Great question, glad you asked! There are so many ways to take better pictures, but I would say the easiest way to improve is to read tutorials, watch tutorials and try all the techniques you see to develop your skills. Think of every tutorial as a new recipe that you can add to a larger collection, then when you need a certain flavour of image, you just choose the relevant recipe. It not only means you will feel more confident when shooting, but you’ll also start producing consistently good, consistently your-style images, which is very important.
And don’t worry if you don’t quite get a technique straight away, because you will, and when you do, embrace it. Use it over and over until it becomes part of your very own photography recipe book.
So with this in mind, I want to introduce you to a new recipe to add to that book. This is a simple mnemonic that I want you to memorise, and then try out as soon as you can.
S: Search – E: Evaluate – E: Emphasise
S : Search
Being a budding photographer, I can assume that you are always looking for an interesting subject to take pictures of and this is what this step is all about. Search for the perfect photo any time you have a camera handy ( which of course, you always do 😉 ) because an interesting shot can find its way to you very quickly in almost all circumstances. Whether you are doing street photography and suddenly a flash mob arrives, or maybe it’s some landscape photography and you notice a small glint of the sun peeking through some trees. Be mindful of these possibilities and be ready.
Now, here’s the important part – when you find an interesting subject, don’t just shoot a picture of it and move on. This is a habit of many photographers, and it doesn’t mean that they will take bad pictures, on the contrary, they could be good photos. But, to take great photos, consistently, look to the next step..
So you have found something to take a picture of? That’s great! Now ask yourself this very simple question:
Why do I want to take a picture of it?
Think about what makes this subject special? Is it the colour of the ladies hair? Is it the shape formed from the shadow of that building? Maybe it’s the emotion that you want to capture? Or could it be the sharp stylish lines in the car? If you cannot answer this question, it probably isn’t worth taking a photograph. But, if you can answer it, take that knowledge to the next step.
So now you have a potential shot in mind, and very importantly, you know what makes it interesting. So this last step is to emphasise that point. Here are some ideas and examples to this way of thinking:
The red haired girl
Let’s say you’re taking an image of a red haired girl, if the reason you chose her as your subject is because of her beautiful hair colour, don’t shoot her in black and white – consider complimentary colours in the background (greens usually work well) to help her stand out from the background. You could even increase the saturation ever so slightly to boost the colour further.
Tip: Your eye is always drawn to the warmer colour palette first in an image followed by cooler tones (blues).
The aggressively styled car
If it is a car you’re shooting, and the reason that you chose it is because it looks mean and aggressive, getting down low to the ground, close to the car and shooting upwards can really add to the drama, especially if you add a little dutch tilt as well.
The modern city building
If it’s an interesting bit of modern architecture you’re shooting, and the reason that you chose it is because of its modern lines and edges. Consider following one of these lines of the building from one edge of the frame to the other. Look at capturing the symmetry of the building, try it in black and white and also look at increasing the contrast to make the building ‘pop out’ from the image.
Tip: Try shooting in the 1:1 ratio (square crop) to enhance the symmetry and pattern-like nature of the image.
Why S.E.E. can help you
If you don’t go through these steps every time you go to take a picture, there is a high chance that you will only ever take good photos, not great ones.
This process is there to remind you to squeeze out every last drop of special into every photograph you take. After a while you will know this recipe off by heart and it will become second nature, very much like the difference between learning to drive and being able to drive – it just happens naturally with a little repetition.
And most of all.. have fun and keep snapping!