Understanding The End Result

It's easy to grab your camera and go out and shoot whatever you wander across on any given day. While I believe this is ok, I think understanding what you are trying to portray and the means necessary to achieve this result is what separates an ok photographer from a good or great one. Let me elaborate.

Planning is the key to success in photography (in my opinion). Positioning yourself to succeed before you even leave the house. This could mean understanding when golden hour starts, in which direction the light is coming from in the spot you are shooting, and even envisioning what you want the end product to look like in your mind. Going into a shoot having this vision in your mind will allow you to spend less energy at a location trying to find the right composition and the right settings in the exposure triangle (more to come on this in another article). For example, let's say I am going to shoot Chicagohenge. This is a roughly week long period twice a year when the sun sets between the grid buildings in downtown Chicago. How do I set myself up for success?

First things first, I need to know the specific days that this is going to occur. You can use a app like PhotoPills or you can simply ask around the photography community to see when this falls (usually around the solstices). Now that we know when it occurs, we need to know what time the sun sets so that we can be there well in advance to ensure we can set up and not feel rushed. You can Google when the sunsets or when golden hour begins or simply use an app again like PhotoPills. Now that we have the day and time, it's about what we are trying to portray with the actual image itself. Do I want a sun star off of the building as the sun drops down? Do I want motion blur in my subject? Do I want to use a wide perspective or a super zoomed look to enhance the size of the sun? All of these questions are things you have to ask yourself. You should know what you want the end result to look like before you are even on the scene. This will also help you bring the appropriate gear for your shoot instead of lugging along a bunch of lenses that you won't use.

Another thing to take into consideration is how you would post process the image itself (should you choose to do so). This helps you account for how you should expose for the image. If in post you are someone who liked to bring back shadow detail, then its fine to underexpose. If you are the type of person to blow out the highlights then its fine to overexpose. There is no correct way in going about things, art is subjective.

I wanted to keep this short as an introductory piece here. Any feedback would be appreciated in the comments below. What would you like me to write on?

Stay true to you.