HOW TO TUESDAY'S #2 - "Let the Subject Set the Settings" / by Zack Smith

Welcome back to "How To Tuesday's" - your FREE Weekly photography technique and tips blog hosted by Zack Smith Photography. I hope you made some use of "The Sunny 16 Rule of Exposure" and did some shooting over the last week. We've had some rainy days in the Gulf Coast but some great overcast ones as well. I always say - "You don't get reflections without the rain" so here's another tip to get you out there shooting.

Unless you bring your own bucket of water with you - you have to have a little rain to get gorgeous puddle reflections of popular New Orleans institutions ©Zack Smith

Unless you bring your own bucket of water with you - you have to have a little rain to get gorgeous puddle reflections of popular New Orleans institutions ©Zack Smith

Over the last 10+ years teaching photography I have found that there are a few common "road bumps"  that folks have when first trying to get comfortable with the camera and how it sees. Our goal with learning the camera is to "see" like it "sees" and that can mean many things. ISO, White Balance, focal length, aperture and shutter speed are just a few that come to mind...and that's only the beginning. There are a few helpful guides I would like to pass on that can help break down the many settings that get in the way of us being creative and comfortable with our new "eyes"....

"Let the Subject Set the Settings"

Our goal is to put ourselves in a position to use the camera as an extension of our creativity that is of a second nature ability. We want to be able to see a moment and instinctively raise our camera to our eyes, press the button and VOILA! A print suitable for the wall is born. Well, we can do that! There are a few steps we can take that will have us ready to shoot like Lee Friedlander on the streets of NOLA and Clarence John Laughlin with his subjects in the swamps. All of our answers lie in HOW WE UNDERSTAND OUR SUBJECT. The more functions we can preset for any situation will allow us to create quicker. (Don't forget to SEE the Clarence John Laughlin show at Scott Edwards Gallery on your next walk!)

By studying the TYPE OF LIGHT, LIGHT DIRECTION, and LIGHT QUALITY we can set a few things and get them out of the way...

ISO - We want to choose the lowest ISO possible for any given situation to achieve maximum sharpness and quality. SUBJECT - Is it in the shade? Direct Sun? Dark overcast, Inside? Set the ISO accordingly.

White Balance - we want to set the WB to the appropriate setting to adjust the color temperature and mood. SUBJECT - Dial in the WB setting to what type of Color Temperature your subject is in - not what light YOU are in.

Aperture - By pre-setting Depth of Field we can achieve the FEEL or AESTHETIC before shooting! SUBJECT - does your subject need to be separated from the background? Does it need to be integrated into the background to relay an added storyline? f2.8 for Shallow D.O.F., f16 for extended D.O.F. (these are just suggestions)

Focal Length - The story you are are about to tell of your subject will be dictated how it is composed in your frame, so pre-selecting a Focal Length (35mm, 50mm, or 100mm for example) can make for a quicker transition into actual shooting. If you are shooting a head shot portrait, pre set at 85mm-120mm - if you are shooting landscapes, stay around 24mm-35mm. 

Focus - Is your subject moving? Is it still? Selecting One Shot (Canon) or AF-S (Nikon) for still objects and AI Servo or AF-C for tracking subjects that are moving, you can get yet another setting out of the way!

The Goal here is to get as much set in your camera as possible so you can immediately start shooting in any situation. The quicker we have some KEY SETTINGS (ISO, WB, Fstop, Focal Length, Focus) locked away, we can start to place our subject in our frame and let the creative juices flow. Don't get bogged down by your cameras settings, just follow these helpful pre-sets and you'll be on your way. I have made a single graphic that you can print out at 4x6 @ 300dpi or save for reference in any shooting situation. Have fun, and keep Shooting for the Wall!

My longtime friend and awesome assistant Tamara is letting you know....YOU GOT THIS! Print this 4x6 card out and keep it in your bag! ©zack smith photography 2015

My longtime friend and awesome assistant Tamara is letting you know....YOU GOT THIS! Print this 4x6 card out and keep it in your bag! ©zack smith photography 2015