Quick Tip—Always Keep a Camera ‘Locked and Loaded’

One camera in the bag should always be 'locked and loaded,' ready to go. For this photo I should have had my trusty 50mm macro, not this 16-35mm Canon zoom. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

This is an extremely simple, but essential, Quick Tip: always have a camera completely set up and ready to shoot pictures, close at hand. This means that when you put that camera bag in the trunk of your car or in the back seat before you set out for the day, have at least one camera inside that bag completely set and ready to shoot photographs.

You must decide upon a set of ‘default’ settings. Not the settings you would ideally use for a specific shooting situation, but rather some settings that will work for the most number of situations, most of the time.

For me, here are those settings:

  • Lens: my 50mm Canon macro. I love this lens, and I ‘see’ lots of photographs from this perspective. For me, it’s a great place to start, and my preferred ‘default’ lens.
  • Flash card: a 1 or 2GB flash card, cleaned off and freshly formatted.
  • ISO: something that will work in most situations: ISO 400.
  • Shooting mode: one of the automatic settings. The point here is that you should be able to pick the camera up, turn it on and shoot photos, no further adjustment necessary. I’ll usually leave my ‘locked and loaded’ camera in shutter priority ‘TV’ mode or the program ‘P’ mode;
  • Battery: freshly charged, or at least, not almost-dead. I want to know that it’s going to work if needed.

So what’s the point of all of this?

As someone who has earned his living
for the past many years as a photojournalist, this may seem obvious: you never know when you’re going to stumble upon a really amazing, profound photograph, which is happening right then, right in front of you.

But I would argue that the exact same thing
can be true for a wildlife photographer, a landscape or nature photographer. For that matter, almost anyone who depends upon seeing great photographs to make their living or feed their passion.  Landscape photographer Jeff Lynch talks about this in a his post, ‘Never Put Your Camera Away!’

Think about it: you love to shoot landscapes. You’re driving through northwestern New Mexico, late in the day, and the light is suddenly and dramatically becoming amazing. You top a hill on the two-lane road that you’re driving, and up ahead, the light is hitting a mesa in the most incredible way, just as the shadow of a cloud comes across a distant outcropping. You literally have seconds, not minutes, to capture the beauty that is before you.

This is why we all need to be ‘locked and loaded’! As photographers, we are granted the privilege every day to make truly awe-inspiring images.

But we sure better be ready when they appear!

Storm_Rays 575 px

Sun breaks through thunderhead, Lake Pontchartrain. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

selfport1aHi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Related posts on the web:

Never Put Your Camera Away! at Jeff Lynch’s Serious Amateur Photography

11 Tips for Candid Street Photography by Brian Auer at Epic Edits

The Art of Travel Photography by Darren Rouse at DPS

Posted in: How To

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

1 Comment on "Quick Tip—Always Keep a Camera ‘Locked and Loaded’"

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  1. My friend Larry sent me an email reminding me of the great story, related to this post, of Ansel Adams and the making of his famous “Moonrise” photo. Another great example of why we need to always be ready for what may come our way!

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