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Is there anyone out there with an easy way to remember to change camera settings?

Often I change my settings for specific situations, then I leave my camera that way. Next time I turn on, I forget to change back. For example, I was recently in New York shooting inside a Broadway theater, and I raised my ISO to the max. The next day I was shooting in bright sun, but with the same settings.

So, in short, does anyone have some sort of trick to remember to check the settings? In case it matters, I am using a Canon Digital Rebel XT.

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Use a digital camera(as opposed to a film camera), and check the LCD and/or histogram after the first shot. You don't have to go so far as checking every shot(chimping), but the LCD is one of the greatest advantages digital has over film, so use the image review to your advantage! –  dpollitt Apr 14 '13 at 16:40
    
@dpollit, I forgot to mention, but I am using a digital camera. Thanks for the tip, though. –  Evan Pak Apr 14 '13 at 23:43
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possible duplicate of What are some of your pre-shoot checklist tips? –  drewbenn Apr 21 '13 at 7:40

13 Answers 13

up vote 5 down vote accepted

No tricks to offer (at least not based on experience). In fact it still happens to me somewhat often, but this occurred to me when I read your question.

Unless your camera can remember those setting for you (as Itai mentioned), you're probably looking into one of the following three:

  1. Use a memento (something that helps you remember). Perhaps a sticker/post-it/colored thread on you camera bag.
  2. Make a habit of resetting your setting every time you turn your camera off.
  3. Make a habit of resetting your setting every time you turn your camera on.

The key to habits relies heavily on repeatability; so if you're inclined to follow recommendation (2) or (3) I'd suggest you to go shooting more often. The habit will stick sometime, and you'll have fun.

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Thank you. I'll make sure to try to remember to use your recommendation. –  Evan Pak Apr 14 '13 at 23:47
    
Memento? You mean a Remembrall? But again, what if one fails to remember what it was that they had forgotten? –  theSuda Apr 16 '13 at 8:58
    
@theSuda A memento is an object you use to remember something. Like tying a string to your finger, or leaving your car keys next to something you wish to remember (a Remembrall is a memento). And yes, depending on your forgetfulness, you might forget what is it you were trying to remember. Which is why I suggested a post-it note, where you can write down what you wanted to remember. –  Roflo Apr 16 '13 at 13:15

One trick that I've heard recommended is to always check and reset your settings every time you take your camera out of the bag. Which really means every day when you start shooting.

I can't remember anything, I'm lucky to remember to take the camera along.

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it is like when you pick up a gun, check the safe, the ammunition and if it has a shell inside. –  Michael Nielsen Apr 14 '13 at 16:15
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"Shell" reminds me of one more thing most people forget to check, the memory card. –  theSuda Apr 16 '13 at 8:52

Buy a Pentax :) It is one of my favorite features. You can specify which setting is remembered each time the camera powers on and I have mine reset EC, WB, ISO, Drive mode among other things. In this way, each time I turn on my camera, I know what setting it will be at.

It is surprising this feature has not made it elsewhere which some Minolta cameras also had but it was all or nothing which, depending on your preference might be what you want or useless.

You do not know how many people's camera I see with the wrong setting dialed-in from a long time before and they do not remember even when they changed. People frequently ask me to take their photos and I often see that EC is dialed up or down a few stops. meaning that most of their photos were probably rubbish until I tell them and reset it.

Now, barring buying a new camera, it has to come down to habit. You have to repeat the motion of checking settings each time until it becomes second nature. People do that all the time. When you start driving or diving, there are the same steps to do each time before starting.

Some cameras have an LCD display on the top of a status screen on the rear LCD which appears when powered on. Read it completely every single time you turn on the camera.

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That would be one of the features of Pentax I miss with a switch to Nikon. –  John Cavan Apr 14 '13 at 1:22
    
My favorite is when I grab someone else's point and shoot and they have it in macro mode for taking portraits. Macro mode on point and shoot cameras should be pushed farther into a menu, as so many people mistakenly activate it. –  dpollitt Apr 14 '13 at 16:39
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I wish that I had the budget to even consider swithching. As is, I'm lucky to have lens caps. :) –  Evan Pak Apr 14 '13 at 23:46
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I wish that all camera makers would pay attention to little photographer-friendly details like this! –  mattdm Apr 15 '13 at 17:57
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@Rene - Settings do not reset on sleep, only on power cycle and it is entirely optional per setting. Minolta used to do it globally, meaning either all or none got reset. It's a feature that help me avoid mistakes more than any other! I know because I use cameras from nearly all brands and I do forget sometimes to put my settings back. –  Itai Apr 16 '13 at 13:34

I think the best way to avoid those situations, is when you have used a high ISO, extreme exposure compensation, or shot JPG when you usually shoot RAW, is when you're done, switch the settings back to their "normal" state then and there. That's the time to do it, when you are aware you've made those changes. Don't rely on remembering next time you get the camera out.

Otherwise you just need to get in the habit of checking your settings, or doing a reset, before every shoot.

