- Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
- The Photographer's Eye: Graphic Guide: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos
- Everyone is a Photographer: A simple guide to taking better photographs no matter what camera you use
In any creative endeavor, be it art, music, writing or photography, there will come a time (or more) when nothing you do seems good enough. These times are particularly difficult because it looks as if no matter how much creative efforts you put into it, whatever you're doing still sucks. Photographers often face this kind of challenge, but we believe we can help them. Let's assume that everything happens for a reason, even the fact that you've been taking horribly boring photos for the past few weeks. If that is the case, or if you know how it feels, it's time to ask yourself these nine questions. Now remember, these are all part of an interior dialogue, so it's best to be as honest as you can.
Question #1 - Do I like what I'm shooting?
The answer to this question plays a crucial part in your success in taking beautiful photos. Believe it or not, you are a lot more likely to do a good job if you love what you're doing. Ask yourself if the subjects you've been after bring you joy or if they fill you with excitement every time you pick up your camera. Of course, if you're a pro, there are a lot of times when you have to produce great results regardless of your feelings towards the subject. That's something a little different and it's an ability that comes with time. But until you get there, try to shoot stuff you love as much as you can.
(Success Tip #1: Crazy new way to learn photography when you have little time to spare)
Question #2 - Am I using the right focal length?
The choice of lens, and particularly focal length, will have a powerful impact on the outcome. You obviously know that whatever you shoot at 50mm will look a lot different if you shoot it through a 24 mm lens. But even smaller differences in focal length can make significant changes. For example, a shot taken at 35mm will have an entirely different look than one taken at 50mm.
Question#3 - Am I shooting in the right light?
It's an important question that you should ask no matter what you're shooting or if you're shooting outdoors or in a studio. Good light means a lot and even with an interesting subject, you're still going to fail if the lighting is bad.
Question #4 - How much do I care about what others think?
It's hard to ignore opinions and comments, particularly when they're about something as precious as your photos. But, and this might not be the easiest thing to do, you will occasionally have to ignore them. This is especially true if you spend a lot of time on sites like 500px and Flickr. They are both places with amazing photography, but if you use them in excess they will potentially damage your self esteem and confidence. This is related to question no. 1. You should shoot as much of what you love as possible and you should do it in your own way, without trying to get likes and positive comments. They will come naturally if you're doing a good job.
Question #5 - Is this the best composition?
You should ask this question just before you press the shutter release. Take a few moments when looking through the viewfinder or on the LCD screen and think about the framing. Try to create a balance within the frame and if you're not entirely sure if what you're doing is good or bad, stick to the rule of thirds.
Question#6 - Am I editing the way I should?
Editing and retouching play a big part in the creation of the final image. It's an entirely different skill set that you will eventually have to learn. There are many pitfalls when it comes to editing a photo, but as a general recommendation, try not to overdo anything. Saturation, HDR, dodging and burning should all be done with good taste in mind.
(Success Tip #2: The secret to selling more photography with less effort)
Question#7 -Why do I want to capture this?
It's a tough question to ask, especially when you're in the heat of the moment, but if you can't come up with a straight answer, it's probably better to just walk away. You'll be saving yourself time, storage space and you'll start to become more selective.
Question#8 -Am I doing this for fun or do I want to turn pro?
A lot of the struggle of taking photos that ultimately make you feel good has to do with the long term goal. At one point or another, you're going to have to give an honest answer to this question. It shouldn't be too hard because if you want to make a living with photography, chances are you already feel it deep inside. If not, and that's just as fine, try a more relaxed approach. After all, you're doing it for fun, not public acclaim.
Question #9 - Am I better than I was last year?
Often all it takes is just a boost of self confidence. One of the best ways to get this boost is to compare your work to what you were doing a year or two ago. Chances are you evolved dramatically. Seeing this will make you feel better and while you might not take award winning photos immediately, you will at least find the calm that comes from knowing you are good, but you might just need a break.