#1: Know Where To Be, and When To Be There
Understanding what it means to “know where to be, and when to be there” is key in taking better photos. Before going on a shoot, make sure you are aware of your surroundings. For example if planning to be outside, check the weather conditions. Are you hoping for a moody, overcast day or for a bright blue sky? The hour right after sunrise and right before sunset are known as “golden hour.” Warm horizontally directed light is more flattering on a subject than the harsh light you’d get say at noon. Scouting and taking test shots during different times of the day is a great way to find new locations as well. The more you shoot the greater chance you have of knowing where to be and when to be there.
#2: Be Familiar With Your Equipment
Knowing how to use your camera should go without saying, however there are always opportunities to improve your knowledge. I can’t tell you how many times, when I first started with photography, I would show up to a spot knowing exactly ‘where I wanted to be and when I wanted to be there’ but still was not confident or familiar enough with my camera to capture what was directly in front of me the way it looked to the naked eye. Getting familiar with you gear is fairly simple. Reading your cameras instruction manual is a great starting point. Learn how to properly use your flash, tripod, or any other accessories you use often on your camera. Watch Youtube tutorials about applying different settings, lighting and composition. Read books about photography. Do what ever you need to do to continue to practice. The more you use your equipment the faster you will master all of their features and begin to develop style.
#3 Tell/Create Your Own Story
If photography is a visual means of telling a story, one would assume the story is the most important part, right? Unfortunately, often times this gets overlooked. With platforms like Instagram it gets easy to see every nature or city shot as a beautiful photo. While they may be visually appealing, the story behind them is usually lacking substantially. The story is either “traveling is fun” or “nature is beautiful.” Which are both overplayed and unoriginal. I must admit that I still tell both those stories, often. My point is not to put down on urban or nature photography (keep in mind, that is 99% of the content I publish), but to bring to the realization that stories like these are easily replicated if a person has enough time and available resources.
Weak stories are ones that everyone has access to, thus making them easy to replicate. Strong stories are those that either no one knows about or are able to gain access to (think spur of the moment type event). The options are finding a story or creating one. It’s up to the photographer to decide which to tell.
If you’re able to consistently find awe-inspiring stories that no one else has found before, congratulations you have made yourself invaluable. If you’re able to tell stories by consistently creating exciting and fresh stories, congratulations, you too have made yourself invaluable.
If what interests you about photography is to create something one of a kind and hard to replicate, focus your efforts on creating stories rather than finding stories. There’s always going to be people who are able to find any given story. It takes someone special to be able to create them.