Getting Ready

How I Get Myself Ready for a Photo Shoot

Photographers have different ways of preparing for a photo shoot, but I think we all agree that it is imperative to make sure the tools we use are clean and ready for action. I myself follow a strict regimen before each photo shoot. Even though my favorite walk-around lens – the 24-70mm f/2.8 – does most of the job, I still switch lenses once in a while. Switching lenses out in the open, as we are aware, invites unwanted elements into the camera sensor and will more often than not show up in our images.

I have learned my lesson the hard way when I was out shooting at Baker Beach in San Francisco. It was very windy that day, and my lack of experience that time had impaired my judgement of switching from my mid-size zoom to a telephoto lens. If I knew then what I know now, I would have just walked the extra feet and not change lenses. Needless to say, the photos I made that day were all inundated with horrible specks not only in the sky, but in every minute detail. Most of them were successfully removed or cloned out in Photoshop, but it was a tedious task that I did not want to do ever again.

I still get dust in my sensor every now and then; after all, there are times when you just need to switch lenses. And when you’re traveling, you’re out in the open and faced with all these natural elements. I’ve shot in the pouring rain, heavy snow, and gusts of wind. But now I take precautions. If available, I find a covered area within range and take shelter there. Once, I was shooting in the rain in Hallstatt, Austria and decided I needed a longer zoom. There was a phone booth nearby and it was the perfect place to do the job.

I have also started to do my own sensor cleaning, a delicate task to take on but necessity has taught me how to take charge. At the time of this writing, the closest Nikon service is about 2 and a half hours from where I live. It costs me about 25-euros and 5-hours commute time every time I needed to have my camera cleaned. I have since purchased a Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly sensor brush to use on my the D200, and it worked like a charm. My D700 has a built-in dust cleaning mechanism, but I find that doesn’t always help. I’ve already had an issue with oil smears on my sensor. That’s where a more precarious cleaning technique comes in – the wet sensor cleaning. I also use a Giottos Rocket Air Blaster for minimal dust.

Once my camera is clean to my liking, I also clean all my lenses and filters with a soft microfiber cloth and sometimes with a Zeiss premoistened tissue. I also clean all lens caps and pretty much anything that touches my lenses and cameras.

After cleaning, I have a mental checklist of what else needs to get done, and this is as follows:

1. Make sure batteries are charged including spare.

2. Format any unused memory cards. This way I don’t accidentally format a used one in the middle of shooting.

3. I almost exclusively shoot at low light, particularly at night, so this is when I would attach my cable release. I don’t like fumbling with it in the dark, especially in wintertime when my hands are frozen and are not up to screwing and unscrewing things.

4. If I’m heading out to shoot in low light, I dial in my camera’s mode to mirror lock-up. Check that my ISO is at the lowest, 100. Exposure Compensation is back at 0. UV filter, which I use only in the daytime, is off the lens.

5. Since I have a couple of tripods – one for airline travel and one for road trips – I make sure I have the correct quick release plate attached into my camera.

6. Last but not the least – snacks! – waiting for the light can take some time especially when I arrive at my destination early. ‘Can’t shoot when you’re hungry.

Simple as that, and I’m ready to roll.

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8 responses

  1. I will treasure all your tips. :)) …Your explanations made me feel confident to tackle what’s ahead of me with this new hobby of mine. Yen, what’s the cable release?

    • Nice to see you here my friend. A cable release is a cable attached to your camera on one end and has a trigger on another, so you don’t have to physically touch the camera to click the shutter when doing long exposures. By using a cable release, you can also activate the mirror lock-up function of your camera so you can be more guaranteed a steady shot. Good luck on your new hobby Elen! Always happy to help you. 🙂

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