Important Questions to Ask Before You Take a Photo
Here’s a list of important questions you should ask yourself before you take a photo. These questions will help you take more creative photos. They will make you think about the photography process instead of merely being a person who switches roles with a machine and lets the camera decide while being the automaton who merely pushes the shutter button.
These questions aren’t always easy to answer. In fact, they may be downright frustrating to answer at times. However, they will force you to use your creativity and help you look at your photography in a new light (pun intended) and only until you can see things in a different way, will you begin to advance in your photography journey. After all, isn’t photography the art of “seeing”?
It’s especially important to note that none of these questions are limited by your gear. I’ve specifically wrote them so that your gear (or lack thereof) won’t be an issue in helping you create beautiful, stark and interesting photos. I know I don’t have access to the best gear available. In fact, I shoot with a Canon T2i that I picked up for $400 used on ebay. Your creativity is primary, your gear is secondary.
And since this article is about a list of questions, I thought I'd write the entire article in question format - you dig?
Is this the best angle to take the photo?
Taking another picture at eye level? You don’t think we’ve seen that before? Have you tried moving your camera up (high angle) or really high (bird’s eye)? How about moving the camera down (low angle) or really low (ant’s eye)? What about tilting your camera at a slant (dutch tilt)?
Is this the best distance to take the photo?
Are you standing at the exact spot where someone handed you a camera to help them take a photo? Are you standing at the same spot every other tourist is? Why not move in closer to your subject? Never knew the details could be so interesting did you? How about getting really far away from the subject? Didn’t realize how shapes and composition become even more important?
Is this the best time to take the photo?
Do you take photos only when it’s convenient? Do you also lament at how your photos always look the same? Well, have you thought maybe its because you’re always taking them at the same time? Have you noticed how direct afternoon light creates intense, strong shadows? Did you see how the setting sun bathes everything in a warm, soft glow? Isn’t it cool that you can create exciting streaks of light by taking long exposures in the nighttime?
Can I get a more interesting point of view?
Who says your subject has to be facing the camera? Wouldn’t it be cool to take a picture from the subject’s point-of-view? Would a picture of a public speaker look better from behind the podium facing the audience, rather than the typical front shot showing a simple background? Or how about a fly-on-the-wall point of view where foreground objects are exaggerated?
Is there a better composition for my photo?
Do I really want my subject in the middle of the photo? Am I taking a portrait of a person with only half a body? Does my subject have no hands? Is the rule of thirds really a rule I have to follow? What will happen to my photo if I break the compositional rules I’ve learned?
What do I want the viewer to feel when they see this image?
Do you take your photos so that people can see them or just so you can store them on your computer? If your answer is the former, then have you ever thought about what kind of feelings, emotions and sensations you want your viewer to experience when they look at your photos? Do you want your viewers to feel happy, sad, afraid, curious, excited or angry? Do you like to look at pictures that evoke an emotional response or would you rather look at ones that don’t?
What creative effect am I trying to achieve?
Do you think there's only one way to get an exposure? What happens if you use a slower shutter speed and a smaller aperture? What about a higher ISO and a longer shutter speed? Wouldn't it be better to know what creative effect you want and then instead of asking, "what is the correct shutter speed?" - you can ask, "what shutter speed can I use to give me the creative effective I desire?"
Can I move my subject to get a better photo?
We all know that as a photographer you have the ability to move around your subject - but did you know that you can also move your subject around? What about having your subject in a different position? Instead of sitting why not try standing? Instead of standing why not try lying down? Instead of lying down why not try jumping?
Are there interesting elements in the scene or nearby that I can use to my advantage?
Are there some street lamps that will give a nice bokeh and provide some excitement to your nighttime portrait? How about shallow depth-of-field on some neon lights? Is there a prop that I can use that will add some interesting contrast?
Are there distracting elements in the scene that I can remove?
Is there a trash can in your beautiful portrait photo? Is there a tree sticking out behind your subject’s head? Are there people in the way? Are there objects blocking your view? Would it be possible to remove any of these?
What is interesting about my subject and how best can I express that visually?
Is there a striking visual feature about your subject that you can reveal in your photo? Is there a back story about your subject that you can get across? What is the most interesting aspect about your subject? What is it about your subject that grabs your attention and draws you in? Can you find a way to portray this in your photo?