I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes a good photo.
I’ve spent a lot of time practicing making my photos better.
That last part is way more important than the first part. And yeah, everyone tells you: to take better pictures, you need to practice, practice, practice—it’s true. But. If your practice isn’t guided and mindful, if you go into it blind and annoyed that your pictures aren’t magazine-worthy yet, you’ll either 1. Quit very soon or 2. Take a long time to get photos that make your heart sing.
This is the part where I tell you how to make your photos better in 5 minutes or less—whether you’re capturing photos of your adorable babies or your impeccable dessert or your beautiful grandmother.
1. Set an intention for your photo.
Since our world is so flooded with pictures, we don’t often think about why we’re really taking a photograph. Are you making art? Documenting a precious moment? Trying to capture a feeling? It might feel a little woo-woo, but say that intention aloud before you take a photo (aight, you can whisper if you’re feeling shy.) This gives you a direction and focus and a meter by which to judge your resulting photo: did you accomplish what you intended? Of course you’re not going to do this for every photo you take, but it’s good practice to slow down and get purposeful about your photos.
2. Learn the technical aspects of your camera—whether it’s an iPhone or a DSLR.
My life changed the day I learned that you can control exposure on an iPhone by tapping the subject you want to expose (and yes, some of you are rolling your pretty little eyes right now. It’s fine.) There are so many simple things that will change your photographic world and make you think omgosh WHY didn’t I learn this sooner? Google is your best friend, along with your camera manual. I’m still learning new techniques that help me up my photographic game.
3. Experiment with light.
Find the kind of light you are attracted to, and here’s where the “practice, practice, practice” advice comes in. It’s the only way to learn to use light to flatter your subject, elicit emotion, and create the mood you want in a photo. Notice, too, that we’re experimenting with ALL kinds of light and not just window light or golden hour light or even just natural light—if you have a light bulb you’ll be set for hours of experimenting. (Or as long as your subject will tolerate you… J)
4. Ask for feedback.
Send your favorite few photos to a variety of people: a photographer, a different kind of artist, a friend, and a stranger. Ask for a general reaction, how the viewer feels looking at the photo, and then ask for any other thoughts. Be proactive in letting your people know that you don’t need to know if they ‘like’ the photo or not; you’re simply discovering whether you accomplished your intention for a specific photo.
Whenever I’m feeling photographically stuck, one of these 5-minute solutions is usually the answer. I hope they lend some insight into your own picture-taking, regardless of whether you’re a photo lover or just trying to capture your world as beautifully as possible.
Now you’ve read this, and we know it’ll be useless to you without accountability. So choose a 5 minute exercise now–either schedule it in your calendar or just go on and do it–and tell me which one you’re doin’ in the comments below.
P.S. I wanna see the results of your 5 minute photo adventures! Post ’em on instagram and holler at me @brookeschultz1.