Cheat sheet – general photography

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Not really cheating, more like memory jogging:)


Horizontal Falls, Western Australia

I find that there are so many things to remember when you are learning photography that you remember some and get them perfect only to realize you had missed something else, so what can we do?

I have lists in my phones note section that are like cue cards to help me remember. When I first started photography, way before mobile phone days, I would read my cue cards to put everything fresh in my mind before I went out on a photography shoot.

Now I shoot all the time, I don’t need them so much, but as I specialize in nature and landscape, I still have notes on portraiture, children, sports, etc, so if I am doing one of these, I always read my cheat sheets to make sure everything is fresh in my mind.

So let me share some basic cheat sheets:

General -applies all the time

Before leaving home checklist


– check batteries and charged and have a spare (CH), Clean your camera lens and take a microfibre cloth

– check memory card and make sure I have a spare formatted one. (M)

– Phone and some money (you never know when you might need them, especially change   for parking meters) (P,M)


-Tripod, flash,filters, remote shutter release, any other accessories (A)

Main checklist for taking photos

– Check your settings especially ISO and IS (image stabilization)

– Walk around the object or area looking at different angles, don’t forget high and low.

– Where is the sun? Which way are the shadows falling?

– Can I see my shadow in the shot?

– Frame your image and look around viewfinder or screen for anything that takes away, distracts from subject? (trees growing out of heads, rubbish in the shot, eye snags at edge of frame  etc)

– Move closer.

– Check your horizon is straight.

-Which composition rule are you using, rule of thirds, golden ratio, spiral, rule of odds? (To  learn more on these go to of-composition/)

– Are there any interesting colours, patterns, textures?

– Can I create a leading line?

– Is there something I can use for foreground interest, if not should I move closer?

– Try a different angle, lay down on the ground or find something to stand on.

– What is the main character or object I am photographing?

– What is the story I want to tell about that person or object?

– Is there anything in the shot that distracts from the story I’m trying to tell?

– Take a shot, check the screen, does it look how I imagined?

– Do I need to change the settings?

– Would it be better with a larger depth of field or a smaller one? Change the f stop.  F2=narrow depth of field, f11=large depth of field

– do I want to freeze the action or create silky water? Am I using the right shutter speed?

– Is the shot a bit blurry? Do I need a tripod or can I use a higher shutter speed or ISO?

– Take another photo and re check, when happy fire away, take lots from different angles,  take some from further away and some from close up. This gives you options for post  processing.

Surfs up

Jackes Point Kalbari Western Australia

That’s it for general, in the next post I will add cheat sheets for specific areas such as portrait, night photography, animals,children etc.