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Digital Cameras
Cameras
Photography

What is the first thing you set on your camera before taking a picture?

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July 13, 2009 4:13PM

The answer is "it depends".

Are you using film or digital? A SLR or a point & shoot camera? What are you taking pictures of (formal portraits, vacation snapshots, landscapes, sports, etc)? What are the lighting conditions? How much time will you have to set up and compose each shot? Are the things you are photographing moving or stationary? All of these things are going to affect the decisions you make when you pick up the camera up until the moment you release the shutter.

The general rule of thumb is that the harder it is to change something, the earlier you want to do it. If you're shooting film, the first thing to do is to decide what kind of film to use. If digital, you'd select your ISO and picture style, as these aren't as easy to change as say exposure mode and focus. If you're using a SLR, you want to chose the appropriate lens for your subject. If you're using artificial lights or reflectors, you want to set those up before you even pick up the camera.

The biggest thing is to think about the end result you want to achieve -- what Ansel Adams called previsualization. Once you have your mind made up on WHAT you want to do, then you start thinking about HOW to do it.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you it to read your camera's manual cover-to-cover so you understand what all the different controls do. Then read an introductory book on photography. I recommend http://www.amazon.com/Sammons-Complete-Guide-Digital-Photography/dp/0393325512

After you've done this, practice, practice, practice.