An Exercise In Observation To Enhance Your Photographs

The following is a short, fifteen minute exercise for photographers that should help them slow down, and put thought into their shots before capturing any images.

Get your camera, any one that is handy.  You can even use your smartphone, assuming it has a quality camera built in.  Even if it doesn’t, this exercise isn’t so much about the photographs you will take during the fifteen minutes, but more about proving a point about the importance of observation and planning.

Go outside if weather permits, if not, then find a quiet spot to sit indoors.  Find somewhere in your chosen area to sit.  Preferably, choose a point from which you can observe the entirety of the space, usually in the middle of the chosen area.

For ten minutes, your only job is to sit in your chosen spot.  Do not photograph anything for the ten minutes you are quietly sitting, soaking in the environment and all of its minute details.  Just observe your surroundings and think about what would make a good picture.  Plan out your shots in your head as you are sitting and observing your space.

During your ten minutes of quiet observation, keep in mind some of the following helpful hits regarding what you should be noticing.  While observing your space, walk around to see the environment from different angles, but don’t use your camera yet.  

Pay attention to small details that you might have missed before, or that you would have missed had you quickly photographed the area before observing it closely.  Look at how the light hits the various objects in the setting, as well as how it looks from varying angles.  Lastly, try to focus on how the area makes you feel so you can capture that feeling with your camera.

After you have thoroughly observed your setting, start planning how you will photograph the different elements in the environment.  Think about the basics of what, how and photograph perspective.

Remember to think about how the setting makes you feel, and how you will transition that emotion to a visual image.  The completely cerebral part of this exercise is almost finished, but the last thing you need to do is picture the photographs you want to take in your mind, before you physically capture them.

Now that your ten minutes of observation and planning is up, take five minutes to photograph the images that you have been thinking about.  This short exercise is bound to surprise you, as it will show how important observation and planning are, as opposed to actual shooting of photographs.