Mind Your Settings

One of my goals in writing this blog is to share the things I learn in photography.  I learn a lot from others out there who share freely and I like to give back to the community of photogs through the sharing of my experiences - even if it means embarrassing myself a little.

Recently, I met up with my good friend and model, Eight.  For those scratching their heads already, "Eight" is her modeling moniker.  Cool name, huh?  Anyway, we were working on some product shots for a mutual friend in the jewelry business.  Eight had some time to spare so I got her to pose for some quick shots that I wanted to do with my trusty Fuji X100.  I'd noticed some yellow flowers nearby and she had a yellow dress.  Perfect!

I'd worked a long day already and we spent a couple hours on the product shots by this time.  We were both rather tired.  I intended for it to be a quick shoot so I grabbed a couple of flashes and stands and we walked out to a nearby field.  OK, maybe not as nearby as I thought for a model wearing not so comfortable heels (sorry, Eight!)

We got out there and I found a good looking spot - at least as good as it got.  Sadly, the brutal sun was already wilting the blooms in our drought stricken area. "Let me make sure there aren't any rattle snakes," I said as I used a light stand to rustle through the weeds and tall plants.  Wrong thing to say to a model.  After some reassuring and quick setup, I told her it will just take a minute.  OK, anxious model in place, nervously looking at the ground and listening for rattles.  So much for putting the model at ease.

Normally, I'm a stickler for using a light meter to dial in the exposure.  Being that I was tired, hot, and had inadvertently freaked out my model, I just winged it.  I dialed up an exposure, got the light power set with a couple of guesses, and got a test shot that looked fine on the LCD.  Cool.  I fired a few frames.  Done.  Back inside to the AC where there are no snakes to worry about.

Later on at home, I imported the files from my SD card into Lightroom.  Immediately, I saw that something wasn't right.  The images looked a little noisy and not as sharp as I expected.  What the...damn it...ISO 1600?!  How the hell did I manage that?  Well, last time I used the camera I had turned on auto ISO.  The base setting had been set to 400 and that was what the camera showed when I glanced at the ISO setting - failing to see that auto was enabled!  I had dialed in a fast shutter speed intending to bring down the ambient.  It failed to click in my head that the shutter speed that was working was a bit too fast for the ISO I thought I was at.  The X100 knew and was happy to help me out and bump up the ISO to 1600.  It did exactly what I had told it do.  Stupid me.

Had I used my light meter, I would have figured this out.  In my haste, I cut some corners and made a silly mistake.  Thankfully, all was not lost.  The X100 produces incredibly clean images and it didn't take much to bring the noise down to a negligible level and sharpen the images back up a bit.  I don't know that I would have been so lucky with images from my Canon 5D.  The X100 gave me clean enough images to save the shoot and help me save face.

Lesson learned and hopefully I won't make that mistake again.  Know your equipment and mind your settings.  Turn on exposure details in your image preview, at least temporarily when dialing in your exposure, and check your values.  Surprises on your editing system back at your home or studio aren't fun.