Photography Foulups Affect Everyone
Hello, and thank you for listening to The Photo Flunky Show, episode 41. I really appreciate it.
This week, Lee and I discuss some of our photography foulups – those little things that can make your photography experience suffer. Maybe it could even ruin your chance to get a shot at all.
I’ve screwed up by using mismatched lenses, forgetting accessories, or just having the wrong settings on my camera. During the show, I mentioned Scott Kelby’s WHIMS tip (link to his article below in the Related Links).
Despite making some boneheaded mistakes, I’ve always managed to come away with a photo, even if it’s not the one I intended.
We’ll discuss some of the ways you can recover from your mistakes, and a few ways to prevent making those mistakes in the first place.
Have an interesting story about your own photography foulups? Share it in the comments. We can all learn from each other.
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THE PHOTO FLUNKY SHOW: Episode 41
Welcome to the Photo Flunky Show, Episode forty-one.
Today we are going to be talking about photography foul-ups and how to recover from them.
William: Thank you for joining us on the Photo Flunky Show. My name is William Beem.
Lee: Hi, I am Lee Beem.
William: Before we get into this I just want to let you know that the transcript for this show is going to be available at williambeem.com/episode41. And of course, if you’ve got any comments or feedback for us, we’d love to hear from you. Please go to that address and leave a comment for us, give us some feedback, tell us what you think about the show, what kind of photography foul-ups you’ve made and how you recovered from them. Anything that’s on your mind, we’d really appreciate to hear from you.
Also, you can find links to subscribe either at that link or at photoflunky.com and there is a player there where, if you want to try a few other shows, go ahead. All the shows are available there; at least as long as it’s working. I looked at it the other night and the thing was broken, but I got it going again.
Lee: Yes, you did.
William: So there’s another reason for you to leave a comment. If you come out there to my site and find that something isn’t working, please tell me and I’ll fix it.
Lee: Yes, sometimes these things happen while you’re doing something else and you’re not aware of it if you don’t happen to click on your links.
William: It’s happened twice this year and it’s annoying. I mean, it’s not like it’s breaking down on a regular basis. For the most part, we have a really good website, but when something doesn’t work, it just gets under my skin. Especially because it always happens on a weekend at night, when nobody is providing service or support.
Lee: Yes, but that’s just typical, isn’t it? It’s like dental and medical emergencies; they happen over long weekends!
If you’ve ever made a mistake, welcome to the club! I have made more mistakes than I can count and it’s really what got me started with digital photography. What got me into this was about twelve years ago I was going on a cruise to Alaska with a friend and I wanted to get back into photography.
When I was in high school I shot a lot of film and had an Olympus camera and a Minolta Maxxum camera and I packed that stuff up. I hadn’t used it in a long time and then when I got to Alaska I realized that I brought my Olympus camera and the lenses for the Minolta camera.
Lee: Yeah, I’ve been there!
William: I mean, that’s just incredibly dumb of me so it was like I brought the body for one system, the lenses for another, couldn’t use either one and I ended up doing all of my photography with a little Nikon point and shoot that had extreme shutter lag.
Up in Alaska there are whales breaching the water. I wanted to get a shot of them with this stupid little point and shoot and it took what seemed like two seconds between the time you hit the shutter and the click actually happening. So I got a lot of pictures of disturbed water, but really no whales.
Lee: I know what you’re talking about.
William: That was the moment that I decided I need to get a better camera system and that’s when I went out and bought my first digital camera with the Nikon D70.
How about you? Do you remember your first screw up?
Lee: Actually, my first screw up was immediately when I got my first DSLR. I broke the cardinal rule and decided to go on vacation and just before the vacation I ended up – I’d had a few glasses of wine or probably about a bottle of wine, I don’t know – I put a bid on a camera on eBay one night and I went to sleep and I woke up in the morning and nobody else had bid on it because there had been a typo and it must have not come up in the search. So I ended up paying equivalent of about $100 for my D40 with the kit lens that came with it.
William: That’s not bad!
Lee: It wasn’t bad, but the thing was actually in a really bad condition when it came. It just came with the lens rolling around in the box and everything. I didn’t know enough to know that there was a problem. Something said to me well, this should have been wrapped.
But I tested it and it worked. I had to call Nikon support helpline to find out how to get the battery out, because the instruction manual wasn’t in there.
And I went on vacation a couple of days later with a new camera and I had no clue how to use it.
Somebody had set it on bracketing. I didn’t know bracketing existed, so I could not for the life of me figure out why …. I had gone out and taken my little girl to a very special breakfast with Disney characters and these things are not that cheap. And I was trying to get photos of her and figured out after a while that I had to take three shots to get one that I can keep.
William: Yeah, I’ve got a similar bracketing story I’ll share with you.
