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10 Great Ways to Save Time & Money And Get Great Results From Your DSLR

Saikat Basu 04-04-2014

When you are doing something you love, time and money doesn’t really matter. Now, go and tell that to someone who wants to join a photography class. The good ones cost good shekels.


Photography is an expensive hobby, and it doesn’t get easier on the pocket as you graduate upwards with better skills. Don’t worry, the Internet is a burgeoning school for learning photography A Beginner's Guide To Digital Photography Digital photography is a great hobby, but it can be intimidating, too. This beginner's guide will tell you everything you need to know to get started! Read More thanks to the trigger-happiness around the world.

Beginners can take a lot away from the many photography tips and tricks 7 Key Photography Tips for Absolute Beginners These photography tips will help you take better photos, whether you're a beginner or have some practice already. Read More that experts are freely providing on the Web. The clever ones also tell you about simple photography hacks 8 Useful Digital Camera Hacks That Don't Cost The Earth You can actually get more out of a photograph with a cheap homemade reflector than an expensive lens when you are on the learning curve with your camera. The good thing is that the photography... Read More that not only save you a few dollars but also spark a creative DIY spirit. Let’s continue the same vein and look at some great ways to save time and money while getting great results from your DSLR.

Note: Some of the screenshots depict the Canon 7D. Tips are applicable to your brand of DSLR as well.

Save Time – Spend It On Making Pictures

Every second saved on needless fiddling with camera controls or cursing an out-of-focus picture can be spent on doing what you love the most. These ten time-saving tips are not only basic, but they go a long way in improving your workflow.

Plan Before You Shoot

Plan your photography


Preparation is half the job done. Great photos can be the result of meticulous preparation or they can be “in-the-moment”. Landscapes and portraits follow preparation, while street photography is spontaneous. Even then, you have to think about which streets to tread and at what time. Beginners should just take lots of photos, but visualizing the composition in a mental frame will make them think about the process a lot more. Darren Rowse coaches with some excellent advice on how to question yourself before you take a shot. Thinking ahead saves time, because instead of experimenting, you already have an idea of the perfect shot.

Maybe these Google Maps tips Nuts About Photography? 6 Tips To Use Google Maps With Your Camera Google has probably done less for the mass effect of photography than Facebook (the acquisition of Instagram tipped the balance), but the contribution has been nothing short of the word “generous”. Google Maps has been... Read More can help with your photo preparation as well. Especially, The Photographer’s Ephemeris, which can be used to estimate lighting. The Photographer’s Transit ($8.99), from the same developers, is now available on iTunes. I haven’t tried out the latter, but it is a map-based shot-planning tool that helps photographers with choice of lenses, cameras, and locations on outdoor shoots.

Use A Tripod

Buy a Tripod

Oh, the frustration of a shaky hand when you are trying to take a tack-sharp photo! Tripods are an essential accessory and the first rule for steady shots even with fast shutter speeds… and image stabilization built-in. A great lens (which costs five times as much) might give even better results with a tripod. Plus, without a tripod, you can forget about long-exposure, time-lapse, low-light shots, or even macros and selfies. It’s better to spend some money upfront on a good lightweight tripod. I say this from bitter experience!


Also remember, you can just as easily use your tripod as a slider for video panning by tipping it left and right on its two legs.

Not money, but it will save you time on the learning curve. It might save your arms too if you carry your camera for extended lengths of time with a telephoto lens. Here’s some great advice at Digital Photography School on buying the right tripod for your needs, budget, and height.

Process Your Images In-camera

In-camera processing

Many of today’s camera’s allow you to tweak your RAW images inside the camera. The editing features differ from model to model, but usually the basic set of white balance, picture styles, noise reduction, image size, image quality, and color profile are covered. It saves you the time and the bother of depending on an image editor. Some advanced DSLRs also handle chromatic aberrations (e.g. photos with colored edges) or linear lens distortions. You can even preserve the original RAW file as the image edits are applied to a new JPEG copy.


Straighten Your Lines

Level your camera

Be on the level with your tripod-less shots. Some DSLRs like the Canon 60D, Canon 7D and the Nikon D7000 have an electronic level built-in. It helps with horizontal landscape shots or for shooting man-made structures. The electronic level senses your camera’s orientation along a virtual horizon and helps to align your camera. In some cameras, you can display the electronic level on the LCD monitor and also on the viewfinder to correct camera tilt. You can also use the grid display to approximate a virtual horizon for perfect landscape shots.

