A Quick Photography Checklist to Help You Minimize Mistakes

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Let's face it...

There are plenty of enemies we have to combat to get a shot that looks like the one above.

We all have things that require our time, pulling us away from actually getting out in the field with our cameras to take photos in the first place.

There's the money factor too.

It's no secret that photography can be an expensive endeavor, even if you seek to buy only the necessities and opt for gently used gear.

Those things are relatively out of our control.

However, something that's completely within your control is one of the most prevalent enemies to good photos: simple mistakes.

We're all guilty of rushing a shot and finding later that the horizon is crooked or that our camera settings were way off.

Simply taking the time to ensure you do it right the first time will help you get better photos.

So will having a checklist to remind you of the things you need to be aware of before, during, and after you shoot.

Check out this quick photographer's checklist for a few reminders of what you need to do for better results.

Before You leave

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Be sure you have a fully charged battery and a fully charged spare before you set foot out the door.

It might seem like an obvious thing to remember (along with memory cards), but you'd be surprised at how many photo shoots don't happen because a battery, a memory card, or both gets left behind.

Additionally, get your camera's functions set up before you leave. That means setting it to shoot in RAW, that way you have as much data from the sensor as possible for post-processing later on. Also set the file size to large, that way you don't make the mistake of creating gorgeous photos, but with such a small file size that you can't do anything with them later on.

Another duh moment to watch out for is not planning your shoot to capitalize on the best time of day. If it's a sunset shot, give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination and get your gear setup. I don't know how many times I've been shooting a sunset, only to hear the wailing of a disappointed photographer that got there too late.

Prepare and plan ahead of time, and you're only setting yourself up for success!

Before Taking the Shot

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Once you have your gear setup and your subject in sight, take a moment to ensure your camera settings are what they need to be.

If shooting a still subject, try aperture priority mode. If you're creating a photo with movement, shoot in shutter priority.

Also check the shot type - like single shot, continuous, or self-timer - so you're sure it's in the right mode.

I've made the mistake of having a gorgeous scene before me, just to find that when I pressed the shutter button that I'd left the camera in self-timer mode. Had I spent 10 seconds to inspect the mode, I wouldn't have all those missed shots!

During the Shoot

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Once you're in the flow of taking shot after beautiful shot, there are still some things to be aware of to give yourself the best chances at success.

Periodically check your tripod, if you're using one, to ensure the legs are locked tight and that the head is locked in position as well.

If you're in manual focus, also double-check the focus and depth of field as it's all-too-easy to accidentally move the focus ring as you're moving about.

It's also critical to check your lens or filters for any dust, dirt, moisture, or other build-up. Nothing ruins a gorgeous photo like specs of dust and fingerprints!

If you aren't in the habit of checking your histogram, you're setting yourself up for failed photos.

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The histogram gives you a much more accurate representation of the quality of exposure than looking at your camera's LCD. Where the scene might look nicely balanced on the LCD, the histogram might show you that the highlights are being clipped. That information is invaluable to you regarding making the necessary adjustments to improve the shot. Again, that's another mistake avoided by spending just a few seconds checking your camera settings!

Naturally, you'll want to make compositional adjustments as you work as well.

For instance, use the camera's LCD to zoom in on the photo and examine the image for any distracting elements, like a tree branch extending into the scene. Also check the image for things like features that have been cut off so you can recompose the shot accordingly.

Get More Insights Into Minimizing Your Mistakes

Though some photographers minimize how often they make mistakes, Joshua Cripps isn't one of them.

In fact, in the video above, Joshua goes over each and every mistake I've outlined above (and plenty of others), using his own experiences as a guideline to help you make fewer errors.

Though the video focuses on landscape photography, Joshua's tips are pertinent to any photographer and any subject matter.

Just remember - even seasoned professionals like Joshua make mistakes from time to time. But by consulting his checklist, you can minimize those mistakes with improved photos and a more satisfying photography experience as your reward.

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