I'm always in a hurry and never really check my camera settings before a snapping a few photos using whatever setting the camera was left on. I'm thinking I should probably try to put a checklist into my camera bag as a reminder.

Do you set your camera back to a known settings before putting it away?

Do you use a checklist? What's on it? Where do you keep your checklist?

Other suggestions?


9 Answers 9



  1. Battery check (this is done the night before to give time to charge).
  2. Lens check. Since I'm mobile with my gear, I give a little thought to what lenses I should pack with me.
  3. Flash check. Will I need a fill flash?
  4. Bag check. Will I want my shoulder bag, or my camera backpack?
  5. Memory card check. Do I have enough memory cards?
  6. RS strap. Is my strap secure? Are there any tears in it?
  7. Lens hood: Do I need my lens hoods?
  8. Tripod/gorilla pod: Do I need my pods?

Camera settings:

  1. ISO
  2. Shooting Mode

For almost all the camera settings, I do these on the fly, depending on the situation. I generally stick to AV, but flip to Manual when necessary. I also have all three custom settings, to quickly switch to less frequently used configurations.

During the actual picture shot itself, I compose, focus lock, recompose if necessary, take one last look around the view finder, exhale and pull the trigger. I quickly glance at the histogram, and go from there.

After making enough mistakes, this has become completely natural, so I don't need to write anything down.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Hi alan, the one thing i always take that is not on your great list is a lens cloth. \$\endgroup\$
    – rapscalli
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 0:05

Here are the things I "reset" before each time I head out. I keep this in my head but at first I had to think about it more:

  • Mode dial set to your preference (P, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, etc.)
  • ISO set to your preference (usually low)
  • Memory card has been formatted (assuming it's been downloaded)
  • White balance set to auto
  • Auto Exposure Bracketing turned off

I got used to always set my camera to some "default" settings before I put it away (P mode, auto ISO, auto white balance, matrix metering, auto AF point selection, etc.), so when I pull the camera out I won't be shooting small RAWs on 2600K unless I really want to.

Before the shoot I usually just take the camera, backup battery and whatever other equipment I'm going to need.


I have this checklist and "3-2-3" is the way I keep it in my head (you can also tape "3-2-3" to the backside of your camera if you need):

3 steps before going out with a camera:

These are the most critical checks. You rarely are going to have a chance to recover from not having checked them once you're out with the camera.

  • Battery inserted and with charge
  • Memory card inserted and with space available
  • Quick power on test

If you happen to have a second battery or card, try to always carry them too if you are leaving for more than a hour. If leaving for a full day, take the battery charger too if possible.

2 steps during a session, before turning off the camera:

There are many other things to check, sure, but the two items bellow can really ruin your next shot if not checked.

  • Turn on Image Stabilization (critical if your next shot is handheld but the previous one was not)
  • Set white balance to auto (critical if you are changing light conditions, a quite common situation while traveling or indoors)

If you manage to remember it after the above checks, it never hurts to reset ISO too. On the other hand, a higher than needed ISO setting while not a good thing, probably won't ruin your next shot like missing one of the two checks above.

Everything else is usually quickly noticeable before your next shot (due to their direct interference with exposure levels).

3 steps after the session itself:

  • Backup the card(s), even if not erasing them yet, wherever you can
  • Charge the battery (and replace it with the spare if available in order to rotate them)
  • Charge the spare battery, if the case

A long answer, I know, just keep the "3-2-3" in mind and you'll see that it's not that much trouble. :o)


Batteries! I always try to charge after a shoot, then I also check them a few hours before a shoot (to make sure I've got time to charge if needed).


I am a novice but I did such a list for myself, it's probably too big but I hope that in time I'll do everything naturally.

Assumed you shoot in Aperture priority, focus with a single focus point:

Phase 1

  • Set metering mode
  • Adjust the aperture to get the desired depth of field AND get the best out of your lens
  • Adjust the ISO to get an adequate shutter speed and avoid camera shake and motion blur
  • Adjust the exposure compensation to get perfect exposure

Phase 2

  • Frame your scene/subject, compose
  • Sharp focus on your subject
  • Hold steadily the camera, avoid camera shake
  • SHOOT!
  • goto: Phase 2

My White Balance is auto + 2 K-stops warmer, I shoot in RAW so I don't take time to adjust my WB, I do it in post (I create a preset on LightRoom with very basic adjustments and I apply it to a lot of shoots, it doesn't take that long).

Post-production is important to me, I get right everything I can't really fix in post with this checklist and then I spend a lot of time in post in order to get the perfect picture or just experiment (I enjoy it).

I use the AF-C and AF-lock system in order to have more flexibility and never have to care about it. But never recompose, except if I don't have a choice and a rather small aperture. I find this setup convenient and adaptable to many situations.

Of course if you are a pro or have time, some will prefer a more complete check list, and get it right in the camera. Others might want to take more advantage of the camera's software for focus/exposure/dof/iso. But with mine, I feel like I have total control over the final product.


Switch to RAW instead of JPEG (at least for serious shoots).

For some reason this isn't set by my "green dot reset" on my D90. (Not sure if that's my settings or a camera limitation.)


Even though I usually check setting before taking photos, if I go outside I remind myself that it's better to set settings to what I expect I'm going to use in case a photo opportunity will come up and in a hurry I forgot to check the settings.

My three main worries are ISO, Shutter Speed and amount of space on the memory card, so for me those are the first things to check.


First, check that your battery(s) are fully charged. Running out of battery is very disappointing (especially when you find a perfect shot.) Check your ISO, Exposure, etc... Also, check your composition. I know this is more of an artistic tip, but look through your viewfinder/lcd and make sure that everything looks like you want it to. The last thing you want is to cut off someone's head in a picture :) Besides that, just make sure that you protect your camera (keep it in a bag when not in use/keep lens cap on). Also, if you're using a tripod, check that it's secure, and won't wobble (this can totally ruin long-exposure shots.)

Other than that, just check all the settings, and you'll be good to go! -Michael


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