Lee: I didn’t know to unset it because I didn’t know bracketing existed. Why would somebody want to do that? I was used to a point and shoot.
William: Exactly, and moving up to a DSLR and all those settings, even one like the D40, it’s a whole new world.
Lee: Well, those were the worst photos I’ve ever taken in my life. I took better photos with one of those – you know the old Kodak Instamatic things – I think my photos out of there were better than the ones with the first DSLR. It was just terrible.
William: A couple of years after I’d bought the D70 I moved up to a D200 and I was on a business trip in San Francisco and I went up to the Cliff House and wanted to go take some shots of the Golden Gate Bridge.
While I was in there waiting for my food, I pulled out my lens. This time it was an 18-200 mm VR lens.
Lee: Oh, nice one!
William: I loved that lens! I really did. At least until I cleaned the front element and I turned it over to clean the back and I heard this loud crack.
Lee: Oh, no!
William: The front element fell out of the lens and cracked on the hard surface of the floor and that was the end of that. The only other lens I had was a little Tokina 12-24 mm.
Lee: I know that feeling. It’s kind of hits you in the bit of your belly when you hear that and everything just freezes. Time stands still!
William: So, long story short, all of my photos in San Francisco from that point on were ultra wide angle.
Lee: I’ve had something happen with a lens before. Fortunately nothing broke and I couldn’t believe it.
I had the camera bag and went into a Disney park. It must have been two or three years ago. They ask you to have your zippers open so they can check the bags at bag check. I had everything open and didn’t realize that the guy had closed the one main zipper where the body of the camera with the mounted lens was. So I went and checked it and closed it, which actually opened it. Or he had closed and opened it? Something happened where we both did the same thing twice and somebody didn’t notice. I picked up the bag and heard this crash. I turned around and behind me the camera and the lens were lying on the ground.
I looked there and though immediately, insurance claim and there go my photos tonight! I am astonished, but it’s the camera I have now and it worked. There was a small scratch on the base of the filter on the ring around the filter. Other than that, nothing. And that thing fell hard. People stopped and were staring.
William: Everybody knows that’s an expensive sound!
Lee: Yes. But nothing broke.
William: Well you talked about bracketing. The week when I proposed to you, you invited me off on that Disney Wild Africa Trek and that was something I wanted to do for a long time and just never got around to it. So I’m out there with you and Tové and we are taking photos and I didn’t realize that I had left my camera on auto bracketing for HDR from my previous shoot.
Lee: Oh, if I had a dime for every time I’ve done that! It’s OK!
William: I just kept looking and thinking why am I not getting my exposure? And for some reason it didn’t come to mind either. I mean, I know how to make a proper exposure. I know how to dial my camera in and every time I dialed it in, I thought, this isn’t right!
Lee: I’ve done that so many times.
William: For some reason it just did not hit me that I was screwing up because my auto bracketing was on. Apparently something else was on my mind!
Lee: And your ISO. How many times have you had your ISO at like 2500 or something and you go out and you want your nice low ISO setting and you are taking photos and everything is just totally blown out. And it’s the last thing I think about.
William: Well, that’s why there is a little check list and I got this from Scott Kelby’s blog back in 2007 and I’ll try to put a link to this in the show notes. But let me give it to you right here. What he called it was WHIMS. So the W stands for White Balance. So the first thing you do is you check your white balance.
Next, H is for your highlight clipping warning.
I is obviously for your ISO.
M (Mode) is for Jpeg or Raw. Have you ever gone out and think you were shooting raw and then found out that you were shooting Jpeg and you didn’t quite have it controlled?
Lee: Oh, worse. I’ve been shooting and you know the very basic, small, very low resolution thing? When I changed cameras from the D90 to the D7000 it was just the position where some of the buttons were and sometimes when I was holding the camera in my hand I was squeezing the button and resetting it. I got home with these beautiful shots of these street performers in Hollywood studios and when I loaded them into Lightroom I saw that I had loaded in the most basic, low resolution mode.
William: Isn’t it horrible?
Lee: I didn’t know if I wanted to be sick, wanted to scream, wanted to go break something or wanted to cry. Whatever it was, I was not happy!
William: I’m going to echo Jared Polin from Fro Knows Photo: Always shoot raw.
I get it. There are times like sports shooters or something like that where they want to shoot jpeg and they need to because they’ve got to be fast, they’ve got to get all these shots, but for everybody else, shoot raw.
William: Get a big card. It may hurt a little bit when you buy it, but you’ll be so grateful later when you’ve got it and then you realize it’s not so bad. You can go buy another one just like it.
Lee: Yes and you don’t keep everything that’s on there. So it only takes space initially while you are shooting. Once you’ve sorted the stuff it’s not that bad.
