3 Reasons to Shoot Photography Every Day

cabo boat

We all have reasons to get out of practicing, but it’s never a good idea to keep at the basics.  Shooting every day can sound like a daunting task, and people have asked me why it’s important to do this as a photographer.  So, I decided to create this handy article that highlights 3 reasons to shoot photography every day, and the importance of practice.  So, without further ado, here are your three reasons to shoot photography every day:

1. Practice Makes Perfect

The first reason to shoot photography every day is because shooting more often will simply make you better! Whether you are starting out in the world of photography or you are an established professional, or even an active hobbyist, there are always things you can learn about your craft, whether it’s improving your vision, your composition, or even refining the controls you have over your gear.  You really only can get there through lots and lots of practice.  Someone once said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice before you can really consider yourself an expert in anything.  Here I would say one caveat and that is to never think you are done learning – adopting that attitude will only blindside you downstream.

cabo boat Read more

Cleaning Your SLR

Sensor Versus Mirror

I’ve written several times on the blog about cameras, sensor dust, and cleaning your SLR.  You can review those here, here, and here (5 Ways to Clean, 5 Times to Clean, and 5 Ways to Avoid Dust).  I’ve also elaborated a bit on the various options for cleaning your SLR from the no-contact to the wet and dry methods, but I’ve never really addressed the fundamentals behind camera dust in question.  So, when someone asked recently on Quora about the Self-Cleaning Mechanisms in SLR’s, I figured a more complete write-up might help.  This was posed on Quora recently, and in the interests of sharing the points I made there to any of the reading audience here, figured it’d be worth inclusion.  So, without further ado – here’s the full skinny on SLR’s and self-cleaning:

The Self-Cleaning Mechanism

Dust Delete

The self-cleaning mechanism of SLR’s has many larger concepts that need to be addressed to fully understand what is happening, but in basic principle, a camera will use the battery to either shake or vibrate the dust off, or, it will negatively charge air particles that will attract the dust off the sensor and let the now airborne dust fall down to the dust trap at the bottom of the sensor.  Having said that, there’s a couple additional points to make in this question that can help:

Sensor Cleaning Versus Mirror Cleaning

Sensor Versus Mirror

The internal self-cleaning addresses the sensor itself, whereas DIY cleaning methods really are addressing the mirror that reflects an image onto the actual sensor.  Unless you want to lock the mirror up (such as on older cameras) and clean the actual sensor, any cleaning efforts you do on newer cameras is really only addressing the mirror.  Because of that, the internal sensor cleaning will address the sensor cleaning adequately, but does not address the mirror in the SLR  (until of course the dust trap fills up and needs to be emptied by an authorized professional from Canon, Nikon, or other third party).  When it comes to cleaning the mirror, you will have to do that yourself.

Is the dust really being removed?

While the self-cleaning function does “remove” dust from the sensor, through either vibration (or shaking), it’s not really removing the dust from the camera.  Here is where the larger question of “where does it go” remains unanswered for the most part, and also where the usefulness of the feature sort of falls flat.  Inside cameras that have this feature, there is a dust trap at the bottom of the sensor that catches dust when it is shaken off the sensor and/or sensor mirror.  Simple laws of physics suggest that eventually this trap will get filled, which means it needs to be emptied, or you need to send a camera in for cleaning.

Preventive Maintenance

While I have personally found that the self-cleaning feature is useful to a degree, the fact that dust is not being removed entirely from the camera detracts from its value, as well as the consideration that difficult or stubborn dust is not removed sort of devalues the benefits in the long term.  Instead, incorporate a system when using your camera to avoid introducing dust in the first place, such as some of those mentioned already, including, but not limited to:

1.  Keeping the camera pointed down when changing lenses
2.  Using a changing bag
3.  Turn the camera off before removing a lens
4.  Change a lens as quickly as you’re able – the longer the face is open the more chance of additional dust being introduced.
5.  Keep your camera clean and try to change lenses in less dusty situations (i.e. not in the middle of a sandstorm)

DIY Mirror Cleaning

There are several methods of dust removal you can use such as the use of a Rocket Blower (also use with the camera pointed down), mirror wipes, lens pens, and other similar products.  These are often categorized as no-contact and contact cleaners.  Within the contact cleaners, there are also sub-categories:  wet and dry cleaners.

