Do you envy the great photographers, who seemingly take shot upon shot and never seem to fail? Do you crave that striking feeling of others really appreciating your pictures, wanting to see more? I will let you in on a couple of professional secrets.
There are numerous and enormous amounts of companies out there, trying to get you to buy their "Ultimate Guide to Photography" or their "Digital Photographer's Guide to Better Pictures" - series of books, CD:s and lots of information about composition, effects, color spaces, depth of field and technical mumbo jumbo. What they seldomly tell you, is how to take better pictures. They try, but just complicate it with terms and non-understandable techniques that will only confuse most people. But the basics aren't so hard - actually they couldn't be more simple.
To take great pictures, you are required to think. It's as simple as that.
STEP ONE - Think before
Put the camera down.
This step requires you to do something most photographers just can't do - to put your camera away. Put it in the shoulderbag, the backpack or whatever you are carrying with you. Because once stowed away, you start using your eyes! You've probably seen the older generation of travelers constantly carrying their camera in a neck-strap, taking pictures at everything and everyone? That is exactly what we're trying to avoid.
In doing this, we create a kind of freedom. Your hands don't have to hold on to the camera, and you can look through your eyes instead of through your lens. When traveling, new and interesting sigths and sounds are all around you at most times - it can be hard to grasp everything you encounter. But by leaving your camera out of the equation - your mind can feel, smell and experience. And you can focus on selecting those few, important moments when it's worth it to get the camera out. And when you truly see an image worth taking - quickly get the camera out - and take it.
STEP TWO - Think while shooting
Focus on the image you saw in your head.
You might want to get up higher or bend lower to change perspective, or move a bit to change the background - do that quickly. Do anything to get hat you want. Don't get distracted, be sure to take the picture you saw in your mind earlier. And especially do not start high-speed-shooting! This is the biggest trap of modern day DSLR's - making photographers literally "shoot" their subjects instead of keeping their attention to capture them in the right moment. Don't shoot 50 frames, just because you can. Instead, THINK. This way you'll end up with just one or two frames - but good ones.
STEP THREE - Think afterwards
This is where the amateurs get sorted from the professionals.
No matter how good pictures you have in your collection after a trip, you've got to choose! Whether you are presenting them at Travellerspoint, on your webpage, in a magazine article or in a private photo album - you've got to narrow them down to the very best! 99% of the time, people's collections are too big - so big that no one bears to look them all through. This effectively makes the good pictures dissappear in the mass of the collection!
Point is - present only your very best. Professionals can go on a three month long expedition, and return to publish just ten photos. Maybe just three. This may seem odd - but it's the way great photography is made. Not only does a limited selection of images hide all the other ones (where you failed to make a perfect shot) - but it promotes the good ones. So that those ones can really, really shine.
So when trying to use all your amassed knowledge of taking pictures - try this technique once in a while. It may seem simple - and does only cover so much - but it really works as a basic outline for taking pictures.
Think before - look with your eyes.
Think while shooting - do anything for the picture you want.
Think after - present nothing but your very best.
2008-08-18 - Stockholm, Sweden