William: OK, I didn’t get down to the last one, so let me recap just a little before I get to the last one:
W: Check your white balance
H: Check your highlight clipping warnings in case you’re losing detail in your shots.
I: Check your ISO
M: Check your mode (either jpeg or raw), the kind of quality you’re recording to your camera
S: Is the one that confuses me. S is for Shooting. That means the shooting mode. Are you shooting in aperture priority, shutter priority, manual or my favorite, P for Professional.
Lee: A is for amateur.
William: A is for Amateur! There you go. A is for Amateur, P is professional, MS is for Microsoft. I don’t know …
Now, since I do shoot HDR and I just mentioned that I screwed this up before, I’m going to add another letter in here and that is going to be B for Bracketing.
I don’t know if WHIMS-B makes any sense or not, but check your bracketing. Add that to your check list.
When you set out, just before you shoot, I always like to take some test shots and look at my exposure and if it’s good, I’m happy.
The problem I had on that Wild Africa Trek – because I only took one test shot – I thought, OK everything is good.
Lee: Yeah, you took the normal exposure.
William: Yeah, if I had taken four or five I might have been alright. So take four or five or ten test shots. Just make sure that your bracketing isn’t on, your white balance is where you want it and everything is set. Those are the nice little things you can do when you get on site to make sure that everything is ready.
Not every problem is related to your camera settings.
Lee: No. A lot of it is related to the accessories and the hardware!
William: Exactly. So we just recently went to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World, because we were covering that for our other site, orlandolocal.com. We both screwed up. I brought my camera and I didn’t want to carry a bag so I picked up my camera, put it on my tripod because it’s a night time party and I knew I was going to need that.
I just happened to think of picking up a spare data card. I knew I wouldn’t need it, but I picked it up anyways. And that turned out to be good, because there was no card in my camera as I usually have one. We had been to an event the week before and while we were doing that charity event, that was still in my card reader attached to my computer.
So had I not remembered to bring that spare card just in case, I would have been out there with no way to record anything.
Lee: I’ve done that as well, with the card. And it cost me a lot of money to fix it!
William: Oh yeah. I mean, you could be on the field someplace like that and you may end up having to buy yourself another card and it’s maybe not the quality you want and not the price point that you want.
Lee: It certainly wasn’t the price point I wanted! And it was much smaller than the one I would have got.
William: Alright, you made a mistake too.
Lee: Oh and it’s not the first time I’ve made this mistake. That’s most infuriating.
I was really having a struggle to decide at what focal length I wanted to shoot the fireworks. I had originally wanted to shoot close up and really wide to get the peripheral bursts and I eventually decided that I didn’t want to take more than one lens so I was going to take the 35 mm F1.4 for the low light shots. It was going to be an all purpose walk around for low light.
But for the fireworks it didn’t really matter about a fast lens, but I wanted to be shooting at 18 mm. I figured if I took the kit lens, which is just the 18-105 mm it is not a bad lens. I’ve always been happy with it. It’s not fast, but perfect for fireworks.
William: Also, you don’t want to shoot wide open for fireworks. You want to be able to stop down. So that was fine.
I checked it and put it into the bag. I haven’t used that lens since – it’s probably been well over two years since the last time I used it. I checked it and thought that’s the lens I’m going to take. I had the 35 mm mounted to the camera and I switched them around so I had the 18-105 mm mounted and when I started taking photos, I said to William, “Why is this damn thing so tight?”
When I looked down it was actually the 70–300 mm. I had checked it so many times. I do not know where the 18-105 mm is. It’s somewhere in here. But I haven’t used it and it is probably in a lens pouch.
I just wasn’t thinking. And you saw the look on my face. I was so angry with myself. I wanted to stuff the bag in a locker and forget the photos.
William: I know what you were thinking. You were thinking you wanted to shoot with the 24-70 mm and it’s my fault because I was using that lens.
Lee: Actually, I wanted something a bit wider, so the 18-105 mm was going to be better for me. And you had offered me the 14-24 mm, but it was too big and heavy to carry around just for fireworks.
William: We’ve got a home office where we keep everything and we’ve been – I don’t want to say renovating – but we’ve been changing around where everything is. The other mistake I made was I took the wrong cable bracket for my fireworks shots.
Usually if you shoot fireworks, you are going to shoot with a cable release. Well, the one I took is one I’m very familiar with, because it plugged into my GPS system, which plugs in the ten pin connector on the Nikon. Well that thing has been broken since three years ago when I was in Cuba. So I haven’t used it. I’ve been using another one and that was the one I needed because it has a ten pin connector. But when I picked up the one that was just the USB connection, I thought, oh yeah. There you go. That’s what I shoot with all the time.
I was wrong. So I was out there trying to shoot fireworks with my finger on the shutter and basically I set it for four second bursts.
