26 Apr 2008 Master Your Equipment Challenge

During the previous challenge I learned a great deal about photography in a short time. One thing that I found frustrating was my lack of familiarity with my equipment. Getting the shot I wanted often took ten or more attempts, each with different camera settings or a different lighting setup. Therefore this week’s challenge is designed to stretch my knowledge of my equipment.

Each day I’m going to master a separate piece of equipment. By “master” I don’t mean to know everything there is to know about it, but rather know what is necessary to have it do what I want it to do. That’s difficult to measure, so I’m going to set a target of learning five new things that will improve my photography each day. If you’re playing along, choose a number that works for you. For me, five is a stretch while still achievable.

If you’re new to photography and thinking that your camera is your only piece of equipment, keep reading. You need a lot more than just a camera to get a photo into the microstock market.

Here’s some examples from which I’ll draw my five each day.


  • Learn a new function, button or setting. Modern cameras a complex and there’s always new tricks to learn.
  • Read the manual. Never thought about reading a manual before? Me neither. Lost your manual? Me too. You can download PDF versions for all popular models, so there’s no excuse.
  • Join the Flickr group for your model of camera. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn. Do the same for your lenses.


  • How many different ways can you use your flash? What are some techniques that you’ve never tried and how can you achieve different effects in your shots?
  • Recreate a Strobist lighting setup. There are hundreds to choose from, and most require very little budget. See what you can learn to master your lighting equipment.
  • Use a color of your reflector that you’ve never used. See what effects and moods can you create with different colors.
  • If you don’t have your own lighting equipment, try using household lamps and large sheets of white paper as reflectors. Master getting your shadows just right. (guess who bought lamps and paper last week!)

Post Process

  • Learn a new technique for post-processing. If you use Photoshop you’re in luck as there is no shortage of online tutorials for photo editing techniques. Choose the appropriate quantity and try them out. Pick one of your best selling photos and see how you can improve it with a new editing technique.
  • Refine your workflow. Find ways to improve the way you manage your photos, be it a naming convention, directory structure, meta data management or even a better way to backup your photos. Maybe you can streamline your uploading strategy with one of the many uploading utilities.

Acquire New Equipment

  • If you’re not in a position to spend lots of money, look at cheap alternatives. There are lots of photography video tutorials online which show you how to achieve great results using only cheap materials from the hardware shop.
  • If you have some money to spend, do some research and find out what new equipment will do the most for your photography.
  • Once you’ve got your new equipment, learn about it and try it out. What new shots can you create?

Equipment Care

  • Some people leave the task of cleaning sensors and lenses to the professionals. If you do it yourself make it part of your challenge. Research some different cleaning techniques and find what works for you.

I hope you find some inspiration in these suggestions. Feel free to share any other ideas you have in the comments. I’m looking forward to reporting my findings on the weekend and hearing what others learned as well.

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