Delete Dust With A Click

Camera - Dust Delete Data

The importance of keeping your lens clean and following the recommended advice to do so needs a broader explanation. Your DSLR’s Automatic sensor cleaning function does its bit, but it cannot remove the persistent bits. You can use the Dust Delete Data feature to tackle the persistent cruds and see if the sensor needs physical cleaning.


The dust delete picture (a photo of a plain white paper sheet is used as a reference) records where the spots of dust on your camera’s image sensor and appends that information to each image file.  This file and the dust positions are then interpreted by Canon’s Digital Photo Professional software which automatically removes the dust spots from your images. Nikon has a similar ‘Image Dust Off’ feature. Read your camera manual for the exact steps.

Always hold your camera with the lens facing down when you are changing them. There is less chance of dust entering the lens opening.

Light The Magic Lantern

You will need: The Magic Lantern firmware upgrade (for Canon).

DSLR & Magic Lantern

If you are a longtime user of a Canon DSLR then you should have heard about Magic Lantern firmware “upgrade”. Magic Lantern adds many features and though primarily for video photography, it reserves a few for photo shoots as well. For instance: fine-tuned control over exposure, and extended bracketing. Check the Magic Lantern website for the full list of features and the camera models it supports. The good thing is that you can run it from the SD card instead of replacing the default firmware in the camera.

Read the FAQ for questions about warranty issues before you use the firmware, or head over to the Magic Lantern Flickr Group.

The Cheapest Case For Your SD Cards

You will need: An empty Altoids tin (or something similar).

SD card carrying cases should be cheap. They are, but they still take out a few greenbacks from your pocket. Why pay $2 to $5 (and beyond) on Amazon and eBay, when you might have one lying around the house. YouTube has the solution – Mike Quest transforms a small Altoids tin into a compact 12-card holder. I guess any small container can be used just as well.

The Simplest Green Screen Backdrop

You will need: A computer monitor.

Simple green background

Adam Dachis has this great tip on Lifehacker for quickfire background removal using a “green screen” as a background. It is as simple as using a solid green (or any other high contrast color) wallpaper on your computer screen as a makeshift green backdrop. Take care to light the object you are trying to shoot properly to compensate for the screen backlight. In the final photo-touching step, use the Magic Wand tool in Photoshop to remove the green background easily.

It will not work for large subjects, but if you want to get some quick photos of objects like smartphones, cups, or assorted household items, it is worth a shot.

Make A Light Tent With Ring Binder Files

You will need: 3 translucent white A4-sized ring binders and duct tape.

A simple lightbox

Light tents help you take control of the light in every situation. If you are into product shots, food porn, and even flower shots, then making dirt cheap light tents with cardboard boxes and fabric could be real money-savers. There are many ways to make DIY light tents, but this tutorial on using three ring-binders as a light tent from DigitalCameraWorld.com is probably the easiest, fastest, and cheapest.

Using translucent 3-ring binders also helps to diffuse harsh sunlight and give the objects a softer look. While perfect for outdoor flower photography, you can take it indoors too. Use different colored papers instead of the white of the file as a background to make for interesting backdrops.

Go Slinging Around Town With A DIY Tripod Holder

You will need: Clamps, nuts, bolts, split-rings, and an adjustable strap with clip locks.

A DIY tripod holder

DigitalCameraWorld.com published a simple tutorial on how to carry your tripod in a quick and easy tripod sling. You need couple of clamps, nuts, bolts, split-rings, and an adjustable strap with clip locks to fashion the tripod holder. The sling design (instead of a carry-bag) also makes it easier to set up the tripod quickly, thus giving you a few more seconds to capture the photo.

Every Tip Goes A Long Way…

Every photography tip goes a long way in not only saving time and money, but also to flatten out the steep learning curve for beginner photographers. That’s why we should always thank the experienced among us who share their photographic common sense. It’s your turn. Tell us about your favorite tips and hacks which saved you money, time, or both.

Image Credit: Garry Knight; Terence Lim

Related topics: Digital Camera, DSLR, Photography.

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