Save Your Bacon, Use A Checklist

November 10th, 2011 by Theodore Stark


It’s early in the morning–too early in fact. Last night you were out making photographs of a friend’s band, and the concert went later than expected. Now you’re in a car at 3:30 a.m. heading to a location to photograph the sunrise over a quiet lake.  You’re tired, groggy, and you didn’t even get to eat breakfast. Not even bacon…


As you get closer and closer to the lake, your excitement and your anticipation grow. You arrive at the lake and find the scene you want to photograph. You find some nice foreground object to further enhance your shot and the sun begins to do its magic.  The sunrise is spectacular! You shoot in landscape. You shoot in portrait. Heck, you even do some HDR. This truly has been a fantastic sunrise. Even better, you were there to capture it with your camera.


You are rather pumped as you head home. You’re excited to see what these look like on your computer! Once at home, you slip your CF card into the card reader and begin the download process. You let the card reader do its thing as you go to get a cup of coffee. On your return, you are beyond horrified.


As you begin to look through your images from this morning, your heart drops. I’ts about then you realize that your camera was set up for an indoor concert (high ISO, large aperture, etc) and not a grand landscape. Somehow, in all of the excitement from the morning, you forgot to reset your camera.


The images on your computer are noisy and lack the correct depth of field. You are angry. You are frustrated. You cannot believe that you, such a seasoned photographer, could make such a mistake.


Want to know how I try to avoid these situations? I have a checklist. It sounds crazy but a simple checklist has saved me more times than I care to admit. The driver behind a checklist sets a routine and expects you to follow it. Check your camera mode (AV, TV, M, etc). Is your battery charged? Do you have your CF card? Is it formatted? Set your ISO. Check your aperture. Is the AF turned on? These sorts of small details are things which often get omitted when you are caught up in the situation of photographing a subject.


In photography, like any other art, the details matter. Establishing a checklist – and sticking with it- will make sure you cover the small details that can end up ruining a photograph.



We all get caught up in the moment. And in doing so, sometimes we end up with results that are less than ideal. A checklist will aid in helping you slow down, breathe, and make sure you put the proper focus on the details and (most importantly), will save your bacon.


Now that you’ve got your checklist, go out and chase the light…
Check out Ted’s work on his website, and follow him on Twitter.



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One Response to “Save Your Bacon, Use A Checklist”

  1. D J K says:

    Boy, I can certainly relate! What’s really bad is when one forgets to check the checklist.

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