What is the most important camera setting for a good photograph? I always respond to this question with my classic f/8 at 1/125th of a second. It is what all my shots are done with. I even hold a patent on that setting. My feeble attempt at humor does have me thinking about what are the good “settings” to use for successful images.
I know that a lot of time we might look to inspiration as a key setting to getting good photographs, but the reality is that inspiration is just about showing up every day and putting in the work. Is is about the work. The day-to-day grind to make great images. I don’t think that is the answer photographers need to create great work. I do think they need to be willing to explore and be crazy creative, but that only goes so far. So where does that leave us.
For me, the three key areas (settings) that I think every photographer should focus on to get successful work:
- Learn to see what matters to you. Find what you focus on most in images. Is it color, tone, patterns, gestures. Then make your work focus on improving that. Follow your strengths.
- Study other photographers. You need to know the history of photography and what has worked and not worked. Moving beyond just social media to understand what images have made an impact on our world and why. Looking to galleries, museums and collections such as Magnum Photos can tell you a lot about our world and how your images fit into that story. I also think it is important to look at what has not been told in those collections for various reasons (race, religion, politics). You can learn so much about a society by looking at the voices that are left out.
- Editing/Sequencing is perhaps the most important setting. Learning to edit behind the camera and selecting the best image afterwards is key to creating the best work possible.