Semi-pro and professional cameras often have "shooting banks" where you can configure various settings for different situations, e.g. sports (shutter-priority, JPG, continuous AF...). So you can look for that sort of feature in your next camera.

Finally, try to learn to judge the light. If you are in bright sunlight, and you know from the Sunny 16 rule that it should be ISO 100, 1/100th second at f/16, yet you notice your shutter speed is 1/4000th, you instantly should suspect something is amiss.

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Make a concerted effort to think carefully about what you're doing when you're doing it.

For example, I was recently in New York shooting inside a Broadway theater, and I raised my ISO to the max. The next day I was shooting in bright sun, but with the same settings.

That must have resulted in tiny apertures and very high shutter speeds. If you start thinking about shutter speed, aperture, and ISO every time you take a shot, you'll start to notice when things are out of whack like that: How did I arrive at f/22 and 1/2000"? Or maybe: I don't really want maximum depth of field here -- why won't the camera drop down to a lower f-stop?

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I check and adjust the settings when I start shooting.

But it's not something that I do in the off chance that something will be "wrong" because I changed it last time. Rather, when I start shooting, I have an idea of what settings I want (based on the lens, light, subject matter), and there's very little chance that the old settings will happen to be what I want.

That is, I don't really have this idea of "default settings" that the camera should usually be in. I expect to have to adjust things for each session, so I do.

(I usually shoot in aperture priority mode, fixed ISO. If you almost always shoot in program mode with auto ISO, for example, it might lead to more complacency than I experience.)

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This is simply an issue of practicing until it's a habit. Many people in many disciplines struggle with this and the prevailing advice is "establish a routine" - for example, ever see a pro golfer get distracted by something... they will put the club back in the bag, turn around, talk to the caddy again, grab the club again from the bag, etc, etc... that is, if something messes up their routine, they go through the whole thing again. Golf is about consistent performance and a consistent routine enhances that. Photography is a little different, but if you can establish a routine of picking up the camera, turning it on, checking the settings, THEN aiming for your shot, I think eventually you'll remember it. As a marksman, I regularly do this with practice guns or dry-firing real ones - that's kinda the same thing. You want 90% of your practice to be that - dry-photography if you will. Since you have a digital camera, you won't be wasting anything of value, just erase the photos of your TV.

You can have fun with this BTW - have a friend set a timer for some unknown amount of time greater than 15 minutes, then go on about your business. When the timer goes off, your job is to do your routine and take a photo of whatever is going on. The important part is to do your routine - think about that, not the goal. Eventually, you'll get to the point where you can't take a photo without checking the settings.

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The first thing I do before taking photos is to check the previous settings of the camera. It's a matter of taking it as a habit.

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Same here. I do it as I'm replacing the battery (having charged it) to some sensible defaults: Raw, iso 200, Av mode, auto White balance, Aperture f8, and I check that the lens has auto focus selected and IS enabled. I do this before each session too. Nothing worse than finding you've left it on manual focus, or jpeg mode and burned in a white balance you then have to deal with. –  Poldie Apr 14 '13 at 14:55

What I do is to check the Exposure level Indicator on the viewfinder while composing the image to see if the final image would under-exposed or over-exposed before I take the picture.

Canon Digital Rebel XT Viewfinder Information

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How about sticking a suitable mnemonic / reminder on a tab on your lens cap/camera bag or similar. PS. I am a fellow sufferer.

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The best possible solution is to be (atleast when starting of) conscious about it. Half pressing your capture button, all the current settings (speed, aperture, ISO..) 'll be displayed in the viewfinder.

Another option is to keep an eye (at-least once you pick your camera), 'Exposure Level Indicator' bar; overexposed (too much light) bar 'll be at extreme right, and underexposed (lower light) bar 'l be at extreme left, it has to in the middle for ideal capture.

Above mentioned approaches 'd help you learn and utilize your gear much effectively.

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Here is what I usually do. I made it a habit to keep my camera in the P mode (Priority mode). I usually take photos in Manual mode, but when I switch off my camera, I make sure to turn the knob to P-mode before dropping it in my bag.

This way when I suddenly need to take a photo in an instant, I just switch on and shoot so that I don't miss any good shots.

It just has to be remembered... or you can buy a costly phone and wirelessly connect it to your lovely camera.. and code into the firmware to trigger an event such that when switching off your camera your costly phone gets a signal jolting you tazering with 1000000 volts (uh...forgot to mention your super phone has inbuilt tazer stun gun) and well yeah! That's more than enough of a reminder for life. :P

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Good habit! +1 if some spelling adjustments are made and that joke at the end goes. –  Unapiedra Apr 15 '13 at 17:29

One thing that can help is using custom modes if your camera supports it. If you have several specific shooting scenarios that require different settings, some cameras have Custom or C mode presets that you can specify and easily pull up (often right on the mode dial for the camera). If you use these, you can simply dial out of the preset you were using and back to your standard settings in order to quickly change your settings back.

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