A while back I had a conversation with a great young photographer. I was quiet as I listened to his panic-stricken voice while he went through the "what if" reasons for not being ready to go pro, even though his work was outstanding. His fear of making a mistake was literally sending him into career paralysis.
Well, we all make mistakes and they can't be avoided. Depending on what you do with them, they can stunt your growth as an artist or just the opposite, create a growth spurt. It's all in how you look at the mistakes and if you choose to learn from them.
Norman Vincent Peale wrote:
"Problems are to the mind what exercise is to the muscles, they toughen and make them strong."
My good buddy, Scott Bourne, wrote the following post a while back about making mistakes. No matter how seasoned you are, the pressure of business, the economy and new technology all change the game and suddenly you find yourself buried in mistakes you never used to make. Scott's put together a great check-off list for cutting out one serious variable in your life, mistakes with your gear.
No matter how experienced, we all make mistakes. Sometimes we go out to shoot and nothing works. We’ve forgotten to reset the ISO from 3200 (shot the basketball game last night) to 200 (for the landscape shots at Mt. Rainier.) Or sometimes that odd custom white balance we set at the art museum gets saved and used for the next wedding. Oops.
Whatever the mistake, mistakes have a way of cascading. And it’s easy to get frustrated to the point where you simply can’t do anything right. When you reach this point it’s time to give up and start over – “reset,” as Joe McNally says.
To do this, you need to establish a baseline for your gear. Here’s my baseline. Your situation may be different, but this works for me...
1. Camera bodies off
2. Camera batteries recharged after each and every shoot – no exceptions
3. Flash(es) off
4. Flash(es) batteries recharged after each and every shoot – no exceptions
5. Set ISO to 200
6. Set aperture to wide open on all lenses
7. Set shutter speed to 1/125
8. Set mode dial to Aperture Priority
9. Turn off IS/VR on all stabilized lenses
10. Set all lenses with focus stops to focus maximum area of focus
11. Remove any and all filters
12. Check that the camera body and any/all lenses are set to autofocus (unless you just always use manual focus – in which case disregard.)
13. Set white balance to AUTO
14. Set exposure compensation to “0.”
15. Reset the focus point to the center.
16. Set motor drive to high speed advance
17. Make sure mirror lockup is disabled
18. Make sure to run camera’s auto sensor cleaning after each shoot, no exceptions
19. Do quick visual examination of the camera to look for damage defects
20. Reset additional gear like tripods, light stands, etc.
After bringing everything back to default condition, you can take a deep breath, find your subject, and start building the next shot knowing you’ve done all you can to be ready.
Remember, we all make mistakes. Even the pros. It doesn’t mean a thing. Fix it, reset, reshoot, repeat. You’ll be fine.