Always have a plan
We all have found ourselves in situation when we expected a photo to be great but the result is not exactly what we had in mind. The main purpose of this article is to stress that you should "have something in mind!" before taking a photo and to how to make this happen in reality.
Ask yourself: Why am I taking this photo? What is the message behind it? What do I want to capture exactly?
Of course, many great shots will be incidental and unplanned for but we want to be organized and ready before any photography session/outing or on any occasion you are taking your camera with you. Delivering the message (and choosing a message) is easier when you are making the photo and preparing the scene. For example, you wanted to do some food or macro photography, in this case you get to choose the object, background, position and almost everything. Taking the photo is not just about pressing the shutter button but rather, most of the work is actually done before even grabbing the camera!
This also applies to other situations; e.g. concerts, wedding, street photography. Don't just go there without a plan o anthing in mind, set some goals (photos) to achieve/capture. For example, in a wedding, you don't just take random photos of the newlyweds but you want to capture certain moments (cutting the cake, dancing together, whispering, smiling, some of these love-gestures, etc).Don't just go there and then start thinking what you should be taking photos of!
Before pressing the shutter button
Ok, so you know what you want and what is the message you want to deliver within your photo (feeling of persons, cute child smile, romantic moments, beauty of nature, etc) but how do take a great photo? Think about your viewer, how will they see it?
Sometimes you look at a photo you took and wonder "how did this guy in the back appear in my photo!" or "I should have zoomed in a little". This shouldn't happen most of the time, you should imagine the photo before taking it, imagine the borders of it, who/what do you want to photograph what shouldn't be in the scene?
Things to check before pressing that shutter
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Vertical or horizontal? This one is obvious, portraits of single individuals are better taken vertically, landscape or nature are better horizontal.
- Is the subject clear? Do you want to focus on a specific part or person or more? If it is a group photo are you too far or too near?
- Do you need to zoom in or out? You should decide if you want to shoot a whole garden or just one tree? Are you taking a full body portrait or just the face?
- What is in the background? Eliminate any unnecessary objects that will distract your viewer. If people or cars are passing by you should wait for them.
- Photo borders: you don't want half of someone's face at the border of your photo, you don't want to rip off your subject's ears! Keep this in mind when looking through the viewofinder or the LCD screen.
- Is the subject sharp enough and in focus?
- Camera settings: Choose the mode you want (auto, portrait, shutter priority, manual, etc), white balance, exposure, shutter speed and aperture.
- Perspective and angle: are you getting a good view or do you need to step back, climb a few stairs to get a better view? Do you want to take an eye-level photo or raise/lower your hands more? Get on your knees if you need to!
- Timing is really important. If it is a portrait, tell your subject to be ready, smile and when you are going to take the photo. If you are taking nature photos check the weather and lighting. Timing is crucial in sports and animal photography, wait for that perfect moment and be ready (adjust your settings).
Take the time to change anything you need if you notice something before pressing the shutter. That's why one should be considerate about pressing that shutter. Taking this time gives you an opportunity to eliminate something in the background, change your position, take a few steps back, etc.
Am I going to remember all these stuff?
Not necessarily! You will need to practice and it is ok to forget. The important thing is to have full (or near full) control over the situation and the photo. Don't just take a snap picture, think before taking it, imagine the photo and ask yourself some questions before pressing the shutter.
Also note that you should NOT miss a superb photo because you were thinking too much. Action and sports photography need fast reactions so will have to remember only the very important stuff. But even in action photography, you should always be prepared as regards to: what equipment will you use and chosing a good spot to stand or sit in.