'Cheat sheet' for photography

Started Nov 13, 2012 | Discussions thread
Sammy Yousef
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Re: 'Cheat sheet' for photography
In reply to stevesayskanpai, Nov 15, 2012

stevesayskanpai wrote:

I'm trying to put together a 'cheat sheet' for photography, listing in bullet points information for when I'm travelling to jog my memory.

If you need a cheat sheet while you're shooting your sunk for a lot of types of shooting. You need to have a feel for what settings will work so you can react quickly. A checklist beforehand is a great idea.

I use the My menu on my D90 as a checklist. Although it does not have every item on it and I have on a couple of occasions stuffed myself up big time

Examples: when to use A/S/M mode, settings for bracketing (AUTO iso off, A mode), settings for metering and focus (when to use AF-S, AF-C), and settings hints in bullet points for different scenarios (e.g. low light, waterfalls, birds, sunsets, fireworks, portraits (staged), street photography.

I find Ken Rockwell's site useful for this kind of stuff as, like him or not, he's opinionated and gives concrete settings advice. I'm trying to collate information similar to what he provides to get lots of different opinions, and was wondering if (miraculously) anyone has come across any particular sites for this sort of thing?

I think his site is dangerous precisely because it encourages a cookie cutter formula (often with a very limiting set of settings, not suitable for many situations). It discourages experimentation and learning to get the best out of your camera.

Please please please do yourself a favour and ignore his advice about shooting small image sizes and over-saturated JPG. Full resolution RAW or RAW+JPG will allow you to make the most of your pictures 10 or 20 years down the track when you and hopefully the software have improved to the point that you'll be pulling out detail you didn't know existed and making your best photos better, and your worst ones passable.

Really what you need to do is work out what you're shooting, and for each situation try out a handful of techniques to realise what does and doesn't work for you.

I have seen too many books and guides give "the one true setting" which then gets debated against someone else's "one true setting" ad infinitum. The classic is AF-S vs AF-C. I've heard and read people say they only shoot in AF-C. Well that's wonderful if your subject is moving, but for static subjects the certainty of AF-S particularly in average light is a great tool. Likewise some people only ever use the center point for focus, then focus and recompose the image while others use area focus, and still others use a single point but choose which one to avoid recomposing. Each technique has it's advantages. Each is more suited to a given situation, but people find one that works and then never learn the others.

So learn a set of techniques, use them, learn another and see how they compare.

For instance I when I started out shooting at airshows I would shoot in shutter priority or even sometimes P and my main concern was keeping the shutter speed high enough to avoid blur. I would use the center point and AF-S. (To be fair back then AF-C, especially on a slow focusing lens was dicey at best). I was using a D90 and Tamron 28-300XR.

These days on my D90 with a 70-300VR, I'll shoot in A or M (depending on where the light is coming from and how constant it is), area mode and AF-C. The D90's auto ISO controls let me trade off shutter for ISO in A mode.

If I had read either technique in a book I wouldn't understand WHY each setting worked. Worse, you notice how the techniques depend on the equipment? Well if you read someone's book or blog bear in mind that their equipment may not work quite the same way as yours.

Really what you want to know is WHY you would use a particular shooting mode or setting - it's advantages and disadvantages. As a guiding principle if you need to control it - either precisely for a given shot - or for consistency between shots, it has to be done manually. If it has to react quickly or things change quickly you want it on auto. These are guiding principles only not hard fast rules.

I find this an antidote to some photography books that are lauded for their insights, but I come away from them with nothing concrete to try out in the field.

What I think would be useful is a book categorised by shooting situation, with the different techniques that work with various differences in equipment.I've seen articles on specific shooting situations and subjects in magazines that are quite and useful, but again they tend to be prescriptive.

I know of no such book, but there's always the Internet. So my advice is if if you're interested in shooting something, look up how others are doing it online. You already have a list of topics that can help you.

People who are interested in various forms of photography often blog about it, and some share their shooting techniques. (Others guard it jealously)

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Sammy.
My forum postings reflect my own opinions and not those of my employer. I'm not employed in the photo business.

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