Photo Tip - Get Better Photography, Lessons From A Sniper!

Today's photo tip will help us get better photography, learn to master our camera equipment inside and out and get comfortable with all our photo gear! Blindfolded and in the dark.

In the last several portrait photography photo tips articles, we've been studying lighting. Admittedly it has been some pretty heavy weight learning. For today's photo tip, let's kick back a bit and ponder...

Have you ever noticed how being a photographer and being a sniper are very similar?

First off, there's the obvious term - shoot. A sniper is trained to shoot and a photographer is trained to shoot. We call it shooting a portrait or shooting a landscape - having a model shoot and so on...

Next, no good sniper would ever take a shot without recording it in his shot notebook. It's how they learn the effects of heat and cold on a bullet. They learn how the ballistics are altered by varying wind speeds, altitudes and etc.

While less than 1% of you are likely to be keeping a notebook, the top photographers do. I've been harping on it forever. This one simple act can propel your photography to heights you can only dream of right now.

Have you ever studied the stance used by good (rifle) shooters when they are shooting from a standing position?

It is SOLID! Both in the legs and upper body.

The legs provide a strong steady platform and the rifle is held tightly against their shoulder. All to minimize any possible movements.

BTW - the stance is exactly the same every time too! They learn to do it the best possible way - then never alter it! It becomes a muscle memory.

Then they gently squeeze the trigger - so they don't inadvertently alter the rifles aim.

If you observe a top photographer, the stance is very similar - if not exactly the same. A steady base is just as important for a photographer as a sniper.

To avoid movement, the camera is held tightly against their face, while they look through the viewfinder. (If you are holding your camera at arms length and watching the viewing screen - stop it. RIGHT NOW!)

And they gently squeeze the shutter release to avoid camera shake.

I could go on and on... but the similarity I want to discuss in today's photo tip involves putting on a blindfold or going into a darkened room.

Can you imagine a highly trained sniper not knowing what a certain button or knob on his or her rifle does?

By the way, I say his or her because there ARE female snipers out there. Did you know that Dr. Ruth is a trained sniper?

They knot only know what each one does, but they can make whatever adjustments are needed without looking. In fact, they practice completely taking apart their weapons and reassembling them while blindfolded or in the dark.

But that isn't enough... not only do they practice doing it in the dark, they practice at doing it faster and faster!


They do this so that they become so familiar with every aspect of their rifle that they don't have to think about it anymore. It becomes second nature. In a high stress (possibly deadly) situation, they don't have to wonder about what to do. It just happens.

If you were blindfolded or put in a dark room, could you change lenses? Identify what every single button and knob does? Change batteries?

When you are shooting, there are a million things to think about and consider. Add to that the fact that - often it is a high stress situation and cannot be repeated (weddings or other once in a lifetime events). Do you really want to lose the shot because you had a hard time getting the battery compartment back in place? Or the memory stick was inserted incorrectly?

You may never find yourself in a high stress - or life and death situation, but the confidence of knowing your camera gear inside and out will eventually show in your photography.

For today's photo tip, study your camera equipment manuals until you know what every button, knob and dial does. This means all your photo gear, not just the camera. It's amazing how few of us really know how to use an on camera flash! Then practice making adjustments, changing batteries and so on - in the dark or while blindfolded.

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Dan Eitreim has been a professional photographer in Southern California for over 20 years - his data base exceeds 6000 past clients, and he says that learning photography is easy, if you know a few tried and true strategies.