Occasionally, I’ll give a photography lesson to a family member or friend. On the last lesson, I came up with a great checklist for any new photographer to go through before any shoot. It’s worth mentioning that I pretty much always shoot in Aperture Priority rather than Manual or other automatic settings. Below are the steps you should take in order to make sure your camera is properly setup to capture the scene.
- Focal Length- Select your focal length based on the subject you are shooting. Here’s a general rule of thumb to follow. Widest Focal Length for Landscapes, 35-50mm for taking pictures of people and travel pics, 50-85mm for headshots and 100mm+ for wildlife or other far away shots.
- Aperture- After you’ve picked your focal length select your Aperture for the scene. If you are shooting portraits, shoot with the widest aperture your camera will allow. If you are shooting a scene were you want both the foreground and background in focus, such as a landscape, select an aperture around 8-10 or even narrower.
- Take a test shot to check Shutter Speed and proper exposure.
- ISO-For the most part, you should be ok with always shooting at a low ISO in the 100-200 range. Assuming you’re shooting handheld, you’ll want to adjust your ISO higher if the shutter speed falls below a safe range. I tend to not like shooting at slower than 1/60. A fast enough shutter speed is important for sharp photos. Pay special attention to this in darker environments such as inside, after sunset or in heavily shaded areas.
- Exposure Compensation-After getting your ISO locked in, you’ll want to take the final step to assure proper exposures. Sometimes your camera doesn’t always make the proper calculation for exposure. A quick way to adjust the exposure is to use Exposure Compensation. Keep tinkering with in until you have the proper exposure. I always review my photos by shielding the LCD screen on the back of the camera away from light.
- White Balance- Adjust White Balance only if you feel it’s necessary. I shoot on AWB 90% of the time and you should too. If you need to change your white balance. I’m a huge fan of using a grey card to get my white balance just right. Shooting inside under multiple lighting sources is when I find AWB to be the least effective so keep an eye out for that.
There’s a lot to photography and making sure your camera is properly setup is a huge part of that. Hopefully this checklist helps you master your camera’s settings and quickly move onto creating and composing your images.