Knowing how to Create a Photo and Not just Take One

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A Guest post by Judd Green

You either are a portrait photographer or landscape photographer and you come across the perfect moment, everything falls into place, every aspect and variable in the equation right at this moment equals awesomeness! Now what? Fire at will captain! Take no prisoners! I once fell into this temptation in a situation where I thought it was too good to be true, and then loaded all the files later to find a heap of average shots. I fell into temptation of letting my subject/scenery take over and I just took the photo, I didn’t create it, I stopped thinking, never stop thinking.

knowing how to create a photo 1.jpg

Planning

Planning, what is the end result you are after? What steps are required in getting to that end result? If you’re doing coastal landscapes, do you want long exposures giving the photo a mystical feel to it? Or maybe a 2 or 3 second exposure to give real motion to the water and waves? With portraits, do you want a tight shot? Do you want great bokeh? Planning helps you stay relaxed therefore your subject stays relaxed.

I recently packed up and drove for 3 days in search of good country landscapes. I knew what I wanted, simple uncluttered photos that would look great blown up. I knew whatever I came across wasn’t going to deter me again, I needed simplicity yet depth, I needed to think about my composition, depth of field and ISO. So when the right moment came and all the components in the shot came together, I was ready.

knowing how to create a photo-2.jpg

Knowledge

Knowing details of weather to knowing details of your subject. When I went out west for my country landscape shots, I really wanted some night time landscapes involving stars and star trails. I didn’t check the weather and found it to be cloudy most the night, when there was a break in the clouds I found it to be a full moon which over powered the stars. The white fluffy clouds were great during the day but still, homework is always key.

knowing how to create a photo.jpg

With portraits, knowing your subject, knowing their story and getting it to come through the end result. If you don’t know them already, talk with them for a minute, find out what makes them tick. When I did a portrait of a bronze sculpture artist, I met him at his work. Glad to say I got in and got out as quickly as possible, it was stinking hot in the foundry. So planning and knowledge was definitely needed! But I wanted the heat and sweat to come through in the end result as it’s all apart of what he does, it’s apart of his story. The heat, the low light, it all worked together to allow me to create the portrait of who his is.

knowing how to create a photo-3.jpg

Always be the one in control of your photos, there will be times when you come across the most scenic places in the world, but never let it dictate the end result you’re after. Never stop thinking.

Judd Green is a Photographer from Brisbane Australia. See more of his work at www.juddricphotography.com

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  • Did you ever come across a scene and you said: “I know this is a great spot and the light is terrific. I know there is a great picture here somewhere!” — Except you can’t find it. You can’t get just the right crop or there is a little something missing here or there.

    How does one take steps to determine the “best” possible shot. I suppose you could become a gunner and just shoot the daylights (no pun intended) out of the situation, but is there a set of steps to help.

  • Here I was thinking – angles, reflections, shadows – in fact i was thinking about so much I just sat down for 10 minutes to gather my thoughts. When you start serious photography you can be overwhelmed by what to think about:

    Even with experience I still take my time to think and not rush the shot.

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Scenes-of-France/G0000BzQXTlspD3c/I0000WQPaP1KqHfk

  • Scottc

    I’m not so sure that any photographer with an unpredicatable subject (or lighting) can do that much planning, other than being ready – I do agree about the don’t stop thinking part.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5865953133/

  • Steve and Scott – both of your images are excellent!

    Knowledge and planning can go a long way to having a successful shoot. The better you are prepared, the better your odds will be that you will get the results you are looking for, even if the photo op is unexpected. I have a couple of friends that I get together with on a regular basis to shoot. Each time, we put a considerable amount of time into planning the shoot. We don’t always end up with the exact results that we planned for, but because of our preparation, we are bale to adjust as needed along the way. Here are some images from a recent gathering:

    http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com/2012/02/jello-shots.html

  • raghavendra

    i think light, subject, angle together take part in a good photography.

    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com/2011/12/majestic-shine-of-leaf.html

  • “Failure to plan is planning to fail.”, is a saying one of my heroes, David Noton is proud of saying about his shooting.

    I think that’s when I really felt I had turned a corner. When I started planning my shoots. I am only a hobbyist but I started trying to think like a pro. I used to simply take pot luck on the weather, the subject, etc. Then about a year ago I taught myself to understand weather charts and patterns, I started studying terrain maps, bought a proper GPS and smartphone with proper weather and map apps. I started spending time pouring over previous shots of my intended location. I might spend 2-3 evenings a week, maybe 2 hours a night planning the coming weekend’s activities. Planning everything I can think of.

    I will start studying the weather on the Monday morning and by Wednesday I am usually checking the weather at my chosen location every 6 hours right up until I get in the car on the Saturday morning.

    The more planning you do before hand the more you can turn up and simply get into the emotion of the scene, you know almost exactly what it will look like and have a rough idea of the tone and light. If not then you know enough to be able to compensate for things that have changed.

    The upshot is that you spend more time trying to make pictures rather than simply snapping, hoping to go home with something. You KNOW you will go home with something!

  • Planning and knowledge are imperative. With so many dSLR cameras that produce great quality at a price non-professionals can afford, planning and knowledge are what makes the difference between the amateur and the one who gets paid full time.