No Contact Cleaners
No contact cleaners (blowers) use a puff of air to dislodge dust from the mirror and when used properly, the dust will fall out of the camera entirely. A great product in this category is the Giottos Rocket Blower.

Giottos Rocket Blower

Contact Cleaners – Wet Versus Dry
Dry cleaners generally refer to the brushes like Lens Pens that act like a paintbrush of sorts that sweeps dust off the mirror.  Conversely, the wet cleaners use a pad and a liquid that is swiped across the mirror to swab the dust off with a quick drying agent (usually some form of an alcohol) – the one I’ve used is a combo of Eclipse solution and PecPads.  Both of these often come with increased risk of damaging your camera, so I would only recommend these for those comfortable with the mechanics of cameras in general.  The dry cleaners are less likely to damage, but still carry some risk, so keep these in mind in your cleaning approaches.


I’d also be interested in hearing what others think of the “Self-Cleaning” SLR’s…do you use this feature?  Do you find it useful? Do you clean your own camera, and if So, how often? Feel free to sound off in the comments below!

Eight Ways to Awesome Photos

Blurry Shot

One of the worst moments in photography is when you get things back on the computer from a shoot to see that dreaded blur instead of an awesome photo (or awesome photos)!  If only you had been able to stabilize the camera more.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been confidant enough in my own abilities to think “I can hand hold that shot”.

Blurry Shot

The truth of the matter is, most of us can’t!  So, avoid the blur whenever possible When trying to capture images where light is low, a sense of movement is desired, or any other scenario where shutter speeds drop perilously low, getting that camera stable is critical!  Here are eight ways to make that happen:

1.  Use a Tripod – Shots taken with tripods are inherently more stable than their handheld counterparts.  Nothing stabilizes things like an inanimate object!

2.  Use a Monopod – With the tripod police out in force more and more, they are being allowed less and less in a number of areas.  If a tripod isn’t permitted, a monopod may be an alternative worth considering.

3.  Use Your Surroundings – Okay, so the tripod wasn’t allowed, the monopod you forgot, but there’s still a chance to catch that shot.  The answer lies in using your surroundings.  Brace the camera against a tree, a fencepost, a car, or whatever is available.  They key is to make your camera stationary.

4.  Bump the ISO – As much as I try to avoid increasing ISO, the newer cameras available do a great job of smoothing, and even then, software post production options are also pretty advanced at cleanup afterward.  So, if you have to, go ahead and bump the ISO settings to shoot fast and still retain exposure accuracy.


5. Hold that Camera – I know some shooters who claim to be able to hand hold as slow as 1/30th of a second, and one of their “secrets” is a secure grip on the camera.  Make sure you’re holding your camera right and not flapping your arms out beside you, all fingers around the edges (like a camera phone), and you can get better shots.

6.  Shoot between Breaths – Yup, you can shoot between breaths.  It’s key to remember not to hold your breath, but rather inhale slowly, exhale slowly, and that momentary gap between breaths is a moment when your body rhythms are not moving at all, heartbeat included!

7.  Slide that Finger – No, not that one!  Your shutter finger is what I am talking about.  So many people tend to jab the shutter, but that pushes the camera and can introduce movement.  Make it a slow slide with increasing pressure, almost as if the shutter release is an afterthought.

8.  Watch Your Feet – Standing with your feet together like a ballerina is never a good idea when shooting.  Your center of gravity rises, and you are unstable.  When you are unstable, so is your camera.  The same holds in the opposite extreme, so keep your feet about shoulder width apart when shooting.

Pacific Sunset

If you like these tips, keep in mind, there’s 90 more tips just like these in my eBook Combo Kit where you get both 49 Photo Tips, Volumes I and II:

There are, of course, other tools and methods to help make your photos better, but these 8 ways to add stability are just a primer to get you on the right track to making the most of your time behind the lens!  Know of any other ways to help stabilize a shot?  Anything I missed or that particularly speaks to you and your own techniques?  Sound off in the comments or via email!