Change the way you shoot???

So you heard about how someone else is shooting and you decided that you would change the way you shoot. But just wait a minute – is it going to make you a better photographer?

In my courses I always tell my students to work on the KISS principal, Keep It Simple Stupid!  Many of these great new ideas that people are pushing are everything but helping to keep it simple. When I shoot I always start with the simple, most times you will find my camera set to Program, 400 ISO, single spot for focus and the focus set to one shot.  It is as simple as I can make the settings. It keeps the camera from making a lot of changes on me and still allows me to get a picture as soon as possible from picking up the camera.  So if I am driving down the road and see a bear I can pull over and push the shutter button and I know that I will get an image, it may not be the best image for lighting or depth of field but I will have something and most times it will be a good exposure and it will be sharp.  From there I will adjust my settings to the shooting situation to get the best exposed image.

This bear picture was one such situation, I was driving down a road, and I had to stop for traffic and when I looked out the drivers window there was the bear. So without having to change any settings I took this photo and had myself a okay picture.  Then I did some changes to the camera settings and took some more pictures. Fortunately for me I got the first picture as the bear moved and the other pictures were not as good for where teh bear was standing.  Total time from seeing bear to getting the first picture 10 seconds, another 15 seconds to make some changes and the subject was not in as good a place as for the first picture.

The other day I had some time and I was reading and listening to a number of different people explain how they take pictures and that others should be doing the same. Not a lot of explaining why they did it that way or what was the advantages of doing it this way or that, just a lot of statements that “this is the way you should be shooting”.  So on Saturday and  Sunday I decided to try something.  I found some people on the web that have books and videos out, and according to their promos they are “the top selling authors of photography books and videos in the word”, a mighty claim to make so I thought I would put some of their ideas to the test.

The video that I was watching was about shooting birds, they were testing lenses and reporting on how they liked each lens.  The thing that lead me to try their ideas was the simple fact that a lot of the comments that they made were really pretty good.  They did not go on a tangent about one lens over another, and seemed very level headed.  So as I was listening they came out with the statement that ” you should be shooting using Aperture priority or shutter priority (I could not understand from them what the difference was between the two), multi-focus point selection, auto ISO and using AI focus for all your bird pictures”.  I was intrigued  so I thought that I would try this.  I grabbed my 70D, 150 – 500 and set the camera as they stated.  Then out I went to photograph some birds.  Came home with 500 images and started to sort the images.  First thing that I noticed was that my success percentage was VERY low.  Usually I am shooting 75 – 90 % keepers (not amazing ones, but images good enough to keep), using this method I was down to maybe 10% that I thought I could keep.  I missed a lot of simple shots and was not happy, if the subjects were something that I was out looking for and it took me a long time to find them I would have been very upset.  SO the next day the same test, this time I did it in several parts:

  1. Take pictures that I normally would.  Program, one auto focus point, ISO set at 400 and set to one shot focus.
  2. Set the camera to Auto ISO, focus points set to auto, and AI focus (also did AI servo)
  3. Both of the above – starting with my way (#1) and then moving to their way (#2) – this way I would get a good picture and then see if their ideas would improve on it.


Shooting my way I was back up to a very high percentage of keepers, 90% easily.  Their way I was around 20 – 40% keepers and the combined (started with my way then switched to the second way) I was 60 – 80% as keepers.

So what would have happened if I would have heard about this “new way” or “the right way as they called it” and I would have switched completely? I would have not been happy at all. If I was a hobbyist I would probably have been very frustrated and put the camera down for a few days or longer as I was not able to do this “right way” of taking pictures.  This is something that I have dealt with for years in teaching, many people have come in and have been frustrated in what they are getting for pictures as they “cannot shoot this way or that way” and they are under the impression that if they do not shoot that way they are not real photographers and some people were very close to leaving photography all together.

So before you decide to change the way you shoot, try it out to see if it is better.  PLEASE if you are doing pictures for a client NEVER change to a new way of shooting with the client without also shooting your old way! Messing up when shooting for a client is not cool and changing your look should be done slowly and not on a whim overnight!!!   If you need to take notes about how you have been shooting, try the new settings, take notes, review your images and see what you are getting.  If the images are not better then maybe the new way is not working so go back to the old way.  Change just for change is not always an improvement.  Sometimes doing a huge change is crazy, but maybe try smaller changes.  There is nothing to say that any one person, or group of people, have a better way of shooting than what you are doing!


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