All the Bells and Whistles:
Choosing Camera Accessories
Do You Need a Flash?
A flash system can be a mixed blessing for most amateur photographers. Who doesn't
love natural light? It is soft, pleasing, and full of subtlety that can be completely
washed out with a blast of flash. Also, a flash is another "part" and the more parts
there are to a system, the more problems can occur. Using a flash with a hood, in
an incorrect tilt, or with a long lens can produce surprising and unwanted results.
Having said this, the advantages of having one available far outweigh the disadvantages.
They allow you to get brighter, more contrasty colors in dim light, capture moments
that would otherwise be missed, and bypass the low-light, camera shake problem.
If you are concerned about burning out your subject, try one of Sto-fen's Omnibounce
products or a Lumiquest Pocket Bouncer; I live by these helpers. If that doesn't
soften it up enough for you, the unit can always be powered off.
Once you have a flash, only use it with the following in mind:
A Girl and Her Horse
Used Fill Flash to Fill in the Shadows
© Jim Miotke 2002
All Rights Reserved
Do not get fooled into thinking you can simply leave it on all the time and cease
thinking. It is not a replacement for the part of your brain that analyzes the light.
Have you ever seen the closing ceremony of the Olympics on TV? A dance of tiny flashes
continuously comes from the audience surrounding the show. This is very pretty but
amazingly unnecessary. Flashes are simply not helpful in that particular situation
- they only cause the backs of spectators heads to be more well-lit.
Be aware that if you use it in an automatic mode in a dim light that your background
may be rendered totally black, while your subject is rendered okay. Just be aware
Using your flash during the bright daylight is not a bad thing - it is a good thing.
Most pros leave their flash on because it will help to fill in shadows and reduce
extreme light/dark contrast ranges that the lab can't handle. It will also put a
pretty catchlight in the eyes of an animal or person you are photographing.
To sum up, here is what I do: keep my flash on and lug it around; keep it turned
off until I need it; look for a natural light solution first - if I can move my
subject or myself to utilize the sun better, I will usually do it; activate my flash
only when my meter says "Too dark - use flash," I see many shadows on my subject
that I would like to fill, or I just want to make sure I capture all those beautiful
colors; and then take one photo with it and one without, using that law of numbers
to my advantage.
How about a tripod?
This one inexpensive piece of equipment
will improve your photographic results and increase your range of photographic possibilities
more than any other in its price bracket. So what if you have to carry it around
- when you see what it allows you to do and do well, you probably won't mind.
It doesn't matter which one, as long as it doesn't wiggle. Stay away from the cheap,
plastic ones unless that is all you can afford (but even one on those little table
tripods would be better than nothing). Then keep it in your car or wherever you
can get to it when you need it.
This tool will do more for increasing the
quality of your pictures and the range of your picture-taking moments than any other
piece of equipment. It will especially come in handy when you use your telephoto
lens in low light conditions. The general rule is that whenever your shutter speed
goes below the focal length of your lens divided by one, you should use a tripod
to avoid handshake.
You also will open up your photographic world to many more possible shots with a
tripod. You will be able to:
Needed a Tripod for This Photo
© Jim Miotke 2002
All Rights Reserved
- Extend your exposure time in order to get the greatest depth-of-field;
- Take nighttime shots of wonderful and challenging subjects such as fireworks (tips on how to shoot fireworks) and lightning;
Make special effects photographs like multiple exposure pieces.
What filters should I use?
Many filters are unnecessary if you are aiming for realistic and beautiful pictures
and shooting negative film. Unless you are purposely trying to achieve special effects,
which frankly require a lot more skill to pull off, don't let yourself get sucked
in by the marketing departments of the filter manufacturers. A good UV or skylight
filter is recommended if you are fearful about scratching the outer lens element
and have a habit of losing or simply not using your lens caps.
Another filter I often use is a circular polarizer to cut down glare and increase
contrast. Buy the appropriate kind of polarizer - circular for autofocus and linear
for manual focus and go to town.