Image Credit: Sergey Tinyakov via iStock
There's plenty of talk about how to take a photo - composition tips, camera settings recommendations, and so forth.
But there's not nearly as much consideration of what needs to happen before you take a photo - things like scouting the location or planning the shot.
In this tutorial, I want to focus on the latter - a few things you need to do before you ever take a photo - because understanding how to approach the preparation stages of photography is every bit as important as the process of actually taking the photo.
Without further ado, let's get started!
Editor's Tip: Creating a photo is much more than simply pressing the shutter button. Find beautiful ways to present your photos with maximum impact.
Determine the Purpose of the Shot
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When you take a photo, understanding what the purpose of the image is and what its final use will be is critical.
For example, if you're taking a snapshot of your kid, perhaps the purpose of that is to capture a specific moment that you want to share with friends and family by posting it to Facebook.
On the other hand, if you've got your big rig camera and portrait setup ready to go to photograph your kid for their fifth birthday, obviously the purpose behind that is far different. In that case, you likely want a beautiful portrait of your child that you can turn into a print to hang on the wall, rather than being a quick-send via text to family.
Aside from the inherent differences in quality between a snapshot on your phone and a "for real" portrait on your big camera, you also need to consider how the image will be presented.
For example, I love a great canvas print (as evidenced by the stairway full of CanvasHQ prints shown above), so when I take photos of special moments in my son's life, I do so with the thought in mind that the photos I take could be large format prints on the wall.
That thought process changes how I take the photos...
I pay more attention to the lighting and the composition. I worry more about the framing and the perspective from which I shoot, too.
In other words, if the final purpose of the photo I'm taking is to present the image in a formal manner like a canvas print, I'm a much more diligent photographer than I am when I pull out my phone and take a selfie with my son.
Figure Out What Lens to Use
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If you have multiple lenses, the best time to figure out what lens to use isn't when you're at the spot you want to photograph or with the person you want to photograph.
Instead, give it some thought beforehand so you can spend less time messing around with lens changes and more time actually taking photos.
And while the first instinct might be to use wide-angle lenses for things like landscapes and standard lenses for things like portraits and telephoto lenses for things like wildlife photography, don't discount the value of mixing and matching lenses, either.
Image Credit: DanielPrudek via iStock
For example, think about how a telephoto lens might be used to create a more unique landscape photo.
Rather than showing a typical wide view of a large landscape, why not envision a few shots in which you focus on the small details within that landscape, as was done in the photo above.
What's more, think about using a wide-angle lens for a portrait.
Sure, a short focal length will cause more distortion in a portrait, but it can be used creatively to create something a little more unique.
Again, thinking about these things beforehand and finding inspirational images to get your creative juices flowing will help you in deciding the look you're going for in your shots before you ever even pick up your camera.
Editor's Tip: Do you have wall-worthy photos that you want to see as large prints? See what your photos look like as fine art.
Make a Mood Board
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One of the best things you can do to improve the quality of your photos is to more clearly define the mood you want to capture in them.
A great way to do that is to create a mood board.
Think of a mood board as your own personal source of inspiration.
Whether you pull images from Instagram or Pinterest, National Geographic or People Magazine, seeking out inspiration in others' photos will help you more clearly define what you like, what you don't like, and what you want your photos to say. Get more ideas for creating a mood board (and other tips for preparing to take a photo) in the video below by Photos in Color:
With a clearer picture of what you want to accomplish with your images, those images will have a stronger voice and a greater impact on the viewer.
Not only that, but viewers will feel a deeper connection to your photos by virtue of the fact that you took the time to really think things through and construct the image according to a specific vision.
Now, this isn't to say that you should take other people's photos and try to replicate them.
Instead, simply look for things like color schemes, types of lighting, manners of framing, and so forth, that strike a chord with you, and then seek ways to incorporate those things into images that are uniquely your own.
If you can do that, you'll be in a much better place to create show stopping photos!