The Photographic Process

The photographic process is how a photograph comes into being. Many consider it to be only the push of a button but really it's much more. It's a process that starts before you push the button and often finishes well after the initial capture.

Usually, the photographic process starts with an idea. Sometimes, the idea is not a carefully considered but more a reaction to what is happening around you. With a little time, the idea comes from finding the subject, composing and lighting the subject appropriately, and then capturing the image. We can consider exposure settings that capture all of the detail and record the subject in a way that suits the aesthetic we are trying to portray. The captured image can be adjusted so it will reinforce the idea and transfer it onto the final display medium.

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 is not the way to get  ideal image quality.

If you want to improve your photographic process, before you next take a photo, stop and think about what you are about to shoot:-

one sunlit tree emerging from the rainforest canopy
The morning light rising over a hill highlights the leaves of one tree to separate it from the rainforest canopy.

What is your subject?
Why did it attract you?
How do you compose the image to to get that idea 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.

But that is not the end of the photographic process. After the image is taken you come to post production. Adjusting your images is often a necessary step in the photographic process, purely because the camera does not capture things the way we see the world. Although the camera will process the image to something close to our view, there is often a level of fine tuning to bring it into line with our artistic vision. At times, there may also be elements in the photograph which you want to emphasise and others that you want to make less obtrusive. You may also want to remove an object that you could not be moved at the time of shooting.

Processing an image has a huge potential to enhance but also to damage your photograph. If you approach your processing thinking about what needs to be done to bring out your original idea, you are less likely to damage the image. The technique should suit the image, the image should not be made to fit into the technique.

The last step in the photographic process is presentation. Is the final result to be an image on a screen, a fine art print, reproduced on canvas or some other medium? Will it be large or small? Will it stand alone or be part of a larger presentation. Your choice of the final presentation can enhance the overall impact of the image and considering this throughout the photographic process will help create a final result that gives you the best image quality.