I got some shots. I’m pleased that I can put a couple of things out there, but most of my shots just ended up being crap.
Lee: I’ve done that with a remote cable release, except because I was working in the dark and I’d forgotten to take a little flashlight (didn’t think about using my phone); I could not for the life of me find, when the lights when down, where to put this thing in. I was trying to feel my way in the dark and I broke the little connection. So I also did fireworks with a finger! In fact it was also a Halloween party. I think it was 2012. That was my introduction to it [fireworks].
Part of the problem with finding things here is that William got married and his wife came in and started moving things.
William: Everything is organized. We just don’t know where it is.
Since things are reorganized, I have to go back to the basics. So here is our advice for trying to recover from photography foul-ups and the first one is don’t make them. Know where your stuff is.
So we are going to go through and reorganize how we are keeping our photography gear. That is going to be cameras, lenses, accessories, lighting gear and basically the general categories of what we need to do so we know what is where.
We both share the same equipment like lenses and so forth, so that way if one of us takes it, we know the other one has it and will put it back in the same place.
That will make it easier.
The next thing we want to say is get ready the night before.
Lee: That’s my rule.
William: Typically we follow that rule. When we were shooting at the charity event we followed that rule and it worked out very well for us. But we didn’t do it for the party last night because we weren’t working as media. We were just regular guests at that park.
But I think we were under a time crunch and we didn’t get ready the night before and the day that it happened I had gotten home and we only had an hour or so to get ready and then just tried to get everything together.
I’m one of those people that freaks out if I can’t find what I want. I storm around like, “Where the hell is this thing?”
Lee: I am the same.
Actually, I did get ready the night before. I had the spare batteries charged, I had everything there. I checked that lens. I knew I had the right lens in … right!
So that is why I was so angry with myself. It wasn’t a case of I just threw something in; I looked at it, I checked it and my brain was just thinking when I saw the 70 I don’t know why 70 rang true for an 18-105 mm, but that was the marking I saw.
If I had seen the 300 side I probably would have gone, oh wait a minute! But I still went back before we left and I unpacked everything, did another double check and put it all back in the bag. I was furious with myself, because it wasn’t for want of checking.
William: Knowledge is a dangerous thing and it’s a barrier to learning. You think you know and then you find out you don’t.
But you know what the truth is? Everybody will have a brain fart some time or another. I have them on a daily basis so I’m comfortable with them.
For some people, if it’s a real problem, you might just want to make yourself a little check list. Maybe have it on your smartphone and just go through it one by one. Do I have what I’m looking for?
If you can plan ahead of when you’re going to go shoot, maybe make that check list a week ahead of time. Then the night before, go down and look through everything.
Lee: Well, look, I still got my shots. I didn’t get the ones I had planned. I had wanted to be closer to the castle for the fireworks and shoot wider, but I wasn’t able to and my other alternative was knowing that I was going to have to step back, but I didn’t want to lose them. Having said that, I still had to tilt the camera slightly upwards to get the bursts in the sky, which meant a lot of the stuff I really wanted like all the people and crowds in front of us – which is important to me and something I like in my photos.
William: See I got that on my shots with the full frame camera at 24-70 mm. It worked out from where we were.
I got some shots. You were happy with the one that I finished up.
Lee: I love your photos!
William: Well, I didn’t show you the ones that I thought sucked.
Lee: I didn’t show you mine either.
William: So there’s your next tip. Don’t show anybody that you screwed up.
We are kind of breaking that rule by telling you about our mistakes here and don’t worry, I’ve got plenty more if we ever need another podcast episode for photography foul-ups.
Lee: I’ve done all kinds of things.
William: Get organized, be prepared the night before. When you get there to shoot, that is when WHIMS checklist comes into play. Just make sure you’ve gone through all your settings.
You’ve probably gone through them the night before with your preparations, but do it again.
Lee: Something else to check for, and this is something that I have done. Most DSLR cameras have a setting on the camera body where you can have manual or manual and auto and then you’ve got one on the lens as well. I was shooting full manual in bulb mode for fireworks as I usually do and there are other situations where I do that. Especially detail shots where it’s something static. I turn everything into full manual mode. Then I go out and think I’m auto focusing on stuff and snapping away these shots and either I think the camera is broken … I hate this camera, it never works….!
William: We need to add that to the WHIMS list. Check your auto focus.
Lee: If you’ve got two places to check it, make sure you check it on both.
William: So now we’re up to WHIMSBA.
Lee: Yes, there we go.
William: That’s all for today’s show. We hope you enjoyed it and we will talk to you again next week.
Thank you very much for joining us on The Photo Flunky Show. As I said at the beginning of the show, if you’d like a transcript of this, please go to williambeem.com/episode41.
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Have a good week. We’ll talk to you next week.