What to check after you have taken your photograph
It is vitally important to check your photos after you have taken them, especially when it’s the first one you’ve taken of a location. So many times I see photographers quickly look at the photograph on the back of their camera and then move on to the next shot without any idea if it’s correctly exposed, let alone in focus. Spending a few minutes to review your images will pay dividends, saving you time, wasted shots, and disappointment when you view them on your computer.
Striving for the best possible result in camera rather than having the mindset of finishing it off afterwards in post-production will make you a better photographer and help you take better photos each time.
1. Review your composition
Is it as you want it to be? Could you improve on anything? Are all the elements in the composition balanced? Does everything play a part? Is the horizon straight? Does anything distract? These are all questions you should be asking yourself at this stage. Look around the edge of the frame to ensure that nothing has crept in that shouldn’t be there.
You can make small adjustments at this point that may make a big difference in terms of the success and impact of your image. Take time to check your photo thoroughly and make the effort to achieve the best image possible.
2. Check the histogram for correct exposure
Does it accurately reflect the scene in front of you? If the scene contains mid tones, the histogram should reflect this. The same applies to the shadows and highlights. If you have a peak to the right and left of the histogram and no mid tones, and yet the scene contains a reasonable amount of mid tones it is likely you need to use a graduated filter to help balance your exposure. Check for loss of highlight and shadow detail.
3. Check for blown out highlights
Use the highlight warning indicator (make sure it’s switched on in the camera menu first!). NB: some histograms are very small and it’s hard to see if the highlights are blown out so this acts as an immediate indicator. Burnt out highlights cannot be recovered in post production. Err on the side of caution- if there is a small area that is burnt out, and you are shooting in RAW then it’s very likely that on the RAW file, all the highlight detail will be present, however if in doubt, reshoot, under exposing slightly.
4. CHECK IT'S IN FOCUS
Zoom in and check your photo at 100% (no more else you will magnify it!!) to see that it’s sharp where you want it to be. Check the foreground as well as the distance. Make sure you look at your playback image through the viewfinder if using a mirrorless camera or otherwise, use a loupe over the LCD screen if using a standard DSLR.
5. DID YOU CATCH THE MOMENT?
Perhaps you were trying to catch a particular moment when the light hit your subject or a particular part of the scene – did you succeed? If you missed, why was this? Make sure you are using a remote or cable release rather than the timer so you can activate the shutter at exactly the right moment.
6. did YOUR SETTINGS give you the results you wanted?
If photographing moving water or moving elements like grasses/flowers – was the shutter speed correct? Did you get the desired effect eg. smooth water or frozen? If not, make the necessary adjustments to your settings until you achieve the effect you want. Don’t forget to experiment.
7. Is there any distracting glare coming off any part of the scene?
If so, try using a polariser to help remove this. Remember that a polariser will work best at right angles to the sun. Beware of using one on wide focal lengths under 22mm if you are including the sky, as they can create uneven polarisation.