Even though I’ve been taking SLR (single-lens reflex) photos for about 40 years, I still make plenty of mistakes.
Sidebar: Yes, I was born with a camera in my hand, thank you very much! I’m really not that old!!
Probably the blunder I make most often is forgetting to reset my settings from the time I previously used my Nikon D300. Normally, I shoot on aperture mode where I choose how much light to let in (usually f/2.8, if possible) while the camera picks the shutter speed (but I keep an eye on it to make sure it’s fast enough to stop the action if needed). I often up the ISO to increase that shutter speed, and sometimes I increase or decrease the exposure compensation to let in more or less light.
That’s all well and good for the session at hand, but it can be disastrous if I forget to reset to my defaults (ISO 200 and no exposure compensation) when I put my camera away. As in the above shot of the #1 son teeing off at North SeaTac Park’s disc golf course in Seattle. I had the exposure comp set at +1 from the day before, resulting in a photo that was much too light.
The photo looks better after I darkened and sharpened it in Photoshop CS3, but it doesn’t look as good as it might have if my settings had been correct. Oh, and if I had upped the ISO more to increase the shutter speed; it’s a little blurry, too. Definitely not the kind of photo I’d show anyone to make them think I’m a good photographer!
Sometimes I forget to reset the settings as my photographic situation changes. When I shoot action pix, I like my aperture to be at f/2.8, the better to blur the background and focus only on that action. But f/2.8 usually doesn’t work when you’re taking portraits and need some depth of field.
Take this photo of the #2 son, for example. I snapped it on the ferry to Bainbridge Island. I had my aperture set on f/3, which meant that his face is in focus, but not his ears or most of his hair. Not a bad mistake, fortunately; good thing he’s so doggone cute!
But this error truly was unfortunate. I had been snapping flag football photos all afternoon at f/2.8 when I saw Chris and his toddler son. I took the photo without changing my aperture to at least f/5.6 to get both of them in focus. Result? Sharp son and his blurry dad. And one frustrated photographer who blew a good photo op. Arrrrgh!
So the lesson to be learned here? Always reset your settings to their default positions after you’re done shooting. And don’t forget to check your settings when you switch between subject matter. That great photo you save may be your own!
Now if I could just staple a Post-It note to my forehead for every time I pick up my camera . . . .