I want to write you a simple letter; namely, how to make better photos:
1. Making vs taking photos
First of all, let us seek to ‘make’ photos— rather than to ‘take’ photos.
In photography (at least in America), we call it ‘taking’ a photo. But to ‘take’ a photo sounds forceful. It is like you are stealing something.
Whereas in Germany and lots of other places in Europe, they say ‘make’ a photo. To me, ‘making’ a photo sounds much more creative, intentional, and soulful.
So the first step to making better photos is to change our vocabulary. To the best of our abilities; let us try to say ‘make’ photos— not take photos.
2. Obsess about composition
The second step to make better photos is to obsess over composition. To always consider 100% of your frame. You don’t want to waste any centimeter of your frame; just like how a good farmer doesn’t want to waste a square meter of their land.
When you’re out making photos, look at the edges of your frame. If the edges of your frame, and the background of your frame are strong— the center of the photo will probably also be strong.
Also whenever possible, try to integrate diagonals. I have found that integrating diagonals by tilting your camera (try out the ‘Dutch Angle’ technique) helps integrate much more dynamic compositions.
A photo needs to have vigor, blood, and soul. The way to bring a photo to life is to make it more dynamic. We can make photos more dynamic by adding more dynamic composition.
Also look for curves, and look for certain types of light to change the emotion of your photo. If you want a more edgy photo, use a flash. If you want a softer and warmer photo, make photos of your subjects next to a window, or photograph during golden hour (sunrise and sunset).
3. Make poetic photos
Thirdly, seek to make more poetic photographs. To me, poetry is what makes our soul exalt to the heavens. To become a better photographer, study more poetry. Study Haiku, Ancient Greek or Roman poetry, or contemporary poetry.
To me, a noble poem rolls off your tongue, just like butter. The same should be with a photograph — you want a photograph that exalts your heart and soul. You can do this by making a photograph that has emotion.
To make a photograph with emotion, put your soul in the photograph. To add your soul in the photograph, make the photograph personal. To make the photograph personal, make sure you are the only one who can make the photograph.
You can make your photos more personal by photographing your loved ones. Photograph your kids, your partner, or your parents. Photograph them with love, compassion, and understanding. Photograph them looking into the lens (eyes are the windows to the soul), or photograph them looking away. No moment is too ordinary. Photograph them eating breakfast, waiting for the bus, or at the restaurant when eating dinner.
If you have nobody else to photograph, photograph yourself. Make artistic self-portraits of yourself. Photograph yourself in the mirror, photograph your shadow, and photograph your inner-thoughts. When you are feeling shitty, make a self-portrait of yourself feeling shitty. For me, self-portraiture is an effective form of self-therapy.
Even when you are making photos of strangers on the streets, impute your emotions into them. Which means, photograph subjects on the streets with compassion. Try to feel their emotions. Also, when you are photographing, photograph with your heart. Follow your gut, intuition, and only choose your favorite photos when you go home, relax, and have a chance to think and reflect.
4. Make meaning through your photography
Lastly, don’t overthink photography. Photography should be an expression of your soul. Photography should be a better way for you to understand the world. Photography isn’t about making photos. It is about making meaning from the world.
Use the simplest camera possible. Use your smartphone, a point and shoot camera, or even a bigger camera. Whatever fits your hand the best.
To make better photos, you need to practice more. Practice by holding your camera in your hand as often as you can. Or by wearing it around your neck like a necklace. Or by studying composition from the master photographers; or even studying Renaissance painting.
5. What is more important than photography?
And remember at the end of the day, photography isn’t the most important thing in your life. The important thing is to live a virtuous life, full of hope, wonderment, curiosity, and love. To live a life full of purpose, to help our friends and local community, and to help empower others who need us.
Use photography as a tool for self-empowerment; and also as a tool to help empower others.
Make someone else feel beautiful today. If you have nobody to photograph; photograph yourself.
Make more art >
If you like to make photos, you’re an artist:
- The Art of Street Photography
- The Art of Photography
- How to Conquer Your Fears in Art
- How to Be a More Productive Artist
- How to Have More Confidence as an Artist
- Make Photos for the Sake of Making Photos
- Perfect Pearl
- Make Photos to Delight Your Soul
- Revel in Your Defective Artistry
- Photography is Poetry Without Words