Tips to Make Better Images : Taking or Making

I admit to being a bit pedantic about this, but there is a substantial difference between taking a picture and making a photograph.  Thats not to say that there is anything wrong with taking pictures but the real joy and differentiation comes when you make a photograph. Youre driving along and see something that grabs your eye.  You pull over and take a few shots with your smartphone and get back to the driving.  Youre sitting at home and the cat does something amusing.  You grab the camera and snap some shots before it bores of you and ambles off to sleep.  Your child comes out of her bedroom with a sleepy face, mussed hair, thumb in mouth and shes just so cute you hit the burst mode to capture this moment in time.  These are all great pictures, fun to share with family, friends and social networks if you go that way.

At another time you decide to make a photograph of a friend.  Before you shoot, you mentally visualize the final image.  You think about light and shadow.  You consider the dimensionality of the image.  You think about the background, and make a decision to throw it out of focus by using shallow depth of field, and check to make sure that it wont create distractions.  You meter carefully to position yourself to maximize soft light and reduce contrast in your friends face.  You make sure that there wont be anything growing out of her head.  You look for wrinkles in the clothing, you have her press her chin forward to streamline her neck and you make sure that her eyes arent buried in shadow.  You tighten up your composition to fill the frame and place her face into a pleasing arrangement.  You decide that a bit of fill flash will help fill shadows under the eyebrows and under the chin, so you add your flash and diffuser and watch that they dont create shadows in opposition to the existing light.  As you press the shutter you watch for an expression that creates a framework for the viewer to create his or her own story.

If the last scenario sounds like a lot more work than the first three, you are correct.  Its the difference between making a photograph and taking pictures.  Both are valuable, both have reason to exist but its the last one that will help you grow as a photographer.  Im not ever going to advocate a 365 anything as I find them to go mechanical very quickly.  What I do encourage you to do is to challenge yourself to make photographs regularly.  Every photograph doesnt have to be museum grade, every photograph does not need to be a saleable item.  While many of our mentors derive all their income from photography, many of us do this for the fun and joy of having and investing in a creative pursuit.  The only viewer you have to please is you, and if part of that pleasure is learning what does and does not work, youre winning.