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Top tips for getting the best photograph whatever the weather

Tim Pestridge BA Hons LBIPP has been a commercial photographer for eight years and has experience of working in all weather conditions. Read his guide and top tips on getting the most out of your camera and taking great pictures whatever the weather.

Photography

As a commercial photographer, I work solely with businesses to create images that help them market themselves. This means that my work generally fits into a working week, but timescales are often very tight, and I usually have to work with whatever whether we are blessed with that day.

As every month passes, cameras are becoming more and more advanced. As a gadget fanatic, photography gives me a huge number of potential toys to play with, but the essence of capturing and creating a photograph is the thing which never changes. The fundamental elements of creating an image using a camera such as lighting, timing, and weather conditions are the same whether you're a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) user with loads of camera kit, or using a smartphone.

Those of you with cameras on your phones will know that they are often the best camera you could have, as they're always with you.

Set your camera up

Before we start, can I make a very simple suggestion for those of you who are using cameras (or phones) which have different image sizes or settings? Please, please, please - set your camera to take photos at its highest possible setting. If you have the software to cope, the ideal image size is your camera's RAW setting.

A RAW image file isn't as scary as it sounds! It means that your camera has captured the absolute most data it can possibly have in the photo, and gives you much more flexibility if you are changing or altering images with image editing software. Many people are happy and comfortable with JPEGs, but they are always a stripped down version compared to a full RAW file.

A good example of why you should do this is when photographing clouds. Using a raw file means you can see much more of the detail of the clouds. When you compare the RAW to a JPEG of the clouds you'll see the JPEG has thrown away a lot of the subtle tones in cloud formations. This counts for skin tones as well.

You may need to make sure your SD card or memory card can handle several hundred raw files - but now there are plenty of good 32 gig cards out there at reasonable prices. While I'm on that subject, the speed of these cards does make a difference to how quickly you can review your photo, just to bear in mind. Faster and bigger is certainly better in this case.

Also, I don't believe that you're so busy that you can't sit down for an hour and read your camera's manual. A lot of people never move away from the automatic or fully auto settings on their cameras.

Challenges

Photo challenge 1

You'll need an hour and a half one evening, but it'll be worth it. Sit down with a cup of tea and actually read your camera's manual, making note of each different setting, and have a play about with taking photos. Do some experimenting. I won't go into all the settings here because each manufacturer has a different way of representing settings. Why not photograph the manuals while they're stuck in front of the TV? There really is no substitute for a good working knowledge of your camera's settings, and getting some time behind your camera.

Photo challenge 2 

Whatever the weather, it's worth taking photos. Take a camera with you when you're heading out somewhere and let the weather dictate what style of shots you capture. So, on a windy day, capture some images around that theme, while if it's a sunny day, look for different opportunities that the conditions present.

Photo challenge 3

Lunchtime project. Take your phone with you for 10 minutes each day at work, and take some shots around you using different settings or filters if you're using a phone camera.

Photo challenge 4

I'm sure we're all guilty of storing photos on our computers or phones and not printing out. Get into town or online, and get your photos developed larger than you normally would so you can marvel at the quality. There's something wonderful about a framed photo that looking on screen can never beat.

Photo challenge 5

Make a photo book. There are plenty of online apps for this, and if you get on with it might be ready for Christmas. You'll get huge brownie points for making one of these for your family or friends.

More information about Tim Pestridge BA Hons LBIPP

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