You can be authentic and original, or you can settle for mediocrity. Right? Mmm. Maybe. Sometimes. Taking the path of least resistance is not always equivalent to resigning yourself to low quality; flying by your own instincts is not invariably better than being guided by convention. There’s nothing wrong with using crib sheets to help you get through sketchy territory. Following a recipe (as opposed to making it up as you go along, which in the case of many cooks is neither right nor safe) is an example of doing it right and doing it the easy way, at the same time.
Jeff Meyer is clearly an advocate of following the recipe for best results. In [this] piece, he regales us with a discussion of how the use of judiciously selected “cheat-sheets” can get you past any number of creative or technical roadblocks. In the process, he serves up a compendium of 26 such photography “cheat-sheets” that Digital Camera World has featured at one point or another—twenty-six useful charts that are clever, useful, well-presented, eye-candy-rich, useful, and, if we may fall back on the argot of a more innocent time, just plain neato.
Perplexed about how to pose your model? There’s a cheat sheet for that. Not sure how to set up your lighting? No fear, the cheat sheet is here. Meyer presents cheat sheets to help you figure out shutter speed, aperture, depth of field, and even how to calculate hyperfocal distance. These photography cheat sheets will help you figure out how to set up a family portrait, and how to crop it when you’re done. You say the color temperature scale sends you around the bend? There’s a cheat sheet for that. There is even—and we are so not kidding—a cheat sheet for how to do wedding photography. (Well, it doesn’t purport to tell you everything about wedding photography, but it does break down four potentially tricky situations that you will be confronted with, for the benefit of newbie wedding shooters.)
Confession time: we love these cheat sheets, we make frequent use of these cheat sheets, we rely to a decadent degree on these cheat sheets. There. We said it. In the words of a straight shooter from another era, known for having created a certain 95-point cheat sheet, “Here we stand. We can do no other.”