Thinking photographers are good photographers. It does not matter if you are a pro or an amateur – this does not make your photographs striking. It does not totally matter how good your camera and lenses are. Good equipment can produce technically superior images, but I have seen colossal numbers of horrible images shot with fantastic equipment. It’s often said the best camera is the one you have with you. (I cringe to think that often now my best camera is my mobile phone!)
Thinking photographers do not take snapshots. You make striking photographs by taking time to consider what you are doing and have some inclination of the results you desire. Sometimes this can mean a few seconds or you might take days, months or years to plan a photo shoot.
Sports photographers generally make their choices quickly. They must follow the action and choose just the right moment to shoot. Typically they have no control over their shooting environment or lighting, but have made choices in setting their equipment to handle this before the event. Photographing a football game, for example, a lens of at least 300mm will be on the camera, the aperture will be set wide to isolate the subject and allow for a fast shutter speed to freeze the action and a higher ISO set if the light is low. So, with their equipment set and their shooting location chosen, they must be ready and anticipate the action. And, as the game is played they must be quick to compose the image so the action is well framed.
Landscape photographers generally make their choices a lot more slowly. Having chosen a location to shoot a landscape photographer can spend considerable time planning their shot and waiting for the right light and season to make their photographs. Say a photographer chooses a scene with a big old tree on the side of a hill, looking down into a valley. They want a clear, still, early morning when the valley is filled with fog. This will happen in winter which could be months away. Once winter has arrived it may still takes days or weeks to get a clear morning with no rain or wind. Even before the perfect day has dawned they will have carefully considered lens. Whether to shoot wide or super wide, or if they will attach a medium lens and shoot a series of images to stitch together in a panorama. A tripod is often used to allow a narrow aperture giving optimum sharpness.
For sure these are two extremes, but I hope you understand my encouragement to think about the photograph you want to make. Whatever your preferred style of photography is – if you like sports or landscapes, portraiture, travel or street etc. – consider each photograph you want to shoot and how you can make it better.
As I have started to plan and write this blog post I have decided to draw this theme out over the next few posts and share more of how I think as I am taking photos to encourage you to become more of a thinking photographer.