a donkey kicks the tripod and knocks it off an 800-foot cliff.

  • Don't change lenses when there's visible moisture, dust, smoke, or other "stuff" in the air. No, not even if your camera has a built-in dust remover. It is possible to over-power any technology. If you don't have a proper sensor cleaning kit, then you're definitely going to spend hours retouching the same spot on hundreds of frames. The best plan, whenever possible, is to take along a pair of bodies. Put a long zoom on one and a wide-angle zoom on the otheror whatever two focal lengths you're most likely to need. Having two bodies with different lenses also makes it faster to switch focal lengths. Or get one of the new 18200mm zoom lenses being offered by many manufacturers.

  • Because you're bound to change lenses sooner or later, be sure to take along a sensor-cleaning 'kit. Do not even think about trying to clean your sensor with lens-cleaning spray, cotton swabs, or blower brushes. Those are all good items to keep handy for lens and body cleaning, but they will ruin your sensor. There are many sensor-cleaning kits on the market and it seems like a new one is introduced every week. My two favorite sites for checking out the latest reviews on these prodcuts are and Figure shows two of the more popular sensor swabbing kits. Be sure to get the one that is sized to fit the width of your particular camera's sensor.

    Figure. Sensor-specific cleaning kits are the only appropriate tools for cleaning your sensor.

Finally, you want to make sure you have all the right accessories at hand. You'll find all the basics listed in Chapter 2.

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