The goal of this article is to get you to consider a few things before you press the shutter button. This photography process will then in turn help you to improve the quality and impact of your photography.
Do you want to create photos with more meaning?
Would you like to make people say “WOW” when they look at your images?
Do you want to take your photography to the next level?
If so, then you’re in the right place!
But I am not going to just give you all the answers, provide any camera tips, or tell you how to do things. What I am going to do is to make you think, and learn to question all of the choices you make along the way.
I’ll guide you in making better decisions and give you a process you can use when you are out photographing.
The photography process
The first thing you need to do when you’re photographing is . . .
Slowing down is the first step. Be more intentional with your photography and the choices you make for each image. I often say that photography is a journey, not a destination, so slow down and enjoy the ride.
My recommendation to help you do that is to use a tripod for everything for a week. That will force you to slow down and think before you press the shutter button.
Put yourself in the mindset of slow and steady wins the race. Photography is a journey, not a destination. When you slow down and stop rushing for fear of missing something, you will actually take better photos. Trust me on this!
Imagine yourself trying to move through mud. You can’t run, but you can still get there.
Ask yourself questions
Next, ask yourself the following series of questions:
- What grabbed my attention and made me want to take this photo?
- As I explore the subject more does it hold my interest?
- What about it is interesting? Is it the color, texture, shape, lighting, or something else?
- How can I capture that in my image? What are the best camera angle and settings to do that?
- What message or story do you want to tell with your image of this scene or subject?
Consider what it is about that particular subject that got your attention in the first place, and whether or not it is still interesting after a minute or two. If not – then it might not make an interesting or good photo.
If so, then keep exploring it. Walk all the way around the subject if possible. See how the light falls on it from different angles, looking at it from the sides, and from above and below.
Next, take a test photo and review it. Look at it critically and ask yourself these next questions:
- Did I manage to capture the essence of this subject, the thing that drew my eye?
- If not, how can I improve upon this first image?
- Do I need to change my camera angle or get closer?
- Should I include more or less of the background?
- Is there a feeling of depth in the image or is it flat?
- Does the lighting add to the mood and feeling I want to capture or take away from it?
- Is there anything in the background that is distracting and taking attention away from the subject?
- How about the edges of the frame, is there anything on the edges of the image that is distracting?
- What is the message? Are you clear on that? If you aren’t sure where you want people to look and why, then your viewers won’t be either.
Take a second photo, and make any adjustments or corrections needed for improvement. Go through the questions above once again. Always look for ways to improve upon the image.
After you’ve taken a few photos and the image has evolved now you’re ready for the ultimate questions:
- Will someone who has not viewed the original scene get the message of your image?
- Does the subject stand out as immediately obvious to any viewer?
If you have followed the steps above, the answers to those questions should be YES. But if it’s not quite there yet – just rinse and repeat. Go over the questions above again, and make more changes until it’s the best image you can make of that subject and/or scene.
To practice this new process we have several photography challenges and articles available. Here are a few that might help you out:
- Be One With Your Tripod – Photography Challenge
- Stress-Free Tips for Buying a Camera Tripod
- 4 Tips for Creating Depth and Dimension in Your Images
- Photography Challenge – Tell a Story
- Street Corner Exercise – Photography Challenge
- Wabi-Sabi Photography Challenge – How to Embrace the Art of Imperfection
Time to get out there
Now it’s time for you to apply all this to your photography. Make yourself flashcards with the questions in order to remember them, or make a note you can refer to on your phone.
Just get out there and remember to take your tripod! Go slow and enjoy the process and the journey as well as the final result.
Tell me – do you think this process will help you make better photos?
Notice that the key word there is MAKE (it’s in the title for a reason)!
If you stop, slow down, and consciously create your images you are making photos not taking them. That is what photographers do!