Three consecutive workshops forces lots of insight into my small but perfectly formed brain. Lots. Let me share…
Histograms are not inconvenient, they are necessary. A histogram will tell you exactly what your exposure is going to be, exactly what it is. No interpretation, no guessing, just the facts. Take your picture, check the histogram, see if there are any blown out highlights (the data bumps up against the right part of the histogram), adjust as necessary, take your next shot. If you don’t check your histogram you might as well be shooting film.
It is not HDR (high dynamic range) if you are just bracketing your shot and then merging them together in your computer no matter the light. If it is very contrasty light (re: ugly light) and you just have to have the shot then mindfully blending multiple images to capture a better rendition of the ugly light than a single image could do- that is HDR. Taking three or five lighter and darker shots in low contrasty light (light rain or mist) is ZDR (zero dynamic range) and will render the pretty light ugly. HDR is not a cure-all. It is a tool to be used selectively.
Most people’s tripods are inadequate in one way or another- too short, too unstable, to inflexible, too clever, too complicated. Don’t compromise- get a good tripod and use it faithfully. Your photography will improve dramatically.
Flash is never a good idea when natural light will do. Nothing is prettier than natural light. Period.
Processing is like talking- yes, you can shout and you will be heard but if you whisper you will be remembered. So don’t over saturate, in fact, don’t even touch the saturation slider. Tweak locally, don’t glop things up globally. Tweaking is a little lick of improvement, global adjustments are a slobbering mess. How do you tell if you are a licker or a slobberer? If the first thing someone notices about your image is the processing you are a digital slobberer. Back off and try a touch of subtlety.
There is never just one shot. There are always many shots. Don’t leave until you find them.
The dials, wheels, buttons and toggles on your camera are there for a reason and you paid for each and every one of them. Learn what they do, they are there to help you.
And finally, put Photoshop aside for awhile and learn Lightroom. You’ll be very happy that you did.