About taking a picture

Lasse Diercks
Jan 16, 2018 · 5 min read
Rocamadour France (01/2018)

You might say: But Lasse, I can take out my phone, point it to the next mirror, slap that trigger and I’m done. Why do you event want to write about it?

That may certainly be true and sometimes it’s perfectly fine for the situation, However sometimes taking a photo can be a complex process that takes hours. In this philosophical article I like to guide you through some steps and thoughts I collected in the last 10 months of taking pictures. I hope this Article can prove your already confirmed knowledge, question your process or even give you a fresh perspective if you’re just starting out.

Making the call

The first step of the process. I’m talking about the decision to even take a picture. If you’re chasing polar bears at the north pole with your DSLR ready to shoot and spot one, yeah this might be a no brainer but I’m rather talking about the subtle moments. Moments where your finger is already twitching but you’re not completely convinced yet.

I encourage you to breath in slowly and take a step back to observe the scene. What is the story you want to tell? What is even making you thinking about taking out the camera? What exactly is your subject? How is the weather messing with the light this time? Most of the time I feel this step is boiling down to the question “why?”. Why do I want to take a picture of this? On some occasion I wasn’t able to answer that questions for me and decided to put the camera away. On other occasions I looked at 80 pictures back at home and just thought: why did I even shoot that?

Orchestrating the composition

Now the time has come to find a home for that object on your sensor. First of all: Do you have influence over the subject? If you’re taking picture of a friend you are actually able to re-position him or her to the sun. That’s not so easy if you’re aiming at a mountain.

There are some rules of thumb like “golden ratio” or “negative space”. I’m not going to talk about them here, but if you never heard of them I ‘d encourage you to look them up.

What I found useful in this step is to look through the viewfinder of my DSLR or at the liveview and absorb the final scene. Try to observe which details appear and disappear when you change the composition.

Push the button

Your finger is on the button. If you’re shooting on a DSLR you will have more precise control about the exposure overyour photo. What made a difference to me is to get to know the tone curve. It shows you the different areas of your photo and you’re able to see if it’s under or overexposed. The wonderful part about this moment is: in the first two steps you decided why, what and how you want to shoot. So you just have to execute your decision now.

Postproduction

Sometimes it’s a predefined filter or preset. Sometimes it’s adjusting one photo for two hours in Lightroom. Because I am a designer and technical person but also a silly goose sometimes I used to push a picture into every possible direction in lightroom. In this step the “why did I take the picture” plays a big role again. You did commit for the picture and decided on subject. What you want to do in post processing — depending on your style of course — is to amplify that feeling or decision. E.g. If it was taken on a cold mountain, remove all the warmth. If it was a cozy night around a campfire, you want to move the post production into that direction. Think about what you felt when you were there.

Publishing

With publishing I mean putting your photos out there. Philosophically it’s an interesting moment because you have to decide on your own that you are done with editing a picture. This step deserves a own passage because for me it’s— and I can image for you as well — the mentally and emotionally most challenging step.

Publishing can be almost anything. I’m sure there is more but to name a few:

* printing an image

* showing an image to your friend on a phone or laptop

* uploading a picture on instagram

* uploading a picture to a stock photography page or unsplash

What my crucial learning was and what I want to share with you: A picture performs different based on the way you publish it. Due to the size restriction of instagram it’s hard to display complex and huge landscape compositions. A Cropped Face may look wonderful and intriguing on a big canvas but it won’t as a twitter profile picture.

Remember that each picture performs differently on every medium. Already think about what you want to do with the picture in postprocessing.

You may find yourself falling in love with printed pictures and exclusively aim for that publish method. That’s when we come to the last passage:

Everything is connected

What makes photography so damn complex and diverse and interesting is that every step of the process changes everything. You may find yourself starting to specifically look for compositions that work well on print. Maybe you even start to imagine a wooden frame when you decide to take a shot. The possibilities are endless.

Final thoughts:

Many have said this before but I have to repeat it: Everyone is learning and no one is a professional from day one. If you give yourself time and compassion - you will advance. As I said I’m relatively new in the business and I just like to get my thoughts down into a written form. That does not mean everything I say is sacred. It’s just what I am noticing and where I am struggling the most.


If you feel like you want to follow me on my path here is my Instagram.

Do you have any ideas, objections or are experiencing similar things lately? Please let me know in the comments!

And if you’re super hyped by this article it would mean a lot to me if you smash that clap button so I may write more of this stuff in the future.

Thanks for reading.

❤ Peace, Lasse

Thanks to DAN

Lasse Diercks

Written by

I help people to succeed in the web.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade