Home > 2011 Posts, About Dave > Dave’s Photo Toolkit – Shooting

Dave’s Photo Toolkit – Shooting

I travel light most of the time. Even so, there is some photo gear that I think it makes sense to bring along. The images in this post were all shot with only the items mentioned below.

A Black/Gray/White Card Test Shot Yielded Proper Skin Tone

Cameras are a hassle and get in the way, but pleasant memories refreshed by a good picture are food for your soul. Only one problem: a random snapshot can often to be quite different from what you remember. This happens for at least five reasons: 

    • Any current camera is far less capable than the human eye at capturing light and color (see this earlier post for more on camera limitations).
    • Our minds perceive a world in motion, even when the subject of our attention is nominally at rest: a bird, for example, or a child, or a sunset, or clouds.
    • How you feel about what you see changes what you see: a bride, for example is most always beautiful, an expecting mother is often ‘glowing’, and a person on your team is generally determined and noble-looking.
    • The more we care about the subject of our photo, the less inclined we are to perceive minor flaws: a mole or wrinkle for example, or sunglasses slightly askew, or the red nose from allergies in the field of wildflowers.
    • Humans are not capable of registering an instant in time equivalent to the shutter speed of a camera: 1/60th of a second or 1/1,000th, so if you look at a photo for more than a few seconds, you tend to fixate on the things that just don’t come though to you in real life.

The White Sign Acts as a Reflector to Brighten Shadow Detail

Unless you’re a scientist in a lab, most likely you want your photo to reflect what you thought you were seeing when the shutter clicked – your reality, not a detached, impartial physicist’s version.

So how do you do that? To help when the shutter clicks, I usually take six small things with me besides the camera assembly itself. Not much if you think about it.

The Camera Assembly

  • A good digital SLR with strap and at least a 4GB memory card – this gives me all the top-quality ‘physicist’s images’ in RAW file format that I can take in a day and helps me not drop the pricey machine.
  • A decent zoom lens that’s not too heavy (e.g. ~25-60mm) with a UV filter and attached lens shade – this lets me frame most typical shots, protect the lens glass and not get washed out images from scattered side and ultraviolet light.
  • A lens cap with a retainer that wraps around the lens – this protects the filter and helps me not lose the cap.

The Six 'Pocket' Items, plus Lens Hood, UV Filter & Lens Cap (with 18" ruler)

In My Pockets

    1. A credit card-sized set of hard-plastic, black, gray and white reference cards – because a test shot with these cards in it helps me easily correct color before showing an image to someone.
    2. A slightly larger diffuser for the built-in flash that folds flat – because this softens the light for photos of people I don’t want to look like evil cyborgs.
    3. A collapsible, two-sided white/gold, 2-foot diameter, circular cloth reflector – because this bounces light back onto the shady side of a subject, especially a person who I want to look good in light coming from one side.
    4. A lens-cleaning cloth – because my clumsy fingers always smudge the filter, and splashes from everywhere always leave spots that degrade the image.
    5. A thumb-sized electronic remote shutter release – because then my friends won’t have to ask, “Did you go on this trip too?” and because it lets me get steady shots in low light.
    6. A spare camera battery – because the one in the camera will always fail as I’m trying to get the most important shot of the day.

Museums Always Have Challenging Light

    Except for the camera assembly hanging from my shoulder, it all fits nicely in my front pockets or, better yet, in the pockets of a jacket or sport coat. I only bring along a shoulder-slung camera bag if I want a second lens and tripod with me for some reason.
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