    Flickr:
    http://bit.ly/oufr4c

  • I would also add patience & persistence being a key requirements too…

    It’s all about waiting for the right light at the right moment… There may be times you need to go back numerous times to get the photo….

  • ccting

    OMG, the portrait and other photos are so beautiful…

    My camera takes full control of me… fire at will!!!!!

  • I think the more a photographer previsualizes a shot, sets a goal for going out shooting, and has a specific shot in mind the more likely the success at the end of the day:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2011/3/8/photography-tip-previsualization-of-bleach-bypass.html

    Every now and then I get it in my head to for example, just go out and make a few macro flower shots, or go out and get some texture photographs.

  • jim

    I am a huge planner before I shoot. I often take a lot of time before I take the shot. When I shoot with groups in abandoned properties I often find my self still holding my camera while others are snapping away. I planned this shot out in Disney after I saw the building online and did some google map research.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/22176685@N07/6331057354/in/photostream

    Google maps and Bing maps have aided in my photography a lot.

  • What settings did you use for the first picture? It looks great!

  • In order to help myself to not become overwhelmed by the shot before me, I’ve started keeping a “cheat sheet” of sorts in my camera bag to remind me of general shutter speeds, apertures, and ISO etc to aim for for certain subjects. Learning the weather patterns and knowing where the sun sets during a certain time of year goes a long way in setting up the shot.

  • Thank you for this great advice…and reminder.

  • The first photo was done in 2 shots, first one to expose the grass correctly was iso 200 at 20secs, then for the sky it was iso 200 at 3 secs all at f2.8.
    Patience and persistence is a good point too Martin, for that first shot I set my alarm for every half hour hoping the clouds to clear and the stars to shine, alas it wasn’t to be, that photo is of the cabin I stayed in taken at 3am in the morn..

  • Great advice about the Portrait Photography. Attention to detail matters!

  • David green

    Your mobile website for iPhone is messed up. First, your notice that the site can be put on the mobile desktop will not go away when you press the x. Second, your search finds stuff but when you select something it then takes you back to the previous article you were reading; very frustrating. Does any one test this stuff?

  • Kronos85

    I love your articles and try to understand and get the best out of it for my own work (well, I should say hobbie, because I can’t give it the amount of time I would, and because it is not my bread earning source ^_^).

    Reading THIS article, I couldn’t agree more about the thinking to create thing (that’s something I am not really able to do right now) but I manage to take some good shots (IMHO, and I received some encouraging comments from pros) out of nowhere, just instinctively I’d say, because it felt like a great shot to take. Sometimes it came out really as I expected sometimes not…

    Then I read this other article https://digital-photography-school.com/present-moment-photography (guest contribution) and thought (s)he was right too saying “Don’t over think or try not to think at all” !
    Because that’s the way I shoot (for now…).

    So these two points seem to be contradictory but It also seems to be a mixing of these two, I am just not sure how to sort that out…

    Any help on that would be appreciated 🙂

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Some Older Comments

  • Maryellen June 19, 2013 03:29 pm

    Bubblews is a new social bookmarking site that allows
    you to submit links and news items in 15 different categories.
    In digital point community forums you have a "profile" when you get an account.
    • Offer some thing fr*ee to motivate persons to click
    your web page link. Though site architecture and the content are also a important element of your of search engine ranking.
    If you're concerned about backlinking and how the new Panda update will affect you then you need to read this important info. Link building by the use of content writing services is an important step in making a website functional for two important reasons.

  • Kronos85 March 28, 2012 08:46 pm

    I love your articles and try to understand and get the best out of it for my own work (well, I should say hobbie, because I can't give it the amount of time I would, and because it is not my bread earning source ^_^).

    Reading THIS article, I couldn't agree more about the thinking to create thing (that's something I am not really able to do right now) but I manage to take some good shots (IMHO, and I received some encouraging comments from pros) out of nowhere, just instinctively I'd say, because it felt like a great shot to take. Sometimes it came out really as I expected sometimes not...

    Then I read this other article https://digital-photography-school.com/present-moment-photography (guest contribution) and thought (s)he was right too saying "Don’t over think or try not to think at all" !
    Because that's the way I shoot (for now...).

    So these two points seem to be contradictory but It also seems to be a mixing of these two, I am just not sure how to sort that out...

    Any help on that would be appreciated :)

  • David green March 10, 2012 05:49 am

    Your mobile website for iPhone is messed up. First, your notice that the site can be put on the mobile desktop will not go away when you press the x. Second, your search finds stuff but when you select something it then takes you back to the previous article you were reading; very frustrating. Does any one test this stuff?

  • Paul March 10, 2012 02:48 am

    Great advice about the Portrait Photography. Attention to detail matters!

  • Judd March 9, 2012 01:41 pm

    The first photo was done in 2 shots, first one to expose the grass correctly was iso 200 at 20secs, then for the sky it was iso 200 at 3 secs all at f2.8.
    Patience and persistence is a good point too Martin, for that first shot I set my alarm for every half hour hoping the clouds to clear and the stars to shine, alas it wasn't to be, that photo is of the cabin I stayed in taken at 3am in the morn..

