I too often stuff up photo opportunities by not being prepared in the excitement of a chance to photograph something new, exciting or shiny!
If you are quality obsessed then you will likely try and have the lowest ISO, and struggle to accept a hopelessly shallow aperture and an exposure that will be hard to hand hold. Then you iterate through compromising on faster ISO while you watch/realise how your overall quality will plummet. It is comforting that noise artefacts are not as terminal from modern sensor and tools exists to clean images up. However at long last I am learning to be realistic and as a result do not have to delete as many shots. The basic rules that I am trying to follow is:
•Aperture of the lens sweet spot (check out and look at the MTF charts for the lens you are using)
•1 over the focal length is probably all you can hand hold
•if the object is moving speed the exposure up ("freezing action" exposures need at least 1/500th of second depending on lens, etc however being overly fast helps!)
•if you are moving speed it up even more
•if both are moving make it quite fast
•auto ISO to pick up the slack (I don't let is slip to be too fast)
•wait for more light
•shoot RAW to recover blown highlights, greater dynamic range, better colour control, etc
•I like the concept of the exposure triangle where ISO, aperature and exposure are corners and you need to balance your compromise,
•For long exposure I use the on camera 2 or 10 second delay and if it is particularly sensitive also lockup the mirror.
•Bracket exposures to ensure the high and low tones are well represented (use HDR if will add)
•I typically shoot controlling the aperture (Canon = Av, Nikon = A) while there is a lot of light and allow the camera to change the exposure time and ISO. If either of the camera controlled parameters fall outside an acceptable
range I open the aperture or fix the ISO. Then when the light starts fading and I am worried about camera shake or moving subjects I switch to exposure mode (Canon = Tv, Nikon = S). If light is too low I use the flash but prefer to use ambient light where I can.
•Review photos often and check the parameters and returning good results.
oWide open (f 2.8 or as fast as the lens goes), zoomed in for narrow depth of field
•Some rules of thumbs that are:
- Waterfall (1/2 sec or more depending on how fast flowing) -streaky appearance
- Car lights (4 sec or more depending on how busy) - Lights streak like
- Moving hands (1/4 sec) Blurred from motion
- Strong wind in trees (1 sec) Blurred swaying leaves and branches)
- Rain (1/60th) Leaves pleasing drop trails
oPanning moving objects:
- if I don't mind taking a few hundred images and end up with none that really work (1/8th second or faster)
•Use a neutral density filter to allow longer exposure times
•wait for less light or wake up earlier the following day
•Try to think less and shoot more
I seem to have an internal battle between defending quality and pursuing an artistic aspect. I am getting better at choosing what aspect to follow but I still have a long way to go. The other factor that always plays in the back of my mind is what do the DT photo editors like. I need to consciously decide who I am shooting for before I start so that I don't end up in the middle road and leave no one happy.
I have read a lot and have a lot of theory floating around in my head but need to try and turn it into habits by using it more and hopefully one day thinking less!
A great easy read is "Understanding Exposure book" by Bryan Peterson. I have taken some of the recommended numbers from this book
I'd be interested to hear of others internal battles and habits that are used to get more consistent/pleasing results.