Think before you press the shutter button


When you pick up your digital camera to take a shot, do you think before you press the shutter button? Or, do you just fire away hoping that a little fairy insides your camera will magically transform it into something beautiful? Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? But that is what many people do. No thought, just fire away and hope for the best.


Imagine a room full of chimpanzees. Each one banging away at a typewriter, full of zeal and concentration. There stands a publisher smiling at the thought that in a matter of time he’ll have a best selling novel. He has just as much possibility of it happening as the thoughtless photographer. You have to give thought to your photo before clicking the shutter.


I have found that by going through these 6 quick steps in my head before I shoot the image my photos are dramatically better than if I hadn’t.


1. Why am I taking the photo?


There has to be a reason why you are shooting the image. Fun, pleasure, recording an event or capturing the emotion of a moment. There is always a reason even if the photographer won’t admit it. There may be times that you just point and shoot without much thought other than, heh I am going to take a photo. But most times you will need to answer this question. The answer to each question will require you to make a decision regarding composition, lighting, exposure or framing. How close you need to get or the angle from which you need to shoot. Be true to yourself and answer this question properly.


2. Who or what is the focus of this image?


You need to know who the focal point of the image will be, i.e. the main subject. Like the actor in a movie or stage play. Everyone knows who this is and the same goes for your photos. Based on this information you need to know where you will place the subject. In the centre or on a two thirds intersecting line. The subject will draw the eye of the viewer into the image and needs to be correctly placed.
You need to know who the focal point of the image will be
3. Does the subject have competition?


Very important question to answer. If there is any competition from other potential subjects of focal points then you need to know how to deal with them and where to place them. You cannot have the subject competing for attention in an image. This causes the eye of the viewer to wander in confusion between the two points. If they are competing or even causing a distraction they need to go or you have to find a way a minimizing the distraction. Bottom line is that there is no room for two prima donnas on the stage.


4. Am I close enough to the subject?


Getting in closer is very important. Fill the frame with as much of the subject as possible. This is the perfect way to remove the competing subjects or distracting objects. Getting in closer and cropping the image will remove unwanted subjects and clutter from the image. This will allow the viewer to see more detail in the image and create an image far more pleasing to the eye. By the way, don’t zoom but use your feet first and then if you can’t get any closer start to zoom.


5. What’s in the background and foreground?
If there is nothing then you don’t have a problem. Most of the time there is and you need to deal with the problem. Backgrounds that are cluttered or similar in colour to your subject need to be dealt with. Change the viewpoint, angle or your position to place the subject in front of a better background if necessary. Too much clutter in the back will compete with the subject for attention, so be careful. The same goes for the foreground. Although not as important there must not be anything there that is distracting. And of course decide if you want the background sharp or blurred with a shallow depth of field.


6. What is my main source of light?


If it’s the sun then you need to get it behind you and slightly at an angle to the subject. Unless you specifically want the subject backlit, don’t put the subject in front of the sun. Above all know where the sun is and how it will affect the photo. Ascertain what kind of light it is i.e. strong sun or filtered sun through the clouds on an overcast day. The time of day will also affect the image and if the light is too low you’ll need a tripod or some form of support.


Answering these questions quickly before you shoot will become second nature as you practice. There are others you may need to ask as well, but these six are the main ones that will help you to take great images.


Author: Wayne G. Turner
Photographer: Michael Chee