Why and How: Improving Your Photos in 15 Steps – Part 1
Do you want to truly improve the quality of your nature photographs by making them more interesting and creative?
Do you want to go above and beyond in making beautiful postcards?
If so, you are like me.
In this article, I offer 15 tips that I apply for each of my fine art print collections.
Take your time when reading this article because I am revealing the very essence of photography.
Table of Contents
- The Little Story Behind This Article
- Revisiting the Necessary Points for Judging a Photo
- TDLSC: The Essential Rule for Creating a Nature Photograph
- Tip #1: Creating Photos That Look Like You
- Tip #2: Perfectly Mastering the Technique
- Tip #3: Seek Inspiration
- Tip #4: Create Images That Produce an Emotional Impact
- Tip #5: Create Images Based off Your Experiences
- Tip #6: Expanding Beyond Illustrative Images
- Tip #7: Photographing Iconic Scenes with a Single Idea
- Tip #8: Look at Nature in a Different Way
- Tip #9: Create Photos for Yourself
- Tip #10: Imagine your Photos Before Shooting
- Tip #11: Be Simple
- Tip #12: Finding a Mentor
- Tip #13: Tell Stories
- Tip #14: Choose Two or Three Photo Themes
- Tip #15: Practice
The Little Story Behind This Article
It was the month of February. The temperatures were quite pleasant in Arizona. I left our studio in Texas for three weeks to create new photographs for my master photo project. For three days, I hiked the Valley of the Gods. I had only met two people since the start of my journey.
Whenever I begin working on new photos for any personal project, I experience extraordinary energy. Before embarking on my trip, I had visited dozens of websites which discussed the Valley of the Gods and read several books on this amazing place. I felt prepared and inspired on that first day of the journey. As I held my camera in my hands, I felt a thrill of energy at the prospect of this new project.
I decided to set a goal for myself of capturing six black and white photographs.
For three days, I drove between the buttes with my off-road vehicle. I had not yet managed to create a single photo. The sky was perfectly blue. The light was beautiful in the middle of the morning and in the middle of the afternoon. However, there was not a single cloud.
The presence of clouds was important because I needed them to help portray my own emotions. I needed the clouds to accentuate the drama and majesty of my scenes. I needed the clouds to provide intense scenes with multiple planes to create layers of depth. The clouds would allow me to accentuate the details of these marvelous mineral landscapes.
Sadly, I realized that the clouds I wanted would not appear that first day. then, the depression announced did not happen. I would have to wait until the next day. I was depressed, and I was not sure how to best utilize my time as I waited for the end of the day to draw near.
At that moment, I was sitting on a rock. My picnic was ready, and I began to mentally list the essential points of create interesting photos.
Suddenly, the following tips began to circulate in my mind, as if they were a mantra. After repetitively thinking of the same points, I grasped my voice recorder which is always at my side. It is my reminder to capture my thoughts when they appear. I spoke out loud. A squirrel waiting for me to give him a few crumbs from my meal gazed up at me. He must have really thought that human beings are a strange species.
If he knew the importance of everything I said, he would consider me differently.
The rest of this article is a summary of all these points that I apply in my photo projects.
Revisiting the Necessary Points for Judging a Photo
There are 10 points you must always remember when judging your photos.
You can use this method as a central application or as an alternative to your own method for judging images.
I advise you to print this list and always have it with you. With time invested in practice, you will think of them automatically.
- Centers of interest
- Management of color.
TDLSC: The Essential Rule for Creating a Nature Photograph
When you create a picture of nature, you must always keep in mind the five following essential points. This is what I call the TDLSC rule.
The following paragraphs discuss this rule in further detail.
The first letter of ' T ' stands for timing.
You must always choose the right moment to shoot and take your photo. For an animal photo, it can be a behavior or an attitude.
In underwater photo, it can be the position of a fish, or an underwater mammal.
In landscape photography, it can be a light that will highlight a mineral structure, vegetal textures, or a reflection.
Timing also refers to the specific time of the year in which you are creating the photo project when the weather is favorable.
In wildlife photography, timing refers to when an event occurs.
In landscape photography, it refers to when a phenomenon, such as the northern lights, is most active.
In underwater photography, it may refer to the season of coral spawning.
I believe that in photography, everything involves the question of timing. There may be certain times that are better than others to take interesting photos. Be curious.
Before going to the field for a photo project or a photo session, be sure that luck is on your side by researching and choosing to photograph in the time that best suits your photographic situation.
The letter of 'D' stands for the decor.
This is the second point of my rule. The decor is especially important for the construction of your photographs. Without decor, there are no good photos.
You may ask yourself, “Well then, what is an appropriate décor?” Ultimately, appropriate décor includes the objects and scenery that carry your photographic elements and enhance them.
The decor must have a balance of masses, it must use the “creepage”, that is, the gradual movement of lines of convergence, etc. This is what I explain in my article on how to use photographic language.
Never forget that the decor is like a situation where you showcase your main subject.
Take an analogy of a piece of jewelry, for example. You may choose to give a piece of jewelry to a special person in your life. The packaging will most likely reveal the brand. Next, the jewelry case will entice the person who is receiving the gift. They have not yet seen the jewel, and yet, they are flooded with excitement and are alert to what will happen next, the revelation of a breathtaking gem or intricate metal design. They are “triggered” with excitement by the packaging and case, and they have not even seen the piece yet.
A good nature photograph accomplishes the exact same result. The décor will entice your audience's appetite so that the viewers will want to analyze your photograph.
'L' concerns the light.
This is the third-most important point that you must consider. Whether in landscape photography, underwater photography, or wildlife photography, light creates the dynamics, the relief, and the depth of your nature photographs. It is what establishes depth to your images. In this case, I am talking about natural light.
Personally, I prefer side lighting because it allows me to create shadows that generates modeling.
'S' stands for the subject.
You may be asking why I placed the subject so far down the list in my rule.
The reason is simple. It is not that important. For example, in abstract conceptual photographs, it is the atmosphere and the colors which are most important for the photographer to focus on.
The subject in artistic and creative photography is simply one of the many elements that will translate your emotions, feelings, and messages.
The subject acts as a support beam. It holds up the emotion that is shared in the image. It could also be used as a channel through which messages flow. However, if you place too much importance on the subject in artistic photography, then you are returning to the field of illustrative photography. Your subject will become an illustration rather than an interpretation of what you see.
'C' concerns the composition.
The composition of a nature photograph involves organizing all photographic elements of a scene in order to create a balanced and harmonious picture.
The choice of a good composition makes it possible to highlight the main photographic elements, such as the subject (s).
This way of composing was intended to create aesthetic images which are pleasant to view.
If you want to create interesting photos that make sense, then you should not solely focus on the composition. It is just one ingredient in the recipe. A good composition should allow you to place the photographic elements so that they properly express your emotions and your messages.
The elements of the photographic language that you are going to use will be developed in your composition. Be very vigilant during this step.
Remember this acronym: TDLSC. If you apply it correctly, your photographs will have that little extra “secret ingredient” that makes them stand out in comparison to with other photographers. This is how you will customize your photographic creations.