Episode #7 of the course Introduction to photography by Robin Whalley
Yesterday, you learned how to avoid common mistakes when making photographs. Today, you will learn about important accessories that can help you create even better photography.
You may wonder whether you really need accessories to take good photographs. The answer is no, you don’t need photographic accessories to take good photographs. But some accessories can help you take better photographs in demanding conditions. Accessories aren’t used all the time. They are intended to help you overcome the limitations of the camera. For example, a tripod can support the camera when the shutter speed becomes too slow.
The Tripod and Tripod Head
The tripod has three legs that support the camera, keeping it steady and level. In some forms of photography, such as landscape photography, the tripod is almost essential. But with others, such as street photography, it can be a hindrance.
Good tripods allow you to change the leg heights and their angle independently. The legs will typically lock into position and allow you to position your camera.
The ability to change the tripod head is important. This is one indicator that the tripod is of a high quality. Tripod heads come in many different designs, but they should allow your camera to move freely so you can position it.
Quality heads also use a quick release plate. The plate attaches to your camera, allowing it to quickly clip into place on the head or be removed. A good head can easily cost more than the tripod legs. Which design is best for you will be a personal decision, and it’s important to try out a few.
When you take a photo with your camera using a tripod, you should avoid touching the camera, as this can blur the photo. One way is to use the self-timer feature in your camera. Alternatively, if your camera supports it, use a remote release.
Some cameras use a mechanical cable release that screws into the camera. Some use an electronic remote release that plugs into a socket on the camera. Electronic releases can also be wireless, using a receiver that plugs into the camera. These types of remotes are common in studio work and can be used to control flash units.
Monopods, like tripods, provide stability for the camera but less so. A good monopod might allow you to shoot steady images at ¼” (second) where you might otherwise need a shutter speed of 1/120”.
Monopods are helpful when you need a little extra stability but can’t be used for longer exposure times. They can be very helpful when shooting with telephoto lenses and provide mobility. This is one of the reasons professional sports photographers tend to use them rather than tripods.
Filters attach to the front of your lens and come in two styles: circular screw-in and square slot-in. They are used to modify the light entering the camera in some way. Polarizing filters will polarize light entering the camera and can cause colors to appear more saturated.
Neutral density filters reduce the amount of light entering the camera to increase exposure times. This is a common technique used to blur movement—for example, waves on the sea.
When used to create very long exposure times, running into minutes, moving subjects will vanish from the photograph completely.
The graduated neutral density filter is commonly used in landscape photography (see the image below). These are part clear and part dark. They are used to darken the sky, helping balance the exposure of the darker ground with the lighter sky.
Flash and Lighting
Some cameras have a built-in flash, but for better control, a separate flash unit is required. There are many options available, from traditional flash units to continuous lighting, which provides a constant light source. Recently, LED lighting panels have become popular, some of which can mount onto cameras and be used as a flash.
If you are considering a flash or camera lighting, be sure you understand why you want it before making a purchase. Your purpose will determine the best type of lighting for you and could save you a lot of money.
Software is an important accessory, and we will devote tomorrow’s lesson to the subject.
Purchasing Neutral Density Filters
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