Photo Tip #4: Know Your Gear

One thing I LOVE about Nikons is the Creative Lighting System (CLS).  Recent Nikon cameras and speedlights can be linked via line-of-sight infrared (IR) communication and you can trigger your Nikon speedlight off-camera without buying any additional equipment.  The system is great and if you own a Nikon dSLR and Nikon speedlight (SB600/700/800/900), it's a great introduction to off-camera flash that you can play around with.  By setting the speedlight as a remote, you then use the built-in flash on the camera to trigger the speedlight.  You can tell the built-in flash to either fire or just be a trigger.  I don't have time to put together a tutorial, but if you're interested and not sure how to do it, just look at your manual[s] or google "Nikon CLS" and you can figure out how to do it.  It's relatively simple and straightforward, so go out and use it!  You'll be amazed at the results you can get just with a little tinkering.  One piece of advice: take note of what channel the speedlight is on!!!  Last night, I embarrassingly made the rookie mistake of not keeping track of what channel the speedlight was on and what channel my camera was sending messages to.  As a result I got very frustrated and didn't exactly get the shot I want.  This takes me to today's photo tip:  know your gear before going out in the field!  You've got to be familiar with every aspect of your gear before going out in the field if you're going to get the shots you want.  Read your manuals and find willing guinea pigs to try out your gear before going out on jobs.  That way if you run into trouble, knowing your gear will help you effectively and efficiently troubleshoot.  I figured out my problem last night relatively quickly (probably within 3-4 minutes), but I only had a couple minutes to get the shot I wanted, so by the time I figured out what was wrong the opportunity had passed.  While I'm disappointed in myself, identifying the source of problems and learning from your mistakes will make you a better photographer.  I hopefully won't be making this mistake again, and by sharing my experience here I hope you won't either!