How do you take better photos, with which camera, what equipment, what technology, post-processing, color theory,… If you are looking for how to take better photos, you will find many answers.
I never tire of repeating it when I meet people who want to become photographers- what you see and how you see it is much more important when taking photos than any equipment, no matter how expensive, that you can get for good money. A cheap compact camera or a smartphone is sufficient to take better photos. In principle, anything you can take photos with is sufficient. If you know how! It’s like cooking.
A good chef will use what he finds in your kitchen to create something you wouldn’t expect. A bad cook probably won’t be able to get anything out of the best kitchen with assistants and all the ingredients.
Some, like Mozart, simply fall from the sky with a huge talent and an innate eye. But only some. The rest of us have to learn our craft first.
And by learn, I don’t mean reading a few tips on the internet. I don’t want to fool you; there are no shortcuts that will turn you into a top photographer tomorrow morning. Learning photography is a marathon, not a sprint.
But there are some techniques and exercises on how you can manage to work with light, work with image composition and composition to tell stories with your photos, and capture perspectives that really surprise the viewer. Yes, you can learn to take photos. And that’s where you start to find your own path and your own definition of “better photos.”
Today, I’m giving you one of my favorite exercises, which I’ve been doing over and over again since I started taking photographs and which has certainly taken me the furthest of all, in this article. Aside from light, aperture, exposure time, and the other things that make up a photo, the most powerful element in a photo is still the expression/story it tells. That’s exactly what we want to improve with this exercise.
I have also told my friends who were bad at taking good photos about this exercise, And the feedback I have received on this exercise tells me it is a bit unexpected but extremely productive and a big step forward for everyone who has completed it. Many friends literally got stuck in this exercise and confirmed to me that their entire perception had actually changed as a result of this exercise.
And so does their photography. The best thing about it is that it’s actually very (very, very) simple There are 3 points that you can find on (almost) every motif. Some subjects may just take longer to figure out. But that’s exactly what exercises are all about: you get busy and solve a problem. No matter whether with the camera or without.
Find a subject that interests you (you should never take a photo of something that doesn’t interest you anyway; it usually ends in failure). And then look for these 3 points on this subject before you even turn on the camera: Shape – information – emotion. To simplify this a bit, let’s take a banal example. An Apple. How are you supposed to find these 3 points? Very easy:
- In the first picture, simply show an apple.
- For information purposes, you could, for example, cut the apple open and show what’s inside. – Picture 2.
- And for the emotion, you let someone bite the apple or put it in someone’s hand. You show the emotion that the apple can trigger. Picture 3.
This exercise is so simple, almost banal, and yet so effective at the same time (if you do it consistently ;)). The more you use it on different subjects, the more you’ll find that you’re no longer satisfied with just pointing the camera at one subject and shooting. It’s no longer about the camera but about the picture you take with it.
You will automatically start to question – what else could I show about this motif, how could I present it differently, what aspect am I missing at first glance that might be even more interesting at second glance than the first… And yet you define what “better photos” actually mean to you. What does “better photos” mean to you?
And that’s exactly what brings you to the photos that people look at for more than a second in this dense noise of images that overflows us at every corner. This is how you find your own way to stand out and take photos that only you can take.
I deliberately do not show any further examples in this exercise. The most important point about the exercise is the thoughts you put into it.
Sometimes, the thousands of tutorials and inspiration you can find online today are more part of the problem than part of the solution. We don’t learn by “replicating” individual pieces of a puzzle. By practicing these individual skills and doing them the way they were shown to us.
We learn when we have to strain our brains. When someone puts us on the right path, shows us how to put one foot in front of the other, and then lets us fall on our face and then immediately picks us up again, gives us courage, and maybe tells us where our mistakes were.
They say that if you put ten photographers in front of 1 subject, you will probably get ten very different pictures of the same subject.
Precisely because your thoughts, your perspective, your perception, and your interpretation are so much more important than the camera and any other piece of equipment in photography. Cameras, flashes, and all the other expensive fun are just tools, just like the pots for the cook. What you make of it is entirely up to you and within you.
And unlike a camera that anyone can buy, the way you look at things actually makes your images unique. This is your only chance to stand out and find your own style. And my goal is not to show you a single recipe that you can then cook. My goal is to give you a basic understanding of how the tools and ingredients work so that you can use them to create your own dish.