You just got home from that dream vacation and copied your photographs from your camera to your computer. In anticipation, you sit down and start scrolling through the shots you thought would be fantastic and are disappointed in the results. Too many are blurry. Some are too light or too dark. A few have distracting elements that you didn’t see when you took them. What happened?
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What happened is you made the same mistake many beginning and even advanced photographers make. You got in a hurry. You saw something and whipped out your camera to nail the shot before you moved on to the next one. The resulting images are unsatisfactory. How do you fix this? If the problem is that you got in too much of a hurry, then the solution is simple; slow down.
You’re on vacation. What’s the rush? Instead of trying to get 1,000 average pictures, try for 100 great ones. When you see that special subject you want to shoot, first, do nothing. Take a deep breath. Look at the subject again. Walk around and look at it from different angles. Look at where the light is coming from. Think about the composition.
After you have done all that, then take out your camera. Find the spot you have chosen to shoot from and look at the subject again through the lens. While looking through the lens, look all around the frame, along the edges and into the corners. What else is going to be in the shot? Does it add to the photograph or distract from it? If it doesn’t add anything, think of ways to get rid of it. Change the angle. Change your viewpoint. Move closer or further away. Get down low or find high ground.
Now you have the shot you want to take in mind and you have chosen where to shoot it from. Look through the lens again. Where is your focal point? What part of the image is most important to be in focus? How much depth of field do you need? Based on these decisions, adjust your aperture and focal point and recompose the image in your viewfinder.
Next,look through the lens one more time. How bright is the brightest part of the image and how dark are the shadows? Can you find a shutter speed that will give you a good exposure across the entire frame? If not, what will you have to sacrifice to get the best light on the main subject? Maybe you’ll need to let some shadows fall to black. Maybe the sky will need to be blown out a bit. Understand what needs to be perfectly exposed and work around that.
Finally, after all those decisions have been made and you have everything set for the image you want to capture, bring the camera up to your eye one last time and look through the viewfinder. Make sure the image is level in the frame. Steady your stance and plant your feet rock solid. Brace your elbows tight in against your body. Hold the camera tight against your face. Take a deep breath, and then slowly rock your finger across the shutter button. Now you have taken the photograph you envisioned when you first came on the scene and captured a keeper.
Take your time. Slow down and nail those perfect holiday images you will be just as proud of after you get back home.