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Thread: Decision Making Sequence Behind the Camera

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    Decision Making Sequence Behind the Camera

    I would be very interested to hear about the sequence in which photographers make decisions behind the camera, and whether the sequence I am currently following is right. So for example, assuming that fundamental camera settings such as white balance, image quality and AF points are decided in advance, then comes the big ones of mode, ISO, aperture, speed, focus and composition.

    The sequence I'm following at the moment is:
    a) setting the mode (nearly always AV)
    b) choosing ISO based on conditions. This decision harks back to the days of film where I was told 100 for sunny days, 200 for cloud and 400 for indoors or night. Rarely will I go beyond 400 even though I know the camera is capable of much more
    c) aperture is set for me by the AV setting, I simply adjust aperture until I get a speed that is not likely to create blur, 1/125 seems to be where I end up taking most of my shots
    d) focus is auto
    e) compose and shoot

    Is this sequence "correct"? Do others have a different sequence and if so why? Using this sequence DOF becomes a bit pot luck, invariably to get 1/125 speed in low light I am at f1.4 with my 50mm and this creates a very narrow DOF. A a result I still don't feel in full control, which in turn keeps me well away from going to full manual. Your guidance would be appreciated.
    Always in two minds whether to capture the moment or just savour it...
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    No sequence is "correct" in my opinion.

    I think your approach has merit, but you risk producing a lot of bland "samey" photographs.

    I tend to choose aperture and framing first (my camera pretty much lives in aperture mode, so mode choice is not critical to me - but can result in the odd stuff-up ) and then worry about ISO to get a reasonable shutter speed, or use a tripod. Appropriate framing may require a lens change, or walking about to get the best perspective.

    I think it is risky to leave aperture/dof to "pot luck". IMO, correct choice of focal length and aperture, and hence DOF, is critical to getting "a keeper".
    Regards, Rob

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    I wrestled with this for a while to, going through sort of checklists to make me think I'd covered everything as I can be an analytical thinker. When I asked a very similar question here a year or more ago, I got varied responses but nothing I felt I could use. In reality I have learnt there are just too many variables and you have to approach each shot differently. BTW, You mention 'fundamental' camera settings, I wouldn't consider focus points a fundamental, it is one of the most important and I change it regularly during shooting.

    The one bit of advice I have had here from an AP member that I would pass on is - before every shot ask yourself why you are taking it, or what are you trying to capture or portray to your audience?

    Answer that and it helps make it clear what you need to place more emphasis on. ie do you want good subject isolation so is it depth of field you need to be careful of, is it a fast shutter you need to stop motion, or a slow shutter to introduce some motion blur to make your image feel dynamic. Any number of scenarios will change what you go to first. Just keep shooting and you will start to go to settings automatically, kinda like driving your car to work on autopilot.

    Remember it is the result that matters, visualise it and then execute from there.
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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    My first decision is always the subject and then the settings come from what the subject may be. As for an order, no I don't have one, I just change the settings as needed, depending on what was set for the last shoot.
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

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    I would say that I usually go out with a purpose - eg sunrise, people event, etc. I always set my settings after a shoot to native ISO (200 in my case), Av, timer from remote back to single release.
    Therefore I am less likely to miss a shot if I need to execute it rather quickly (within seconds) out of the bag - following pretty much the list you described. Except I might adjust ISO last if there is a need for a faster exposure.
    With a landscape setup things will change dramatically... but I usually have more time as I am at the scene long before e.g. a sunrise to set up tripod, filter, exposure and timer or remote.
    So it depends.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Basically as Farmer Rob said, there is no real defined set of reasoning that accounts for all situations. Sometimes you have to rob Peter to pay Paul and vice versa ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Camerashy View Post
    ......

    c) aperture is set for me by the AV setting, I simply adjust aperture until I get a speed that is not likely to create blur, 1/125 seems to be where I end up taking most of my shots
    .....
    I see misunderstanding of sequence C) tho.(or a mistranslation on your part).

    When you choose Av(or Aperture Priority mode), you decide what aperture is required for the scene, not so much vary the aperture to suit a pre determined shutter value.
    For a pre determined shutter value(for whatever reason you need) woudl see you use Tv(Shutter Priority mode).

    In using Av mode aperture is not set for you, but you set it. Either shutter speed and/or ISO is then set for you(by the camera) to a pre determined exposure level.

    as a quick and rough example of the difference: say for a landscape scene, you decide that best aperture value should be f/16(for whatever reasoning you choose for a given scene). In this situation, you choose the aperture value(Av mode) maybe to give a great DOF for the scene. The camera then chooses shutter speed and or ISO value(if you have Auto ISO enabled too).
    Alterantively, say you want a water movement scene now, and you know a good shutter speed would be about 5sec(just a rough estimate, it will vary from scene to scene). So for this particular shoot, you use Tv mode, set to 5sec and camera then handles aperture and ISO(if required).
    In this second situation, if you use Av mode and need 5sec, you risk losing that shutter speed(because you're set in aperture priority mode!!) if the light changes rapidly(which is common) so shutter may dip down to 10sec or as high as 1/10s if the sun peeks out from behind a dark cloud or whatever... etc, etc.

