Every gadget you acquire can do far more than you will ever use. It is thus not necessary that you have to know its every function in detail. But it Is necessary that you know very well the functions or features that are important to you. Learning curves are no fun but - Trust me - you never know when it will save your backside - like it did for me (see below).
I had been hired for a shoot by a client who was excessive obsessed with quality; and I was thrilled ... as quality is My obsession as well. Being an NRI (Non Resident Indian) from the US, I was not surprised (another topic for my blog later).
It was a rainy day in Mumbai. I was excited about the shoot - so excited I ran down the steps of my building in order to be at the venue well before time. But as luck had it, I slipped on the steps and fell back-first and slid down a few hard steps before my professionally padded camera back-pack stopped my further slid. Boy was I glad I had that bag - it not only saved my backbone but also my expensive camera gear! Little did I know that I was wrong.
I reached my destination, confident in my ability to take those quality shots - what with all my pro gear and (more importantly) the shooting techniques I had mastered through hard work and which I am proud of. I open my bag and start setting up my gear. As per my usual practice, I always check the gear to make sure all is set. And - lo and behold - my flash gun refuses to fire!
That's happened to me before - a loose contact or a cell put in incorrectly or ... you get the picture. So I look closely into my flash gun and it just does not feel right. Then reality struck me; the front of the flash gun was damaged and twisted. I panicked, naturally! As a professional photographer, it was like asking a pilot to fly without radar.
Calming myself, I logically went through the facts. It was a working day, I was in one of the higher end suburbs of Mumbai and I had time (over two hours) at hand. So I told myself "Sheriar ... go buy yourself another flash! Simple!"
But when it rains it pours. And that day it literally poured and poured and poured .... making it difficult to get an auto-rickshaw and, when I did, for it to wade through rivers of water and pot-holes. But what dismayed me was that no electronic shop (and I must have visited at least 6 large ones) stocked a flash gun of any sort or brand! Sorry, they only keep fast-selling cameras and lenses.
My only option - do the best with what I have at hand
So this is what I did.
- I used the little pop-up flash on top of my camera - because even some extra light is better than none. Yes from a professional's perspective that little pop-up flash is the worst that one can use. But, if you know how to combine it with some other techniques, it can be an amazing allay!
- I shot in RAW. This gave me far more leeway in post-processing than jpeg would.
- And, most importantly, I used the optimal settings of aperture, shutter and ISO for my camera.
It is the latter that was the most critical. I knew every aspect of my camera and lenses inside-out ... their strengths and limitations, the extent to which I could push their various parameters in various lighting conditions (and boy, did these vary during the shoot!), and what I could achieve in post processing as well. All this comes with a lot of practice and hard work, but it pays off big-time if you are willing to put in the effort.
And one more piece of advice - carry at least some backup equipment when you shoot professionally. You never know when you will need it to fight lady (bad) luck.