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Zeroing Out Your Camera

There I was shooting a Lacrosse game in the bright Florida sun. Before the game started, I snapped a shot to make sure I had my settings dialed in. Looked good so I fired off a burst at 9 frames per second during the opening face off. I looked at the images and noticed the exposure was all over the place. Some images were dead on, others were either under or over exposed.

Raise your hand if this has ever happen to you, laugh if it has happen more than once!

I stopped for a second, took a deep breath then realized earlier in the week I had an HDR shoot. The camera was set to auto bracketing causing the exposure to change a full stop for 5 frames. I reset bracketing to zero and I was good to go. I was lucky I caught it early in the game!

*Disclaimer: images were edited to emulate bracketing, I deleted the images I mentioned in the article.

Rookie mistake

I could hear my buddy, Hollywood shooter Mike Kubeisy, say “what a rookie mistake.”

Don’t be embarrassed, I’m not.

Hobbyist to Pros photographers have all made a similar mistake one time or another. The difference, Pro shooters don’t panic or question their skill. They quickly realize a setting is off. This is why after every shoot you should zero out your camera settings.

Zeroing out your camera

Zeroing out simply means, after a shoot, take time to return your cameras settings back to your personal preference. Before your next shoot, check your camera again to make sure your settings are correct. This will lower your chances of unexpectedly begin shooting with say; a -2/3 EV or a high ISO of 3200. It takes a few minutes, but will prevent lost images and reduce frustration the next time you start shooting.

Some items to ZERO OUT and return to normal or just check, include:

  • ISO
  • Aperture
  • Shutter Speed
  • White Balance
  • Bracketing
  • Image Quality
  • Number of focus points (51,21,9 ect)
  • Metering (Matrix. Spot, Center Weight)
  • Autofocus Modes (AF-S, AF-C)
  • Shooting mode (P,M,A,S)
  • File Format (JPEG or RAW)
  • EV Exposure Compensation

Personal settings

I’ve been typecast as a sports photographer for a long time. Although I appreciate the title, I am proud to say I’m a generalist. I don’t specialize in any one area of photography. What the client wants, I give. Being a generalist means a wide range of camera settings. For daytime sports or street photography, I like Auto ISO with + or – 2/3 EV. But Auto ISO doesn’t work in a studio environment when dealing with strobes so I can’t keep that as a default. So how did I come up with my personal settings when zeroing out the camera with different styles of shooting? I took the common denominator found in most situations and used that as my starting point. Then I can tweak or change the settings based on the assignment.

My Starting Point

  • ISO to the camera’s lowest setting (in my case 64 ISO).
  • f/2.8 Aperture priority.
  • Matrix metering.
  • RAW file format.
  • AF-C Autofocus Mode.
  • Auto White Balance.
  • 0 EV.
  • Focus Area d21

Specific Scenarios

When I prepare for a shoot, I have a good starting point. I only have to adjust a few settings based on the style of shoot. Here are two examples of different settings.

Studio Shoot with Strobes

  • Manual shooting mode (I use a light meter to dial in my settings).
  • Autofocus mode to AF-S.
  • I use a WhiBal White Balance gray card to find my white balance.

Outdoor Natural Light Portraits

  • Auto ISO.
  • Usually – 2/3 EV.
  • Manual shooting mode.
  • f/2.8 Aperture is already set.
  • Shutter speed depends on the amount of light.
  • Spot metering.
  • Autofocus mode AF-C for action AF-S for still shots.

The next time you’re out shooting avoid problems by zeroing out your camera and stop Kubeisy from saying “Rookie Mistake“..facebook_-2105230508

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