One tip that instructors often pass onto the beginning photographers is to use their dominant eye (i.e. the eye they prefer seeing with) to look through the viewfinder. If you want to find out which of your eyes is the dominant one, here’s a quick test you can do: extend your arms straight out and form a small triangle with your hands. Looking through the triangle with both eyes open, frame something nearby (e.g. a doorknob) and place it in the center of the triangle. Then close your eyes one at a time without moving the triangle — your dominant eye is the one that placed the object in the center.
Interestingly enough, many people (myself included) choose to use their right eye for their viewfinder even though the left one is dominant — likely because it’s the way they started shooting from the beginning.
If you’re planning to hang a bunch of picture frames on a wall, Marissa Waddell of Roost suggests laying them out on the ground to figure out frame placement. Once you’re happy with how the frames look, simply take a large sheet of wax paper and outline the frames. The paper can then be used as a guide for where to hammer in nails on the wall, giving you the exact layout you came up with.
For some reason I only listen to music in the darkroom. I find watching clocks tiresome so I time film processing by music — I have a range of songs of the proper length. Film goes in, music goes on (Tom Waits, Bowie, Bauhaus), song ends, film comes out.
An easy way to find songs with the correct length is to sort your music library by duration.
When working with rim lights, or shooting into a significant backlight, glare becomes a serious issue. The typical solution to this problem is setting up flags on either side of your subject, but who needs flags when you have a spare piece of Coroplast sitting around your studio? Read more…
Want to capture some wind-blown hair in a portrait photograph but don’t have access to an electric fan or wind machine? Photographer Benjamin Von Wong has a quick tip just for you: use your collapsible light reflector to create the needed wind. Simply have someone off camera fan the reflector at your subject in the direction and intensity that you want, and voila! instant wind machine!
Did you know that your morning cup of coffee can help you predict rain? It’s a trick used by backpackers that can come in handy you’re shooting outdoors without Internet: pour a cup of coffee and carefully watch the bubbles. Backpacker Magazine writes,
If the bubbles amass in the center, you’re in a high-pressure system, which is making the coffee’s surface convex (higher in the middle). Since bubbles are mostly air, they migrate to the highest point. It’s going to be a beautiful day. If the bubbles form a ring around the sides of the mug, you’re in a low-pressure system, making the surface concave. Rain is likely. Note: It has to be strong, brewed coffee to have enough oil to work, and the mug must have straight sides.
To make new bubbles, simply give your coffee a good stir.
Want to get closer to animals when doing wildlife photography? If there’s access, your car can do the trick by serving as a photography blind. Scott Bourne of Photofocus writes,
For whatever reason, most wildlife (birds included) won’t spook or flush when they see a car. Open the car door, step out of the car, now that’s a totally different situation. But as long as you stay in the car, your chances of getting close enough to wildlife to get the shot are improved by 90%.
Here’s a nifty Photoshop tip by photographer Alex Wise on how you can use a Threshold layer to approximate black and white points in a photograph, and then use those points in the Curves tool to remove color casts from photos.
Adam Dachis over at Lifehacker offers a simple method for correcting underexposed photo with any image editor that supports layers, inversion, and Overlay blending mode. Simply create a duplicate later, invert it, set the blending mode to Overlay, and then adjust the opacity to suit your taste. While it’s certainly not a pro photography trick — other techniques including adjusting the curves and levels may be better — it’s a quick and easy tip that may be good to know.
David Hobby has written up a great post over at Strobist on how he avoids shoot-ruining confrontations with police officers when shooting in public locations (we shared an example of a confrontation yesterday). His tricks include calling the police ahead of time and leaving notes on the doors of houses nearby:
Before I shoot (a couple hours, usually) I call into the duty officer of the local precinct. I tell them my name, that I am a photographer, and where/when I will be shooting. I explain that, just in case some overenthusiastic passerby calls me in as a suspicious person, I just want to save them a call. I offer them my cell number, and ask if they want my sosh or driver’s license number. I have never been taken up on this, but I would happily give it.
[...] I print up a sheet and stick it in everyone’s door who is within eyeshot of the shoot at night. Because believe-you-me, it you are popping flashes in the woods at 2am, some idiot will absolutely call your butt in. To them, it’s gotta look pretty much like Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Some of you might not like these tips because they appear to be the equivalent of putting up a white flag in the fight for photographers’ rights, but they may come in handy if one day you have a critical photo shoot that you can’t afford to have interrupted.