When you decide to take a photo, you should have a reason behind pressing the shutter. Having a list of questions to ask before you press the shutter can help you with your photography. By asking your self these questions quickly in your head before pressing the shutter, you will prevent the point and click mentality that produces lots of boring photos. Step up your photography game by learning these 6 questions to ask before you press the shutter.
Why am I taking this photo?
There needs to be a specific reason why you are shooting this image. Is it for fun, for pleasure, or are you recording an event by shooting a family photo? There always should be a reason that you decide to take a photo. Asking yourself the reason for the photo will help you make decisions about composition and lighting. For instance, if you are on a trip and you are shooting an iconic landmark, is noon the best time to take the shot? Granted, many times on a trip we may not have a choice as we may have time limits associated with the trip, etc. But if you do have the time, then ask yourself how the scene would be improved if you came back early or late during the blue or golden hours. Or maybe the scene would look awesome when shot at night. Thinking about this simple thing will elevate your photography.
Who or what is my main subject?
You have to decide who or what will be the main focus of the image. Once you decide on the subject, you have to decide things like composition. Where will you place the main subject in the frame? Will they look better centered or on one of the rule of thirds intersecting lines? Where is the first place the viewer’s eye will be drawn? Can you use leading lines to lead the viewer to your subject? All these considerations come when you have decided what the main focus of your image will be.
Are there any distractions in the frame?
Have you ever seen a photo where the main subject has a tree or sign growing out of their head? This is an extreme example, but you get the idea. Look around the frame and try to notice if there is anything that is competing for attention with your subject. Can you move and change the background if you shoot from another angle? Is it possible to move your subject away from the distracting object? Maybe you can change your depth of field by changing the aperture and blurring the distracting background. There are a number of ways you can make sure that the subject of your image is the first thing the viewer’s eye reaches.
Am I filling the frame with my subject?
Getting in closer can also remove a distracting background. By filling the frame with as much of your subject as possible, you can also reveal more details about your subject. The image will be far more pleasing to the eye in this way. You can also crop the image in your photo editing software to recompose the shot. But getting it right in camera should always be the goal. It means less work when you get home to process the images. Try using your feet at first before going to zoom. This allows you to get a different perspective and maybe even a shot no one else has done. A great way to train yourself to do this is to choose a prime lens such as a 50 mm and only use that lens to take photos for a month.
Are the background and foreground adding to the image?
As already stated, a distracting background is a problem However, there are other issues that can arise. What if your subject has a white shirt on and you place them against a white wall? If shooting a flower is the background of a different color, so there will be sufficient contrast? What about the foreground? Are there objects that might cause a distraction and lead your viewer’s eyes away from your subjects? Scan your frame and then change position or move your subject if possible, or possibly change your aperture to blur them with a shallow depth of field.
Where is my light coming from?
When using natural light, the sun may be your only source of light. Where is the sun in relation to your subject? Unless you want to make your subject backlit, you never want the sun behind your subject. Harsh natural light in full sun in the middle of the day will give portrait subjects “raccoon eyes” by casting harsh shadows around the eyes. Find some shade to place your subject in. Overcast days are perfect for natural light portraits because the clouds act as a huge soft box to soften the light. If there isn’t enough natural light, you may need to use an off-camera flash. Off-camera flash is suggested because the flash on your camera blasts out harsh light directly on your subject, making them look two dimensional and lifeless. An off-camera flash bounced onto your subject will create a more natural appearance. You also may have to resort to a tripod if the light is too low due to a slow shutter speed.
If you answer these 6 questions to ask before you press the shutter quickly in your head, you will notice an improvement in your images. They will become second nature after a while. You may add to this list as you become more experienced, but these will definitely make a difference in your images.
If you want to learn more and take your photography journey to the next level, you might like the Photography Master Class. This video course will definitely help you on your journey to be a better photographer.
Check out more great photography tips on our Photography Tips & Tricks page.