The workshop season is over once again- my 25th!- and I thought I would share some end of season lessons that seem to always come up on every workshop.

1. Shoot Big!

With digital photography there is no penalty for shooting a bit bigger (zooming out a scrunch) than you normally would. In other words, you don’t have to exactly frame your shot because it is so much more precise to crop in your computer than in your camera. Your camera crops proportionally-every side moves in or out when you zoom in or out. In the computer, you can crop just one side of the picture. You all know this but you still frame up your pictures too tightly. If there is something you don’t like on one side of your picture what do you do? you zoom in to cut it out or you change your composition to get rid of it. What do I do? I’ll take the picture including the bad spot and then when I am processing the image on my laptop I’ll crop just what I need to cut out and leave the rest alone.

2.Digital photography is the process of capturing data.

Remember, when you take a picture all you are doing is capturing data. You still have to process it, just like in the old film days. Processing happens in your computer. So don’t be overly critical with the image you see on the back of your camera. Be critical of the data- your histogram, your depth of field, your point of focus, your shutter speed, your ISO. If these are all good you will be able to process the image into the best it can be.

3. Find your compositions hand held.

The first thing my students generally do when they get to a location is to grab their tripods, extend the legs,pick a lens, mount their cameras and charge off into the field. The problems with this process is that it leads you to look for compositions that fit your set up- eye level with the lens that is on the camera. To me it doesn’t make sense to look for compositions that fit your gear. I think you should fit your gear to whatever your composition demands. So instead of mounting your camera and extending your tripod legs put your camera around your neck, your tripod in your hand and look for a composition free of all the other stuff. You will find it much easier to move around and therefore much easier to find great compositions.

4. ISO is also something you can adjust.

I see this all the time- the ISO that is set at dawn is the same ISO that is used two hours, six hours, ten hours later. Your ISO is also a tool that can be adjusted just like your f-stop or shutter speed depending on what your are shooting. If you are shooting something that is moving- a flower in the wind, an animal- or you are moving crank up  your ISO to get a higher shutter speed. Part of doing this is knowing how high you can go on your camera with your ISO. You should know at what number beyond which the quality of your ISO disintegrates. On my Nikon D300s I can’t shoot past ISO 1600 but I prefer not to go above 1200. On my D3s I am happy shooting at ISO 2500 or even ISO 3200. I don’t always shoot this high but if I need to I will gladly. So move your ISO around to best meet your needs for every shot you take. It’ll make a big difference.

5. HDR is not a cure all.

Lets be clear about this, there is a place for HDR. That place is for times when the light is very strong making the photography very contrasty AND you don’t have any other options such as waiting for a passing cloud, shooting the scene later with better light or using a diffuser or reflector to cut the contrast. At any other times good old one shot photography will work just fine. the problems I have with HDR is it is designed to be used when the light stinks but why are you photographing when the light stinks? HDR allows you to capture a scene in bad light but why would you want to? Just because you can use HDR doesn’t mean you should us HDR.