Before heading out for a shoot or even while on one, make sure you don't overlook some of the most important but basic things. To stop you doing this, we've put together a quick checklist which may seem obvious but the things on it can often be overlooked and can cause a day out shooting to descend into chaos!
1. Charge Your Camera's Batteries
The most important thing to remember is to make sure that your batteries are charged. If not, your day out will be rendered useless when you discover that your battery has died. If your battery is low the night before but you don't want to charge it before it's fully dead, consider wearing the battery down on purpose so it can be fully charged overnight. You could also consider taking a spare battery if you have one, or a spare camera if you don't, so at least you can still shoot if your primary equipment fails.
2. Memory Card Check
You should ensure your memory card is not full or going to be quickly filled when you're out shooting. Always carry a spare card or two just in case one goes missing or shows a fault.
3. What Am I Trying To Say?
How you frame, light and compose your shot will provoke a different feeling, thought or emotion so think about what message you're trying to convey before hitting the shutter button.
4. Watch The Horizon
One of the main things to remember is to keep your horizon straight. If not, the shot will look wonky. If you're on flat ground, an easy way to ensure this is to use a tripod which has a spirit level built in. However, do remember that if you're working with a hot shoe spirit level on terrain that's uneven the spirit level on your tripod may tell you the shot's wonky when actually it's not.
Photo by Rick Hanson
5. Don't Make It Too Busy
Although you will want to portray a lot through your photos, try not to overcrowd the image. If you do, the eye will not know where to settle on the photo and ruin the feel of the image. Do a quick check of the foreground and background before you take your shot to check there's not unsightly elements and take the time to consider if your shot will work better with the background out of focus.
6. Fill The Frame Or Leave Some Space?
You should also consider how close you are to your subject. If it is too far away, the image can lose impact, however if you're trying to create a sense of scale in your shot, moving a person further away for example, moving a person further into an area of sand dunes, will make the landscape appear as if it stretches on for miles. If you do want to fill the frame, use the zoom on your camera or move your feet.
7. Have A Focal Point
Identify your main focal point so you can then decide if you're going to use secondary points of focus or just place your subject in the frame so all attention falls on them.
Photo by Rick Hanson
8. Look At The Lighting
The light's angle and how strong it is will of course change the look of your photograph but so will the type of light source you're using. For example, if the light is tungsten or fluorescent, your camera may have specific white balance setting to make the scene look natural. If you're shooting in darker conditions and don't want to use flash, consider using a higher ISO instead.
9. Consider Creating A Path
Having a path within the photo for the eye to follow can help guide your viewer through your shot. The picture below, by David Clapp, is a good example, the fence and path created by walkers create a line for the eye to follow into the background.
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