    If you want a pre set shutter speed and an appropriate aperture value, then either full manual mode, and reading off the light meter indicator, or using AutoISO mode, or the Program mode that most DSLR's seem to have nowadays, that have these weird values pre set in the camera. (to be honest, apart from some testing, I've never used Program mode.. I just don't understand why it's useful in any way).

    I see you have a 5DmkII, these things are good for ISO values up to about 12-25K with excellent IQ.. don't be afraid to use it wisely. digital is not film!! Forget many of the old 'rules' of how film used to be worked, and use digital methods for your digital cameras.
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    To be honest i think current check list will working most situations and i do agree with everyone else has said here. The one thing i will add to the thread is light. What is it doing and how will it be used / rendered / appear in your image?
    A heap of Nikon stuff and some really bright lights!

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    Thanks to all of you for sharing how you think behind the camera. With so many camera setting variables to think about in the modern DSLR I was probably making the mistake of creating a mental shopping list of settings and going through them one by one, and ending up with acceptable but often bland pictures. From all of your comments it's clear that which settings you use and in what sequence is as much of an art as the photos themselves. I guess it's all about taking more risks and experimenting with the technology.

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    I have a real simple setup

    Point
    Shoot

    Works for me
    Darren
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    Shore Crawler Dylan & Marianne's Avatar
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    don't forget to turn that 10 second timer off that you used last night for the family shot :P
    (I have been caught out alot doing this btw)
    Call me Dylan! www.everlookphotography.com | www.everlookphotography.wordpress.com | www.flickr.com/photos/dmtoh
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    Quote Originally Posted by dtoh View Post
    don't forget to turn that 10 second timer off that you used last night for the family shot :P
    (I have been caught out alot doing this btw)
    yes, I hate that too....almost like leaving iso on 6400 from last night too, or manual focus, or what always gets me is exposure bracketing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kiwi View Post
    I have a real simple setup

    Point
    Shoot

    Works for me
    Kiwi having seen some of your pics, pull the other one

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    Shore Crawler Dylan & Marianne's Avatar
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    haha so true -
    right now, Marianne and I are doing a timelapse of her belly as she goes through pregnancy - I've just got it on Jpeg mode with manual white balance in the same room with timer mode so I can get in a couple of pictures as well.
    interesting first shots when I go out on weekends to shoot sunsets .....

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    Sunrise Chaser
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    Quote Originally Posted by dtoh View Post
    don't forget to turn that 10 second timer off that you used last night for the family shot :P
    (I have been caught out alot doing this btw)
    Do that a lot as well, The other thing I get caught out on (And thought there was something wrong with the camera) After a Sunrise Shoot is the Mirror Lockup
    Canon : 30D, and sometimes the 5D mkIII , Sigma 10-20, 50mm 1.8, Canon 24-105 f4 L , On loan Sigma 120-400 DG and Canon 17 - 40 f4 L , Cokin Filters




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    Member cfm's Avatar
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    I think my first step is to check all the settings on the camera. I invariable have centre-weight metering, or high ISO, or manual focus on from a previous shoot, and wonder for a couple of shots why the photos are turning out wrong!

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    KIWI...... "Master of the understatment".

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    I don't have a sequence of things I go through when shooting...I decide what is important for the circumstances I am shooting.

    If I am taking shots of the kids sitting around playing I will generally decide on the DOF first and then fiddle with the others to get the right exposure at the right shutter speed for sharpness. If I am shooting the kids running around or the cycling I will decide on the shutter speed I need and then fiddle with the rest until I like what I get.

    Now that I have the K5 I always get caught out leaving my EV comp set and forgetting about it because the 10D automatically reset itself.

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    A sequence as a beginner is a good thing to grasp the basics. As you become more familiar with your skills and your equipment you will develop a natural instinct to know what to use in a certain situation and or environment. Ricktas is correct in stating that you should think about your subject and the environment in which the shoot will take place. In the short term, a sequence is good. In the long term, you will find yourself breaking free from sequence or order as your experience grows. It's a bit zen... learn everything to know nothing

    Cheers
    Last edited by Photophilanthropist; 23-02-2011 at 10:33pm.
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    In my dotage, I keep assuming the camera is always ready to take a pic of whatever I'm pointing it at - it's only when I look at the screen/histo that I remember what I was trying to do the last time I used it. sigh..

    as other have mentioned

    I'm getting better now at first setting ISO, checking exposure comp, usually choosing Av, but it could be Tv depending on the subject - remembering to check whether I'd turned Auto focus on or off - WB is always Auto as I can't cope with that area, etc, etc

    It's a wonder to me how a photo ever gets taken at all, yet alone with all the settings "correct"

    I'm with kiwi
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    Member clickclick's Avatar
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    ha ha.. well im just a beginer and I was wondering what the hay is going on with my damn new fandangled camera.. then realize my lens cap is still on! So one step behind you guys still Glad to hear your still doing all that stuff!

    I was definitely attracted to a thought order process too. Im a real list maker..so kind of needed it for mental purposes It was a great help to start when you dont know which button to push first! But I find already I am changing settings randomly depending on the situation. So keep fiddling.. it pays off

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