Fitting your photography around the demands of family life (check out our ever-popular free family portrait photography cheat sheet) and the working week is often more difficult than figuring out the technical complexities of your camera.
To help you get the absolute most from your photography time, we have come up with 49 of the best photography tips and time savers that are guaranteed to get you better results, help you edit your shots with ease and simply enjoy your picture taking more.
From checking your kit before you leave the house to setting up your camera on location and tips for improving your photo composition, you’ll find plenty of suggestions for saving yourself time and getting organized – thereby reducing the chance of missing out on shots – long before you even press the shutter release.
When it comes to getting the most from the shots you take, there are also loads of tried-and-tested techniques and shortcuts that you can use to guarantee the best results – from finding the perfect location and perfecting composition to getting focus right and nailing exposure.
And of course, no matter how much preparation and care you’ve taken when shooting, you’ll need to store, sort and edit the images you take. So we’ll also show you the best ways to cut down the time you spend at your computer.
Whether you like to shoot landscapes, portraits or sport, use these essential time-saving tips and shortcuts to streamline your workflow, improve your technique and edit your shots to perfection. And as always, we’d love to see any shots you’ve been inspired to take.
Before you shoot
01 Clean your sensor
Even with in-built cleaning system on most modern SLRs or compact system cameras, some dust will inevitably find its way onto your camera’s sensor, which takes time to remove from your images with photo-editing software.
Either cleaning your sensor carefully yourself (check our our perfectly safe guide to sensor cleaning) or getting it cleaned professionally is the only way to remove this dust. You shouldn’t do this too often, but it’s worth checking for sensor dust before you start shooting, especially if you’ve been changing lenses or shooting in windy conditions. Sensor-cleaning kits can be picked up quite cheaply; we like the ones made by Arctic Butterfly (www.visibledust.com).
02 Keep it simple
While it’s handy to have the option of an extra lens or flashgun for those unexpected shots, it’s also easy to fall into the habit of carrying all of your kit every time you go out.
But unnecessary gear can become a burden, so before you set out, check whether there are any items, such as heavy zoom lenses, that you aren’t going to need. Remember, it’s often better to move closer to your subject rather than zooming right in from a distance with a big, unwieldy lens.
03 Format card/charge battery
There are few things more annoying than going to take a shot and finding that the card is full or the battery is flat. It’s all too easy to leave images on a memory card, and then forget whether you’ve transferred them to your computer.
So get into the habit of ensuring all of your cards are downloaded and formatted as soon as possible after a shoot, and charge your batteries when you get home. It’s easy to take cards for granted, but they’re precious!
For more on using memory cards, check out our infographic on how memory cards work.
04 Clean your lenses/filters
The front element of your lens and filters can soon get covered in dust, dirt and even greasy fingerprints. This can cause flare or even affect the sharpness of your images, so it’s worth cleaning them before you go out. Use a blower to dislodge any dust or dirt, then use a lens-cleaning cloth to remove any stubborn marks.
Learn more about your digital camera’s enemies, and how to defeat them!
05 Try Picture Styles
Most recent cameras have preset Picture Styles (or Picture Controls) that can be useful for applying basic adjustments to your images in-camera, such as Portrait or Landscape. What’s more, many cameras also allow you to edit the saturation, sharpness and contrast settings to fine-tune the effect to suit your taste or style (for more, see Canon Picture Styles: how to use the in-camera effects on your EOS camera).
06 Minimise lens distortion
On Nikon cameras you have the option of automatically correcting lens distortion in-camera, while with Canon models you can correct for lens vignetting. These correction features are normally switched on in the set-up menu, although this will only be available if the lens on the camera is compatible with the automatic correction feature of your camera. Minimise distortions as you shoot, and you won’t have to fix your images post-shoot (learn more about distortion with our infographic explaining chromatic aberration).
07 Auto-rotate your shots
In the set-up menu of most cameras you’ll find an option that enables you to automatically rotate images according to whether they are taken in horizontal or upright format. Turning this function on can save you loads of time rotating images once you’ve downloaded them to your computer later.
08 Check file format and size
For the best quality, you’d normally shoot most images at the highest resolution available, and save them in raw format or the highest quality JPEG setting. But remember that you don’t always need to use these settings for shots that you only want to use on-screen or print at small sizes. By choosing a smaller image size you can save space on your memory card, and time resizing your shots later.
09 Assign buttons
The function of most of the buttons on your camera will be set from the factory, but did you know that you can often customise the function of individual buttons, giving quick access to frequently-used settings and saving time wading through menus.
On Canon EOS cameras, like the 1100D, you can assign different functions to the SET button, such as image quality, ISO or flash Exposure Compensation. A similar range of options is available for the function (Fn) button on many Nikon DSLRs. Button customisation may seem a faff, but can save bags of time.
10 My Menu settings
Many cameras allow you to customise the menu so that the most used or useful adjustments are quickly available in their own menu page. So if there are particular features, such as Picture Styles or in-camera effects, that you use regularly, load them all into the My Menu page. Some lower-end models, such as the Nikon D3100, have a recent settings page. This shows the 20 most recently used settings, but you can’t fully customise this menu.