I can unfortunately recall going through entire sessions where a given camera setting was not where it should have been to get the best possible image. By the time I noticed it, the session was over. I’ve since learned to Know My Viewfinder. As a result, I take notice of those little numbers, letters, and read outs found within. I scan the ISO, shutter speed, aperture and exposure compensation settings and if any of them aren’t appropriate for what I’m about to photograph, I make the necessary changes.
Most cameras show the aperture / shutter speed / ISO / metering mode / exposure compensation / focus point. To activate the read out, simply press the shutter half way. A quick glance provides all the necessary feedback to make sure your settings are appropriate for the situation.
Scenario 1: the subject contains a lot of white. You take a test shot and notice flashing blinkies so you dial in minus compensation. The needed amount to get the histogram to look right winds up to be minus a full stop. Your shoot lasts for an hour. Upon completion you put all your equipment away feeling great about what you photographed. A few days later you see a black bear in your backyard and grab the camera. Without hesitation, you fire off 60+ shots but when you review them, all get deleted in that they are significantly underexposed. The Moral: the minus 1 stop compensation you dialed in a few days ago went unnoticed even though it was displayed in the viewfinder. Always take an extra second to scan the read out in the viewfinder.
Scenario 2: the subject you want to photograph moves fast. But you recently photographed landscapes and needed a lot of depth of field. Additionally, you set the ISO to 100 to get a noise free file. This presented no problem in that the camera was on a tripod and the slow shutter speed didn’t matter. A few days lapse and the fast subject is now in front of your lens. Excitedly, you pick up the camera, switch it to motor drive and fire off 60+ shots. Disappointedly, you delete them all upon seeing the subject is blurry. The Moral: the settings you dialed in for the scenics that forced a slow shutter speed went unnoticed even though they were displayed in the viewfinder. Always take an extra second to scan the read out in the viewfinder.
Scenario 3: you just finished attending a class and learned all about the rule of thirds. The instructor showed you lots of examples that illustrate how it is better to not center the main subject. He or she then had you play around with the focus point in the viewfinder to show you how to move it around. When you put the camera down, the focus point that was left active was in the upper right third of the viewfinder. Your next shoot finds you photographing subjects that all appear on the left side of the frame. You fire off your 60+ shots and wind up deleting all in that the background is tack sharp but all the subjects are out of focus. The Moral: the camera did exactly what it was supposed to do - focus on the background which was in the upper right - the exact area where you last left the active focus point - bummer. The active focus point went unnoticed even though it was displayed in the viewfinder. Always take an extra second to scan the read out in the viewfinder.