Photos by David Burleson
One of the keys to taking better photographs is to have a goal in mind before you press the shutter. Professional photographers often work on assignments from other people, such as magazine editors and freelance photographers also have a market in mind before pressing the shutter and as a young or new photographer, you can learn from this. You may not have an assignment from a magazine, but you can set an assignment for yourself and one of the best ways to do this is to create a photo story.
Choosing a Theme
So, how do you go about choosing a theme? First of all, what interests you? You may want to take photos of things to do with your hobby or your friends. Are you going on holiday? If so, why not try making a photographic record of your adventure.
Even if you are staying at home, go for a walk around your local area and see what there is of interest. Most people know very little about their own town, so take a look as if you were a visiting tourist.
If you feel like going farther afield, get on your bike. Here in Britain, there is a National Cycle Network that features many off-road tracks. Quite a few of them are along disused railway lines and so they are fairly flat. They also pass through some beautiful landscape scenery.
At this point, it is worth mentioning some precautions you should take if you are going walking or cycling:
- Always tell someone your planned route.
- Take a rucksack with extra clothing, including wet weather gear, some food and water.
- Carry a torch for emergencies.
- Take your mobile phone with you.
- If possible, go with someone else.
- Stick to the proper route. More than one photographer has been injured, or worse, by going off the beaten track to get that perfect photo. So, in addition, be extra careful with cliff edges and near water.
If you want to approach the project a little more abstractly, pick just one colour and create a series of images from it or pick one item and take it to various locations throughout the year to photograph. You could also take on an A-Z challenge or how about a selfie project outdoors?
Photos by Rick Hanson
Plan Your Story
As mentioned earlier, you should have a purpose in mind before pressing the shutter. That means you have to know what you are going to do with the photo. You can still take snapshots, of course, but most of the photographs for your story should be planned.
Think about what you want to say. Whether you are creating a story about your local area or your holiday destination, get some leaflets from the Tourist Information Office, look at local postcards and have a look online to see what images other people have captured in the same area. Of course, we're not suggesting you copy them but it's a good place to start for inspiration.
Next, try to find some unusual views or ones that aren't captured as much on camera. This could mean looking for a different angle or simply getting close to the details of a particular feature. Another interesting possibility is to frame your image with a window frame or other objects that will focus the viewer's attention on your chosen scene.
Photos by Rick Hanson
Putting It All Together
When you have captured all of the photographs you need, you need to sit down on your computer, go through them and pick your favourites. Lightroom has an excellent feature to help you organise your photos which involve using star ratings, flags and labels and we have a top tutorial on using the various tagging methods available in this popular piece of photo editing software.
While viewing your images, you may find that some of your photographs are not suitable. It might be that they are out of focus or too light or too dark; it may be that they just do not look right in the company of the other pictures; or you might decide, looking at all the pictures together, that you simply want to tell your story from a slightly different angle.
Once you have your images, you've got to decide how you're going to present them. You could put them in an online gallery or how about creating a photo book? Another option is to create a Triptych of similarly themed photographs to hang on your wall. Of course, you don't have to stick with three photos but three is a popular choice. We actually have a tutorial on creating triptychs which is easy to follow and quick to complete. Alternatively, you could frame the best images as a set.