Don't shoot - without answering these two questions

Flickr photo by Helga Weber.

The most important part of your photography workflow happens before you even touch your camera.

Let’s imagine you arrive at one of your bucket list locations. This is a place you’ve dreamed of photographing your entire life, and now here you in hand.

How do you decide how to photograph it? Start with two simple questions.

What do you see?

Too often, we are in such a rush to begin shooting that we don’t take a moment to just look. Give yourself some time to take in the entirety of all the sites. Look at the big picture. Look at the stories unfolding. Look at the details. Look for the light. Look at the people.

Just look. What do you see?

This is a practice you can literally use anywhere, even without your camera. Are you just walking to lunch? Start looking at all the details around you. See how many interesting things you notice.

What do you want to create?

Before you lift your camera, think about what you’d like to create. The camera sees differently than we do, so you have to begin to think about how you will translate what you see into a photo. 

What will be your subject? How will you make it stand out? How do you want light to fall on it? What mood will you create? What story can you tell?

Your final image might be quite different than your first thought, but it’s good to start with at least one creative idea. You can experiment and iterate from there.

Once you have seen and decided what you want to create, you can introduce the camera. You will find that deciding on the right camera settings becomes a much easier task once you have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish.

You don’t have to wait for your bucket list vacation to try this approach, however. It works anywhere. Try it on your next photography Meetup or solo photo walk.