Below are typically my 10-step process – of course it doesn’t feel like so many steps in the field once you are familiar with your equipment and camera settings. But decomposing these steps is a good exercise. The goal is not to make it a mechanical process, but to show you what you can do to improve your photos efficiently.
- Set up tripod This is typically done after careful research and planning. . It’s important to:
- Set up the tripod in a sturdy place – narrow or spread the tripod legs in order to fix the tripod feet on solid ground instead of sand or mud
- Lower weight if necessary in high wind
- Most importantly, set up your tripod where you can help your camera “see” your final image.
- Level your camera: Mount the camera on your tripod. Lots of cameras these days have virtual horizon that shows a line on your LCD screen to help you level your camera. From both of my Canon cameras (5D Mark III and 7D), I half push my shutter button, then press info twice to get to the virtual horizon screen. If your camera is different, refer to your camera manual to see if and how you can see virtual horizon. Alternatively, I could turn on the live view, and press info a number of times to see both my composition and the virtual horizon. The latter is what I personally prefer (although I didn’t use live view for a long time).
- Frame your composition: Turn on live view (if you haven’t done so in the previous step). Make sure the camera is leveled. Adjust the composition as needed by adjusting your ballhead and/or zoom in/out on your lens. For at least 95% occasions, I don’t crop my images in post processing – I’d like to get the composition right directly from the camera instead of relying on cropping in the computer. I am a big fan for efficient workflow. By doing everything correctly in each step, you avoid unnecessary repeat work and can save time in the overall creation process. This requires leveling the horizon at this step in addition to get the right composition.