4 Tips on How to Look Before You Take a Picture

As a photographer, especially as a beginner photographer, you often see a scene or object you want to take a picture of and just shoot it. Imagine this scenario: You’re walking along and see something interesting and raise the camera to your eye, snap off a shot, and move on. Sometimes, this is perfectly fine, but if you learn to slow down and really look at the scene first, your images will be so much better. Here are four tips that can help you look before you take a picture.

1. Look at the Foreground

The foreground will often contain two types of elements; these you want to include and things you want to exclude. Many images will benefit from some framing or other foreground objects that give the subject perspective. Find some interesting foliage, a wall, some rocks, or other objects to include in the image and make it more interesting. Note, you may have to get down low or move a bit to include such an element.

The other end of the spectrum is excluding things. You can remove things in post-processing, but it is much easier to do it when you shoot, especially if all it means is tilting the camera just a bit or moving slightly.

2. Look at the Background

The background can often make or break a picture. Again, there are things you want to include and exclude. When possible, you want to include a pleasing but neutral backdrop to the subject. If you are shooting a person, this may be as simple as moving you or the subject so that a nice wall or hedge is behind them.

But you also need to be careful not to include elements that will draw the viewer’s eye away from the subject. Avoid bright spots or colors, or anything that could be distracting. And always avoid the rookie practice of shooting someone with a tree or pole growing out of their head.

3. Think About the Composition

There are rules about composition you should learn if only to know when and how to break them. The rule of thirds and leading lines are two of the most common. Don’t put the subject in the dead center of the viewfinder. Move the camera slightly to place them at one of the junctions of an imaginary tic-tac-toe grid.

Also, always try to avoid putting the horizon in the center of the frame. Depending on whether the foreground or sky is more pleasing, place the horizon at the top or bottom third of the image. Also, where possible, find a path, some plantings, or other elements to include that lead the viewer through the image to your subject.

4. Pay Attention to the Colors

Look up the color wheel on the Internet, and you will find references to colors that complement each other. Try to remember the basics of these when composing your image. Try to put complementary colors next to or in front of each other. Also, try not to include too many colors.

If you are planning a portrait session, a little thought to the wardrobe can go a long way to making a pleasing image. And, unless you are shooting a bride and groom, try not to mix too sharp a contrast in the picture. A lot of pure black and white can make your exposure tricky.

Keeping a few simple tricks in your mind when you are out shooting can make your images more professional and pleasing to the eye. Follow these four tips the next time you go on a photo walk, and remember the impact of looking before you take a picture can have on your photography work. You will be amazed at the difference they make.

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