1. FILE SIZE: By far the easiest and most important setting to fumble if you fog out. If you vary the file size/output setting from shoot to shoot, particularly if you vary it infrequently this can be the easiest way to significantly sabotage your results. Shooting low res location scouting shots and having a magazine cover shoot following soon after is a recipe for disaster if you don’t make a habit of checking this setting first and foremost.
2. ISO: Your ISO is less important now than it used to be because of the post production options we now have with regards to noise reduction, however make no mistake its far better to set it right in the camera than correct a bad setting in post. Like checking your file size output, simply checking the back of your camera or monitor if you shooting tethered will not be obvious if your shooting too fast or slow….Yes, too slow, most camera algorithms have a sweet spot that is the ideal balance of speed, noise and contrast… it is rarely the lowest ISO setting on your camera. Check your manual or google it for community feedback about your particular camera.
3. WHITE BALANCE: Do yourself a favor, shooting AWB is for the birds and a lazy compromise if your a pro. Shooting a color chart is always the final step after setting your lights. Carrying the color chart isn’t enough, you have to remember to use it too. In the heat of battle it is easy to overlook this step. If your particularly left brain about white balance remember that even if you primarily shoot with your own strobes, their color balance will shift depending on the head, setting and modifier you use. If you don’t know how to execute a color balance using the chart in Photo Shop, Lightroom, Aperture, Capture 1, etc. Check your software manual and learn it fast. Its the easiest and most accurate way zeroing in a neutral balance. There are cheap cards and expensive ones…more money doesn’t buy all that much more accuracy in the long run as they basically do the same thing. There are also various types of white balance disc that are available that work better than your AWB.
4. AUTO FOCUS vs. MANUAL FOCUS: Curiously this is a easy setting to overlook if you usually shoot auto focus. When set to manual focus the wider the lens the harder it is to tell whether or not the lens is set to manual instead of auto. A audio or digital focus confirmation or more importantly the lack thereof isn’t the red flag you would think it is. Even if you never shoot manual focus, statistically you will inadvertently change this setting by mistake or accident at some point and if you don’t do it, one of your assistants will. On those occasions when it is happened to me, I will usually catch it within a few minutes when I finally miss the audibly alert but why waste those front end frames?