  • Michele Morgan March 9, 2012 11:26 am

    Thank you for this great advice...and reminder.

  • Karen Rader March 7, 2012 01:08 pm

    In order to help myself to not become overwhelmed by the shot before me, I've started keeping a "cheat sheet" of sorts in my camera bag to remind me of general shutter speeds, apertures, and ISO etc to aim for for certain subjects. Learning the weather patterns and knowing where the sun sets during a certain time of year goes a long way in setting up the shot.

  • Tim Screw March 7, 2012 11:15 am

    What settings did you use for the first picture? It looks great!

  • jim March 7, 2012 12:46 am

    I am a huge planner before I shoot. I often take a lot of time before I take the shot. When I shoot with groups in abandoned properties I often find my self still holding my camera while others are snapping away. I planned this shot out in Disney after I saw the building online and did some google map research.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/22176685@N07/6331057354/in/photostream

    Google maps and Bing maps have aided in my photography a lot.

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer March 6, 2012 02:33 pm

    I think the more a photographer previsualizes a shot, sets a goal for going out shooting, and has a specific shot in mind the more likely the success at the end of the day:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2011/3/8/photography-tip-previsualization-of-bleach-bypass.html

    Every now and then I get it in my head to for example, just go out and make a few macro flower shots, or go out and get some texture photographs.

  • ccting March 6, 2012 10:31 am

    OMG, the portrait and other photos are so beautiful...

    My camera takes full control of me... fire at will!!!!!

  • Martin March 6, 2012 07:44 am

    I would also add patience & persistence being a key requirements too...

    It's all about waiting for the right light at the right moment... There may be times you need to go back numerous times to get the photo....

  • gnslngr45 March 6, 2012 04:16 am

    Planning and knowledge are imperative. With so many dSLR cameras that produce great quality at a price non-professionals can afford, planning and knowledge are what makes the difference between the amateur and the one who gets paid full time.

    Flickr:
    http://bit.ly/oufr4c

  • Fuzzypiggy March 6, 2012 12:40 am

    "Failure to plan is planning to fail.", is a saying one of my heroes, David Noton is proud of saying about his shooting.

    I think that's when I really felt I had turned a corner. When I started planning my shoots. I am only a hobbyist but I started trying to think like a pro. I used to simply take pot luck on the weather, the subject, etc. Then about a year ago I taught myself to understand weather charts and patterns, I started studying terrain maps, bought a proper GPS and smartphone with proper weather and map apps. I started spending time pouring over previous shots of my intended location. I might spend 2-3 evenings a week, maybe 2 hours a night planning the coming weekend's activities. Planning everything I can think of.

    I will start studying the weather on the Monday morning and by Wednesday I am usually checking the weather at my chosen location every 6 hours right up until I get in the car on the Saturday morning.

    The more planning you do before hand the more you can turn up and simply get into the emotion of the scene, you know almost exactly what it will look like and have a rough idea of the tone and light. If not then you know enough to be able to compensate for things that have changed.

    The upshot is that you spend more time trying to make pictures rather than simply snapping, hoping to go home with something. You KNOW you will go home with something!

  • Mridula March 5, 2012 03:58 pm

    I always try to pay head to this advice but then I often don't succeed.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2011/07/holyroodhouse-edinburgh-on-the-day-of-the-zara-philips-mike-tindall-wedding.html

  • raghavendra March 5, 2012 02:12 pm

    i think light, subject, angle together take part in a good photography.

    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com/2011/12/majestic-shine-of-leaf.html

  • Jeff E Jensen March 5, 2012 09:45 am

    Steve and Scott - both of your images are excellent!

    Knowledge and planning can go a long way to having a successful shoot. The better you are prepared, the better your odds will be that you will get the results you are looking for, even if the photo op is unexpected. I have a couple of friends that I get together with on a regular basis to shoot. Each time, we put a considerable amount of time into planning the shoot. We don't always end up with the exact results that we planned for, but because of our preparation, we are bale to adjust as needed along the way. Here are some images from a recent gathering:

    http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com/2012/02/jello-shots.html

  • Scottc March 5, 2012 08:48 am

    I'm not so sure that any photographer with an unpredicatable subject (or lighting) can do that much planning, other than being ready - I do agree about the don't stop thinking part.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5865953133/

  • steve slater March 5, 2012 06:32 am

    Here I was thinking - angles, reflections, shadows - in fact i was thinking about so much I just sat down for 10 minutes to gather my thoughts. When you start serious photography you can be overwhelmed by what to think about:

    Even with experience I still take my time to think and not rush the shot.

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Scenes-of-France/G0000BzQXTlspD3c/I0000WQPaP1KqHfk

  • Jeff March 5, 2012 06:31 am

    Did you ever come across a scene and you said: "I know this is a great spot and the light is terrific. I know there is a great picture here somewhere!" --- Except you can't find it. You can't get just the right crop or there is a little something missing here or there.

    How does one take steps to determine the "best" possible shot. I suppose you could become a gunner and just shoot the daylights (no pun intended) out of the situation, but is there a set of steps to help.

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