10 Things You Should Do BEFORE You Depress the Shutter Button

If you find that you are always having to clone out that annoying stick/rock/finger from the edge of your image, or wishing you had checked the ISO settings, or adjusted the white balance – here’s a list of 10 things you might want to get into a routine of checking before you press that button.

1. RAW and/or JPEG

If you regularly switch between the two, make sure you have it on the setting you want.  You don’t want to capture a fabulous image and find out later that you shot using the small JPEG quality option and you can’t blow up your photo to 30×40 inches to give to your mum for her birthday.

2. ISO Settings

ISO100 is the standard setting for me.  If you want to increase your exposure, drop to ISO50 if your camera has the capability.   I like to stay low (50-400) for landscapes so that I don’t get grain in the underexposed parts of the image.  I’d rather wait for an exposure than have a speckled image.

3. Horizons

I found the easiest way to check for straight horizons is by using the Live View function (Canon models).  The lines pop up and you can use them to roughly estimate the ‘straightness’ of your lines.  You may need to fine tune in post-processing later, but at least you won’t lose half your image by correcting a wildly crooked horizon.  On occasion we’ve used the electronic level in the 7D. 

4. F-stop

If you want a sunstar, f22 is fine.  If you want detail throughout, don’t go all the way to f22.  F16 works well in most cases for landscapes, but if you’re wanting to be creative or it’s pitch black and you want star trails, you may need to adjust it for your particular image.

5. Focus

The Live View function is invaluable here.  Switch to manual focus and zoom in 5x to fine-tune the focus by looking at the LCD screen.  I prefer to set up and then use this method rather than rely on auto-focus methods.  For landscapes I focus about one third of the way into the composition.

Annapurna range at dawn, Pothana

6. White Balance

Most times I leave it on Auto White Balance and correct in Lightroom later, but the 7D offers an option to manually change the WB in-camera. 

7. The Tripod

It goes without saying that you probably want to check that your legs are locked so that the tripod won’t suddenly tip over mid-exposure when a leg retracts.  If photographing in sand, be sure that the tripod legs are pushed in and steady or you might find that the next wave results in your tripod ‘sinking’ into the sand and recomposing your image for you.

8. Edges of your composition

Always do a sweep over the edges of your final composition through the viewfinder.  If you’re anything like me, chances are there’s a twig or half a flower/bush/rock that will either need removal or requires you to slightly adjust the angle of your camera.

9. The Grad-Line

Yes, I’ve done it before; that big black band that screams “I USED A GRAD” when I haven’t positioned it correctly.  There are plenty of ways to check where the GND line ends, but the easiest is just to look through the viewfinder and move it up and down (I’m told if you have an A-Dep button depressing it makes it much easier to see the line too).  Use a filter holder if it won’t interfere with your wide angle shot.

10. Timer function

I can’t count how many times I’ve composed an image in the fast-dwindling light of the magic hours only to find that I’ve left the timer on the 10 second countdown because we’ve taken a tripod photo of ourselves for the previous frame.  Okay, so 10 seconds isn’t really THAT long, but when the light’s fading and you’ve got ideas for another 3 compositions it sure feels like it!  Don’t forget to change it back, or it could potentially cost you THE shot.

I think that’s enough to get you started!  It may seem like a lot of things to remember but once you have a routine it won’t take any more than 30 seconds to go through them all.  Of course, the list varies for each person’s particular style and equipment but this is generally our checklist when we head out to photograph landscapes.  Hope its helpful!



Posted on November 19, 2010, in How we..., Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Brilliant post – looks like my usual list of things to check on – I’ve been screwed by the timer many times!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: