We often come across a great opportunity for that perfect shot but either miss it or capture it wrong if we are new to serious photography. Here's a little list of things I'd suggest. Most of these are already taken care of by your camera but just in case your camera isn't one of the smartest available... better not lose it for that.
CHECK YOUR ISO! It's such a damned thing if you have a point and shoot that wants you to impress you with fast shutter speed. Some cameras actually prefer setting aperture to f/8 and ISO to 800 for a shutter speed of 1/500 when you could do with 1/80 just as well. So NEVER set the ISO to auto during an outdoor daytime shoot. But at evening or morning, if you are trying to freeze motion, better walk out with ISO set to auto or 400.
Shooting still life indoors? Don't have that perfect studio lighting? Check your white balance! If you don't, the photos would just look fine in the camera LCD and later you'd have them all rejected for incorrect white balance. This happens mostly when you're in a room with walls of some pinkish or bluish color and a fluorescent lamp for light. Use a grey/white card for reference and learn to set the manual WB setting of your camera. Of course, the auto WB is very good. But I prefer not to rely on it. It usually ditches if lighting is bad.
Don't forget to switch off IS when using a tripod. Might make things worse in fact. Not "extra steady".
If you are very new to photography, it pays to check on the internet about positions to hold your camera. If you hold it in the wrong away, the IS cannot possible help a lot and you'd still get blurred shots. This point becomes important when shooting at long focal length/optical zoom.
Don't leave your camera unattended/unobserved on a tripod. Not even for a moment. If the legs aren't spread out wide enough, it might fall and cause serious damage. I'd admit I have seen campers use the tripod as an "assistant" to hold the camera for a while as they scout the place feeling happy without the "weight". Certainly not a good idea
Always try to use a very steady support/tripod when shooting macro. You can get extra sharp pictures if you take care of this. And don't push the lens into something. A way around would be to turn out your flexible LCD and sit besides the camera mounted on a tripod. That way you can see the lens-subject distance and also the photo/info at a time.
This is going to sound ridiculous, but every time me and my friends go out together for photography, really silly things ruin it all. In a rush they put in everything and finally they discover that they forgot the detachable tripod mount. Double check it all. Obvious things are always the most important things for a photographer.
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