Did you ever look at a photo and think, “Wow, I wonder how they got it to look like that?” There are a number of steps that professional photographers take which leads them to the final product from planning, to shooting, to editing, and so on. I consider myself by no means a professional photographer, but I will share the general steps I take when creating an image.
Steps for Composing a Photograph
My first step is the planning stage. Usually, I go out to shoot for a specific project, so I concentrate on subjects that correlate with it. As an example, I recently had a project with which I focused on light and how it affected man made structures, typically looking to buildings, but in this case, using stairs. As I wanted to study the differences, I decided to go out at different points within the day to see how light’s impact changed. For this particular photo, I found myself out more so towards the evening as the sun was setting in the sky.
When I’ve decided on where or who I’m taking a photo of, my next step is to create an interesting composition. I found myself for the stairs photo moving all over the place to decide where was the best shot. Whether using rule of thirds or something else, it’s important that you not only set up an interesting composition, but to be aware of other aspects that might take away from the photo’s subject. My professor always states, “Look at your edges!” which I try to keep in mind as I go out.
I then turn to my camera to adjust my settings. I consider this to be the most crucial stage in capturing a good photo. No matter how good of a composition I may have, if the photo is too over/underexposed or the shutter speed was just slightly too slow and it came out blurry, then no amount of time spent in Photoshop will fix it. I make sure that I have the proper settings before taking the photo so then it will hopefully be a success.
The next stage is rather simple, I take the photo. I typically bracket, in which I take one photo slightly underexposed, one at the correct exposure, and one slightly overexposed, in case the exposure is slightly off. But that’s basically it.
The second to last stage is editing. There are two ways which I typically approach this. The first being Photoshop, where I use layers to edit the image. The second being Camera Raw in Bridge. Whichever direction I take, I try to keep the edits as minimal as possible to keep the photograph’s true nature, and only focus on things such as lens correction, white balance, and color correction.
Finally, I look at how I want my photo displayed. Depending on if I want to print it or if I want to display it on the web, I adjust my settings accordingly.
Even though these are my personal steps in photography, it doesn’t make them the “right” way. I don’t believe there is any true “right” way when trying to capture a photo. Every artist including photographers have their own groove that gets them to their final product.