Last week I went with a friend on a photo walk in the city. The idea was to stroll around and hopefully take some nice shots. Since he is a photography beginner, he was asking me various questions about my thoughts throughout the shoot.
His questions were very interesting to me, since they are the questions going through the head of someone who wants to learn about shooting process, but is not yet sure where to start. That is why I thought it might be interesting to share my process for shooting outdoor photos:
- Scout for attractive photography location- Great location does half of the job. Google Maps is a great tool for finding potentially attractive locations (photos layer). Alternatively the best tool for finding location is your own legs. Walk around the city/countryside, and note locations that peek your interest.Shoot a quick snapshot of the location, just to evaluate the potential. Here you can use a point-and-shoot camera, or your camera phone. A quick snapshot takes much less time then deploying a full photo rig, so it’s ideal for location scouting.
I use Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 point-and-shoot for that purpose. It has a in-built GPS sensor that automatically records location with a picture, which I find very convenient.
When you found the location you want to shoot, the next task is to find where to shoot it from. Photography Apps like LightTrac App can help you with this task. You input a location, and the app will show you at what angle does the light hit your chosen subject, depending on the date and time of day. This information will help you select the best shooting spot.
You can read more about Lighttrac app in our article about 8 useful iPad apps for photographers.
- Check your camera settings- I cannot stress this enough. If you are like me, settings from your last photo shoot will follow you into a new one. That it is absolutely essential to check (and reset) your camera settings.Make sure that your: White Balance, ISO, Image Mode, and Shooting mode (single, continuous, timer) are (re)set properly.
The consequences of failing to do so can be costly (..like wrong colors (WB), noisy photos(ISO), or just plainly missing a shot (10 sec timer on a photo that needs to be shot immediately)).
Aperture and Shutter speed are less important as we will address them in the next step…
- Set program(P), or Aperture Priority (Av) shooting mode as a starting point- I know this might sound as a blasphemy to some photo purists, but bear with me. Besides….you got to start somewhere, right ?Setting your camera into a semi-auto or program mode, will allow you to note the Aperture and Shutter speed settings for your choice of photography subject and lighting conditions. Write or memorize these settings as you will need them in the next step, which is…
- Switch to Manual mode for ultimate control- while the previous step gave you a good starting point, you want to have ultimate control of what your photo will look like, so..Dial in the aperture, and shutter speed values that you have seen in the previous step, and then tweak the values until you are satisfied with the result. Bracket your shots if you are not entirely sure which exposure is correct. The histogram can help you with this as illustrated in the above mentioned article.
Here I would also recommend that you disable auto-focus, and use manual instead, as this way you will ensure that your primary subject will be in sharp focus. It has happened to me on several occasions that the autofocus and I have disagreed on the choice of subject. Because of that I have missed some great shots.
I hope these steps will help answer several questions that you might have regarding photo shooting process and mindset. Let us know what are your thoughts when shooting in the comments below.