What do you check for before you trip the shutter?


Clinically Insane?
Apr 29, 2004
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I'll be shooting a lot in the next 2 weeks, and I really want to improve my technique.

I've started with digital and I'm trigger happy. I take too many shots and it annoys me. I even adjust the composition after chimping...

What mental checks do you go through before you trip the shutter? I need something to slow me down...
what is it about the ones you like that they all have in common... Id say go to AV mode, and play with different aperatures... mosly you have to walk around the subject all angles and positions, take many many shots then you might see something meaningful or ironic you missed, or walk down a trail one direction, and on the way back you can catch many things you missed on the way down....

besides that the only thing I check is to make sure I didnt leave it on iso 400 or anything from the last shoot...lol
after desiding on my focal point, my focal length, and DoF, i search the frame with my eyes to make sure i'm not getting something that's distracting or harmful to my purpose in the photo. I also double check my metering and focus (not as important with smaller apertures). it really depends on what you're shooting. if it's snapped street candids, you just need to make it quick and basic. with landscapes and fine art, there is loads more to think about.
Like thebeginning said - check all 4 corners and every side - unless you're shooting an action shot.

Nothing worse than thinking you've nailed the perfect shot to find something sticking in from the side. Been there...and it can't always be photoshopped out!!
Mental attitude: Train yourself to think of making a print rather than taking a picture. Focus [sorry!] your mind on the expected end result.

Equipment: A tripod. If necessary, have someone epoxy your camera to it so that it must be used for each photograph.
If you use a tripod it will improve your composition because you'll take more time to check the entire frame.
if you just lift to your eye and shoot you're more likely to miss something.
Another vote for using a tripod. If I have the time, I like to put my camera on the tripod and step back and really look at the scene. I may sit there relaxing and watching for quite a while before deciding to take the photo.

Not only check your edges and corners to see if there is something distracting, but see if you could do a better job filling the frame. I had a drawing/design instructor who always wanted us to break at least 3 sides of the frame when composing our subject. That really helped me learn to pay attention to the edges.

Don't beat yourself up for taking a lot of shots with digital, or chimping. Those are some of the advantages of digital.
Switch the camera to fully manual and use a light meter to get the exposure and dial it in directly. This makes one think about the expose enough to ensure that composition is not affected. I like ksmattfish's idea about three sides - sounds really handy. I like to visualise the ideal spiral when composing as well.

I chimp a lot and adjust a lot and reshoot a lot since going digital. I'm not as trigger happy as I thought I'd be - generally I keep it under 36 shots an hour.

+1 more for the tripod if you can. Im also one to try to keep composition(things like the rule of thirds, distractions, stuff like that) and DOF in mind, shutter speed, and definately iso(since my camera is wicked noisey even at say 400). One thing i personally tend to do is i get a little zoom happy. Im still not quite used to have nice wide angle abilities, so sometimes rather than getting physically closer, i tend to zoom more, and id much rather just pick my camera up and move it closer.

i also do alot of cars so i look for reflections and stuff like that(even though some reflections just dont go away even w/ a polarizer).

i agree with whoever said think about making a print that way you dont get that "do it in post" mentallity and spend all day in PS(that and im not great with it yet). :thumbup:

*edit* if im using my TLR i watch for things like paralax error(spelling?) and being level and such.
good luck with you week of shooting!
My old boss was an emmy award winning photographer and he gave me probably the most useful piece of advise.

"The difference between good photography and award winning photography is the tripod"
pick camera -> pick lens (for me usually always a wide angle prime) -> find photo worthy thing (usually happening when i'm not thinking about taking a photo, nice to have camera around though) - OR - i have an idea and find something that'll communicate that idea -> compose (usually intuitive process, usually involves getting up real close to the subject) -> read light & compensate (or use sunny16 rule) -> focus -> snap photo

i never use a tripod except for night photos

if i have a polarizer i set it last before snapping

it depends on what i'm shooting whether i shoot a lot or not, if i'm just out and about snapping photos, i'll shoot maybe a dozen shots... if i have an idea and am looking for specific things (sometimes for photography class) i'll shoot a roll in under an hour working out possibilities and ideas (and then sometimes i'll shoot just two shots and move on)

EDIT: oh yeah, i'm totally focused on the subject at hand, the camera is the last step (but since i do mostly street/urban photography, i have to think really quickly and yes, i do miss things sometimes, but i rarely have photographs that fail because of this)
Go to 4x5. Then you have to remember: Did I close the lens? Did I load the film? Did I cock the shutter? Did I pull the dark slide? ;)
ksmattfish said:
Go to 4x5. Then you have to remember: Did I close the lens? Did I load the film? Did I cock the shutter? Did I pull the dark slide? ;)

jeez even with a tlr! i dont know how many times on my first few rolls of film i double exposed something or forgot to cock the shutter! :D

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