Ask Yourself Before You Click

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Consider asking yourself any or all of these questions, before you click the shutter, and see how much your photography improves!

What is my subject? This may seem like a rather obvious concept, to some. After all, we’re taking a picture of something, and that something should be the subject, right? However, we may find ourselves on occasion clicking the shutter arbitrarily, without thoughtfully defining the subject we intend to shoot. Consider the photograph above. In this instance, I believe it was the photographer’s goal to simply capture the confusion of lines. But, in not having a clearly defined subject, it is sometimes difficult for the viewer to understand the photographer’s intent.

What story am I trying to tell? There is a story behind every photograph. As you are looking through the viewfinder, describe to yourself what you want that story to be. In looking at the scene with a storyteller’s eye, the meaning is transposed into the photograph as it is taken. As an exercise, give the shot a title before you take the picture. Knowing what you are going to call it can help you pinpoint the story you are trying to tell.

What feeling am I trying to generate? Similar to a picture that tells a story, a photograph is also compelling when it evokes some sort of emotion. As you compose the picture, consider specifically analyzing what feelings the scene evokes in you. Peace? Happiness? Loneliness? Excitement? Unease? Clearly recognizing the emotions within yourself helps to focus and interject the feelings into your photographs.

How can I better compose the shot? We cannot forget the technical aspects of our photography skills, when trying to improve upon the pictures that we take. As you set up the shot, run through your knowledge base and ascertain if there is any way you can better compose the photograph. Slow down, take a breath, and look through the viewfinder with a critical eye. Are you following the rule of thirds? How is your balance? Are you cropping or merging where you shouldn’t? How is your focus? How is the lighting? Try not to be in a hurry, if you don’t need to be. Trust your instincts, but trust your knowledge as well.

Who is my audience? Are you taking photos for a client? Are you simply recording memories for your own enjoyment? Are you going to share your photographs with friends? Family? Are you going to post them on-line? Are they for a school assignment? A project? A contest? Keep your audience in mind when you take your photographs. By doing so you are sure to capture images that resonate with them.

Do you have any questions that you ask yourself, or a mental process that you go through, in order to improve your photography? Please feel free to share your advice in the comments!

Photo credits (in order of appearance):
- “confusion” by polandeze on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “solitary tree” by Minnie Mouse Aunt on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “One cow, one ferris wheel” by Kevin Dooley on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “beautiful sky” by Johnny on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Wedding Day Jump” by fevisyu on Flickr Creative Commons.

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