There’s a well-used saying that “Old Habits Die Hard” which is applicable to various areas of our lives including photography. Humans tend to be creatures of habit. We can sometimes find ourselves falling into patterns of behaviour (including some that are counterproductive) without being aware of our habitual actions. The first step in changing old photographic habits is to become aware of them.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added to serve as visual breaks.
Many of us maintain specific photographic techniques even after buying new camera gear that may be of a different format. When I first got my E-M1X I found myself shooting at shutter speeds that I was accustomed to using with previous full frame gear, and my Nikon 1 kit. I lost count of the number of times that I would catch myself not taking advantage of the IBIS performance of my E-M1X.
It has been over 2 years since I moved over to Olympus gear and on occasion I still find myself using faster shutter speeds than are actually needed in many situations.
As a former full frame camera owner I was probably overly fixated on my aperture setting when creating images with shallow depth-of-field, or trying to achieve good subject separation. It took some time for me to get in through my thick skull that the focal length of my lens, distance to subject, and distance of subject to background, were far more important factors to consider, than my aperture setting.
The dragonfly image above is a classic example of how lens focal length, distance to subject, and subject distance to background can be used to achieve subject separation and shallow depth-of-field. This photograph was created using an aperture of f/13.
When we buy new camera gear it may sometimes have technology that we have never used before. Our old habits will sometimes provide us with excuses why we never seem to have time to learn how to use new technology. Even when that new technology may be of significant benefit to us. The in-camera focus stacking of my E-M1X is a feature that I left dormant for far too long.
Even when we actively use new technology, like Pro Capture H, we sometimes fall into a routine of only using it for particular subject matter like birds taking flight. I had to remind myself to put this technology to use when photographing insects like butterflies, bees, wasps, clearwing hummingbird moths, and dragonflies. The result was creating a wide range of images that I could only hope to get with previous camera gear.
I’ve always enjoyed travel and landscape photography. Back in my full frame days I’d habitually use an aperture of at least f/8 when creating most landscape images. Breaking this old habit took some time as it was quite ingrained in my brain.
I had to remind myself that the optical properties of a lens are consistent when considering focal length. Sensor size is irrelevant when it comes to lens optical properties. While the M.Zuiko PRO 7-14 mm f/2.8 zoom may have an equivalent field-of-view of 14-28 mm when compared to full frame equipment… it is still a 7-14 mm zoom in terms of its optical properties. As such it can deliver wonderfully deep depth-of-field when shot wide open.
If you check the EXIF data for the previous three images you’ll see that they were all created using an aperture of f/2.8 and a focal length of 7 mm. This adjustment to an old habit technique is one way I can maximize the available dynamic range of my E-M1X under low light conditions when doing landscape photography.
Sometimes our old habits come into play, resulting in us misunderstanding new technology and using it incorrectly. When I first started using Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking I made a number of old habit mistakes. The biggest one was in trying to use a group of auto-focus points when Bird AI was engaged. This was just plain dumb on my part. I should have done more upfront research about how this technology works.
I initially thought that there was something wrong with Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking… after all it couldn’t be me 😂. Well, I soon discovered that it was me. I did some research and found out that none of my E-M1X’s phase detect AF points were being used by my camera to acquire auto focus. All of the AI Subject Tracking modes in my E-M1X work by analyzing the entire scene using the dual, quad core TruePic VIII processors. That understanding caused a bell to go off in my old, porous brain.
To get the best performance from Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking I discovered that a single, small AF point should be used. Whenever possible it should be proactively placed in the composition where you expect the head of the bird to be. I actively practice moving my single AF point to where I want it in the frame as I’m bringing my E-M1X up to my eye. This helps Bird Detection AI work very quickly and accurately. The purpose of using a single AF point is simply to instruct the camera where in the scene you want it to concentrate Bird Detection AI auto-focusing efforts. The AF point doesn’t actually perform any auto-focusing unto itself.
After some experimenting it became crystal clear to me that using Pro Capture L with Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking together was a powerful combination. My old habit would have been to assume that technologies cannot be combined. I now regularly use Pro Capture L and Bird Detection AI together, and have my C1 Custom Mode dial dedicated to this combination.
Our old habits can extend into our approaches with post processing. For example it can be easy to fall into the habitual trap of trying to decide which noise reduction technology to use. We are preconditioned to look at life from an ‘either/or’ perspective. Each of us may have read numerous articles about which software’s noise reduction is best. Much of the time we forget that ‘either/or’ can be replaced with ‘and’ thinking when it comes to post processing.
Killing the old habit of ‘either/or’ and replacing that thinking with ‘and’ led me to use two rounds of noise reduction in post processing. At the front end I apply a modest amount of DxO PhotoLab 4 DeepPRIME, then finish my images using Topaz Denoise AI. To my eye taking this ‘and’ approach produces much better results than either of those programs when used independently.
Regardless of the camera format and brand of equipment that we may own, old habits can hold us back from getting the most out of our gear. The first step in getting more out of our cameras is to recognize our old habits. The second step is to experiment more with our cameras to learn how we can extend what is possible by breaking our old, unproductive habits.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Crops are noted as appropriate. This is the 1,069th article published on this website since its original inception.
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