{Tips for Tuesday :: Shooting with Intention} Westfield New Jersey Photographer


Shooting with Intention
Tips for Tuesday: Shooting with intention in your every day practice

Photography is not easy.  When you take into consideration both technical and design elements that are involved with the art, it can become incredibly overwhelming.  From aperture and f/stop to shutter speed, from depth of field to implying or freezing motion, from ISO and light meters, to focal points and exposure, it is no wonder that the big name camera companies work tirelessly on releasing “smart” and “creative” cameras to “do it all” for the consumer.  Because it doesn’t end doesn’t end with understanding the functions of your camera and how to use them to capture an image.  You also have lenses, flashes, shutter releases, tripods, lens hoods, filters, and camera bags to think about too.  And once your hands and bags are overflowing with gear, and you have three cameras strapped around your neck, then you will finally be ready to start shooting…

You have to learn about composition, and the intricacies of the elements and principles of design! You have to learn about light. You have to figure out why his face always looks distorted, why her eyes always look muddy, and why the picture always looks too blue or too orange.  And why, no matter what you do, everyone always looks blurry and the color is flat.

I know how difficult, confusion, and overwhelming it can be.  That is why today’s Tips for Tuesday is a reminder to you to shoot with intention as a way to help you focus your practice. Here are some tips that better explain what I mean, and help you in your every day shooting.

  1. Reel it in. With the recent increase in quality cameras for an affordable price, as well as the social networking explosion that has taken over the online experience, it is hard not to be bombarded with “awesome” images from a gazillion different styles of photography.  It makes you want to jump in head first, try it all from fashion to sports to nature to lifestyle to studio to fine art… and creates a need to live and breath photography as if your life depended on it.  I believe two things can happen from this “all in” mentality; you will quickly get burned out by the intensity of it all, or you will get trapped in a cycle of negative thinking about your own images and begin to feel inadequate.  Try to pace yourself.  Photography isn’t going anywhere, and the fundamentals will never change.  Pull it in and go at it at a steady pace.  Maybe make a list of artists that inspire you to follow.  For the “pros”: Allow yourself to be inspired, and with every image that you see and love, try to pinpoint exactly what it is about that picture that makes it appealing to you (ie: light, composition, depth of field, tones, etc).  I find it helpful to pick just one aspect, and then focus on applying that to your own work. Important!! If you intentionally use someone else’s work as a starting point for your own, and then make your work public, you absolutely HAVE to give the original artist credit. They work hard too, and it is necessary (not to mention considerate) to tell other’s where that particular idea was born.  It only takes a second to insert a link or type in a name.
  2. Quality, not quantity. Sometimes I have to remember that there are digital photographers out there who have never touched a roll of film.  Sometimes I have to remind myself what it was like when all you had was film, and digital cameras were a rarity.  When you went out equipped with a fresh roll of film, you made sure that each and every shot was correctly metered and composed before releasing the shutter.  You didn’t just walk around shooting off frames hoping for a good one.  You worked hard to get your shot, and you made notes in your notebook on the conditions you were shooting in, the settings you used, and the composition you created, so if the shot didn’t work, you could improve on it in your next roll of film.  I try to practice the art of shooting with intention by challenging myself to make a limited number of exposures in any given shooting situation.  If I am heading out to a session where I need 30 quality images for my clients, I will try to shoot 50 in the time I spend with them.  If I am looking to capture my girls doing a craft or playing a game to represent our day, then I will fire off 5 frames.  If we are going to the zoo and I want to walk away with 15 or so images that tell a story from the day, then I will shoot maybe 30 images.  By limiting myself to a certain number of exposures, I force myself to “see” every shot, and the true beauty in every moment that is unfolding. For the “pros”: I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get so stressed out about making an image “perfect”, that I take shot after shot after shot until I want to throw my camera out the window and learn how to cross-stitch instead.  Remember, we all go through times when just the act of shooting is important, but even during these times I feel that allowing yourself the freedom to create can be enhanced by shooting fewer frames.  Just take a deep breath, open your eyes to the world around you, and do what you love to do.
  3. Pick a name out of a hat.  Try picking out just one skill to work on, and focus on that skill for a week or two.  This will help you to better understand not only photography in general, but also the ins and outs of your camera.  I have been “seriously” shooting for three years now, and I am constantly trying to fine tune my skills and better understand my camera by focusing on one skill or theory.  By picking one area, like practicing shutter speed, or understanding aperture, you will be simplifying a very complex craft.
    An empty bench overlooking the city at Rockefeller Overlook
    Typically a wide angle or telephoto lens is recommended when shooting cityscapes. To stretch my creativity, I decided to shoot with my 50mm lens. This allowed me to see the Outlook from a different perspective and tell the story in a unique way.

    I also will do this with lenses.  I will pick one lens and use ONLY that lens for a week or more.  No matter what.  Different lenses are often labeled as appropriate for specific shooting situations (read: The best lens for landscapes is lens X, or the best portrait lens on the market is lens Y), and I find these labels are generally correct, but incredibly limiting.  If I use only a “portrait” lens to shoot portraits, I will miss all of the potential compositions and moments that may be otherwise captured using an unusual lens choice.  For the “pros”: You can also learn a lot by trying a different style of photography.  Do you only shoot portraits? Try a landscape.  Used to only shooting sports? Rent a macro lens.  I believe that experimenting with different styles can strengthen your specialty!

    I hope you found these tips useful!

    This post is part of the Tips for Tuesday weekly feature.  If you have a question you would like answered, or a topic that you would like to see discussed, please feel free to get in touch through the contact form here on the blog (by clicking the contact button at the top of the page), or by touching base through my Facebook Fanpage!

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  • Great tips – especially quality over quantity!

  • I love the idea of picking one skill a week to work on – great for those down times in our business! Great article!

  • Great reminders for all photogs Meg. Thanks!

  • Thanks so much for stopping by, Angie!

  • So true, Melinda! I think that there is always something that we can learn or improve upon!

  • Thanks, Rachel! Especially with editing, no? Easier to sort through 50 images than 350!

  • These ideas are brilliant. Thank you for sharing. I am so glad Melinda Brookshire tweeted this so I could discover it : )

  • Thanks so much for stopping by, and it is very nice to “meet” you!

  • Such wonderful tips, Meg! Especially the quantity over quality…that really struck a chord with me. I so vividly remember toting a notebook around with my film camera making notes on every shot!