One of the most important things for a photographer to learn is to make a mental checklist of the things to do before each shot AND to run through that checklist before each shot. No one is perfect, I still slip up sometimes, the light is changing, the moment is fleeting and for whatever reason the shot is rushed. It perhaps looks OK on the camera screen at the time but you get home, view it full size and “oh the disappointment!” Do you recognise this, been there and not done it justice? We all have.
My mental checklist as an outdoor photographer is as follows; it breaks down into two core parts to make memorizing them easier.
White balance – is this set correctly? You will often be able to get away with ‘Auto’ but a defined setting will be better in many cases and essential in unusual lighting setups, such as in a wood at autumn on a cloudy day.
Aperture – how much or little depth of field do I need?
ISO – can I get both the desired shutter speed and aperture while using base ISO for the camera to capture the best quality file or do I need to reset?
Shutter speed – what will I need to freeze the action or allow the movement to show in the image?
Tripod – should I really be making do without one? Yes, that’s right. As a landscape photographer the question is the opposite of what you might expect. Use it or lose it – the shot that is.
Focus – where in the scene do I want the point of focus to be? Am I going to use auto-focus or go manual. If I am using hyperfocal distance is the aperture set correctly?
Artificial light – do I need flash, a torch or perhaps a reflector to lighten a foreground object?
Filters – do I need filters? Neutral density, graduated neutral density, polarizer and warm up all have their uses from time to time. If I am using a ND filter have I set the focus to manual so the camera does not lose focus due to hunting through the ND filter? If using a graduated ND filter have I metered correctly?
Flare – shooting into the light adds drama to an image but often causes flare, especially if you strap filters onto the end of the lens. So should I use a flare dodger?
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Not familiar with a flare dodger? I’ll show you what one is and tell you how to use it soon.