The Photographic Process

There have been many times when I think photographers get far too caught up in the equipment and techniques, seemingly at the expense of what really matters, the image. That is not to say that equipment and techniques don’t matter, they do. Cameras, lenses, lights and all the other bits and pieces are the tools of the trade, you need them to take the photos and which tools you use will effect the outcome. The trick with tools is to have the right tool for the right job but unless you understand how the tools work and know how to use them, the quality of the tools is not necessarily the limiting factor in your photos.

Photography is a process that starts before you push the button and ultimately finished with a print. Each step is important, each step effects the outcome and paying close attention to all of the steps will give you the best result. Relying on one step to fix up a poor choice in another step will not.

Ideally a photograph starts with an idea, finding the subject, composing and lighting appropriately, capture with settings that give an exposure to capture all of the detail required in a way that can be adjusted to reproduce the idea and transfer it onto a medium to display the image.

Before you next take a photo, stop and think about what you are about to shoot:-

What is your subject?
Why did it attract you?
How do you compose the image to to get that across to another person?
Is your shooting position the right place?
Should you move the subject?
Should you move yourself?
What lens crops the photo appropriately?
Are you focused in the right place?
Do you need a particular aperture for the Depth of Field?
Do you need a particular shutter speed to capture the movement?
Is “correct” exposure going to capture the right detail?
Would less or more exposure capture the information better?

Now push the button.

The brand is on the front of the camera, whether the sensor is full frame, cropped sensor or 4/3, how many focus points ,, how fast you can shoot or how much the lens costs only matters if your tools limit you in some way that means can’t get what you want with that camera.

After the image is taken you come to processing. Processing is most often a necessary step purely because the camera does not  capture things the way we see the world. There may also be times when you want to emphasise one element or deemphasise another. Processing should not be a way of recovering your mistakes, it can work but it is not the way to get the best image.

Approach your processing by thinking about what needs to be done to bring out your vision and use techniques that bring that out. The technique should suit the image, the image should not be made to fit into the technique.

If you want to improve your photography, learn about how the equipment works. If you find your equipment limiting you, then look for something to remove that limitation. By doing this you can make better choices about the gear you buy. Buying equipment you don’t really understand will not help your photography.