3 Tips for Establishing a Photographic Strategy and Improving Your Photographs

Whether you are an amateur or professional photographer, you need to establish a photographic strategy to create your photos.

You may think that your photographic activity rests upon the definition of a strong strategic approach and creativity. Do not make this mistake.

To create photos that will be appreciated, recognized, interesting and meaningful, you need a reliable process to improve the quality of your photos.

This process is defined by the photographic strategy. It is a new tool to improve and strengthen your photographic approach. I place it on the same level as the photographic why.

This article will help you understand how to implement a new tool in your photography toolbox. By implementing it, you will make your photos even more interesting and instill in them true meaning.

Conceptual photo taken at the surface of water from a floating blind.
Conceptual photo taken at the surface of water from a floating blind.

The Story Behind This Article

After the publication of my column about developing photographic intelligence to improve the quality of a photographic approach, I received several phone calls from readers of my blog.

As a result of the various discussions, I have had with my readers, I have realized that even though the questions were a little different in form, they all had the same substance.

The recurring question from most of my interlocutors was about their photographic why and how to set it up. The other underlying question was about the definition of their photographic vision.

Rather than provide answers to these questions, I asked them what their reasons were for practicing photography and how they managed their photographic projects. None of them were able to give me clear and precise reasons.

I explained to all of them that without a clear goal and especially without a long-term strategy, they would have the greatest difficulty in defining a strong photographic why and an associated approach.

I advised them first to develop a photographic strategy.

I thought that if a few people were experiencing this problem, there must be others. That is why I am writing this column. I hope it will give you some answers to your questions.


The Truth: We Take Pictures to Be Appreciated by Others

You and I create photos for several reasons:

  • To please yourself.
  • To create something meaningful.
  • To discover other horizons while photographing.
  • Etc.

The list of reasons is long. I am sure that you can think of more.

But the main reason is that we crave appreciation and validation from other people. At least for me it is particularly important. I am not saying that we want to be liked and appreciated by everyone. I am just saying that we want to have an audience that finds our pictures beautiful and interesting. To feel alone in this world can destroy our motivation for doing things, thus it makes perfect sense that we find motivation through others' encouragement and support.

We want our photographic activity to be recognized. We want to receive compliments and praise. We cannot help it. We are human beings.

If you do not agree or if you are not convinced, I invite you to look at Maslow's pyramid. Abraham Maslow is an American psychologist who developed a theory of motivation called the "Hierarchy of Needs".

His theory states that we have different levels of needs that must be met: physiological, security, belonging, love, and self-esteem. Once each of these needs is met, we enter the last hierarchy: the need for self-actualization.

When we create pictures, we inevitably enter this last bracket which is the top of the pyramid of needs. We need to be recognized by others and to be appreciated.

But to be recognized, you and I must be different. We must create photographs that do not look like others. If we want our photography to appeal to others, we must focus on developing a photographic strategy that appeals to us.

In the rest of this article, I will give you some tips on how to do this.


The Definition of the Word "Strategy"

The word "strategy" does not only have a military or marketing connotation. I really appreciate this definition which can be applied to everyday life.

Strategy is the art of coordinating actions, of maneuvering skillfully to achieve a goal.


Application to Photography

If I apply this definition to the photographic activity, I can say that a photographic strategy consists in setting up actions to reach a goal.

This goal can be an exhibition, a contest, a book, publications in magazines, a slide show, or simply photos that you show to friends or relatives.

I think that in photography, as in most creative fields, it is essential to define goals. I always say that if you do not know where you want to go, you will never get there.

But be careful, the end is not always the goal. The important thing in the journey is not the goal, but the steps you will take. For example, if your goal is to organize an exhibition with your photos, the goal is to show them printed on paper. But the most important steps are the definition of the project, the editing phase, the choice of color or black and white, the choice of the size of the photos, the choice of the paper. In my opinion, these phases can be just as exciting as the outcome.

Defining your photographic strategy for a photo project is defining your photographic how. You will define the means to achieve a goal.

I did specify that this tool is part of a photo project. You can use it as part of your overall photography strategy, but I do not recommend it: it's too broad.

This tool may seem a bit theoretical to you. But you can trust me. Its impact is measurable in the field when shooting and developing.

A good photographic strategy allows your photo to:

  • Be well composed.
  • Be well Framed.
  • Have designated points of view.
  • Incorporate proper development tools.

I hope you realize the importance of this tool in the photographic approach.


Tip #1: Define the Target of Your Photos

The first tip I will give you to define your photographic strategy for a photo project is to define what goal you want to achieve.

Here are some ideas:

  • Perhaps you want to participate in a photo contest. In this case, I advise you to read the rules and regulations carefully and to analyze the results of previous editions. You will then form an idea of the kind of pictures you wish to take.
  • If you are creating a photo exhibition, make sure your photos are consistent with each other. Do not vary the framing or your viewers will be lost in the reading. Choose color or black and white, but not both.
  • If you want to be published in a magazine, be sure to ask the art director what kind of photos he or she is looking for. Look at past issues for examples of framing and composition.
  • If you want to create a slide show to show at your photo club or to share with your friends, focus on telling a story with a beginning, a development, and an end. Do not be too long; 10 minutes at maximum. Be careful with the choice of music..

Whatever your goal for a photo project, prepare it carefully. Do not leave anything to chance. Even if you plan, nothing ever goes as you think it well. In preparing well, you can avoid the most common pitfalls.


Tip #2: Strengthen Your Photographic Intelligence

In the previous paragraph, I wrote that nothing ever goes according to plan when doing a photo project. This is the reality. This is where your photographic intelligence must come in. You must adapt constantly. Do not take anything for granted. Every situation, every shot will have to be considered as part of your photo project.

For example, perhaps you have decided to conduct a wildlife photography project for an exhibition with wide shots to show ambiences. You use a fixed blind. Unfortunately, during several sessions, the animals are too far away. You have a choice: use a focal length multiplier or crop in post-production. This is a simple example, but it shows you that you must be adaptable, and it helps you recognize the moment where you should have included a focal length multiplier. These adjustments can benefit you when you are planning your next strategy for a project.

Developing your photographic intelligence is part of your photographic strategy.


Tip #3: Find the Balance in Your Photographic Compromise

Ah, the photographic compromise! It is a long-running story. You create photos for yourself. You want to express yourself. You want to show your emotions and transmit messages that are personal to you.

But then you must remember your audience or your viewers. These are the people who will look at your photos. You need to please them too by creating photos for them. If you just create photos for yourself without thinking about your audience, you will quickly reduce your fan base, because you are not creating connections.

You must make a compromise between your choices and those that drive your audience. Finding the balance is not easy. Yet you must do it.

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If you do not think about your audience, it will slowly disappear. You will be disappointed because nobody will appreciate your photos. You will stop taking pictures.

If you only think about your audience, you will be appreciated. But you will not express yourself the way you want to. Eventually, you will be frustrated. You will stop taking pictures.

In both cases, the result will be the same. It will be the end of your photographic activity. To remedy this, you must make a photographic compromise.

Your photographic strategy must take this trade-off into account.



I hope this article has helped you understand that to make good photos for a given project, it is necessary to adopt a photographic strategy. You need to plan and think about what you want to achieve.

Without strategy, there are no good photos. It is as simple as that.

You will have to make compromises, but that is what life is all about. That is okay.

Never forget that we are making pictures for a given audience, we need recognition. Feeling validated is a human need. Photography strategy is one of the tools you can use to receive that recognition we all seek in our photography business.

Be humble, patient, constant, persevering, and persistent because the road to excellence is long.


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