Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Every Shot You Take

Photography is a touchy subject for some, there are a few out there that believe you have either got “it” or you don’t…  An eye (or mind) for photography that is.  I certainly believe that some people are born with the gift of photography and certainly have an easier time of it, while others have to work very hard to improve their skills.

I don’t think anyone is incapable of taking a truly great photograph, a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.  Whether you are a great photographer by birth or you are working diligently at becoming better, the questions below are incredibly useful in creating better shots.

  1. Why is this scene or subject interesting?
  2. What will the viewer feel when they see my shot?
  3. What thought or feeling do I want to evoke with this photograph?
  4. What composition can I use to strengthen the interesting elements?
  5. Is this the best place to take the shot from?
  6. Why do cats eat their own hair if they are just going to barf it back up again?


Why is this scene or subject interesting?

If you don’t know why you are about to take a shot other than “it looks cool” then there is a 50% chance it’s crap.  There are plenty of crappy shots out there, don’t be a statistic.  Be deliberate in your photography and only take shots that mean something to you.

What will the viewer feel when they see my shot?

Admittedly, this is one of the more difficult questions.  You can’t know how everyone will interpret your photographs but us humans are more similar than we’d like to think.  If you show kids playing most people will smile and think back to a carefree youth.  Alternatively, if you show a woman crying you’ll evoke the feeling of empathy in those of us who are capable of such a thing.

An image that evokes a feeling, good or bad, is a success.  Similar to how some famous people who fall out of the lime light will do something stupid to garner attention…  Any attention is good attention, right?

What thought or feeling do I want to evoke with this image?

If you are creating photographs that make people feel some emotion its a pretty good idea to have an idea of what emotion that is.  If you know what emotion you’d like for people to feel when they see your shot you’ll have a good idea what compositional elements you can utilize to emphasize it.

Taking a photograph of a disaster and wanting to convey the feeling of despair the people affected by it are feeling only works if you can isolate that feeling in the image.  If on one side of your image there is an individual crying but on the other side you’ve got someone smiling (weird, I know) you’ll have conflicting elements.  If, instead, you zoom in a little on the feeling you’d most like to capture you’ll eliminate the confusion.

What composition can I use to strengthen the interesting element?

If you asked yourself the first question, why is this subject or scene interesting, then you’ll have isolated what it is in the image that you should compose for.  Using leading lines, reflections, or framing to emphasize the most interesting part of your photograph will draw viewers eyes through the image and to your subject of choice.

Without supporting composition your images can look chaotic and pointless…  Using leading lines to draw viewers eyes to your subject of interest is like dropping an anchor right where you want it in a scene.  The viewers eyes will follow the connecting chain right to the anchor, you can be in control of how the viewer looks at your photo, the order in which their eyes progress through it.

Is this the best place to take the shot from?

Asking yourself this question will force you to look around for new and different perspectives rather than old and sundry perspectives.  Most images that look boring do so because they were taken from about eye level height with no creativity.  Humans are used to looking at most things from the same perspective, it is more interesting if you show us something we aren’t used to.

Using these questions and any number of questions you come up with on your own will force you to think about each shot, compose with deliberate goals in mind.  Get out of the habit of taking as many shots as you can and praying that one or two were interesting.  If you find that you take hundreds of shots and only two or three are any good then you need to work on your compositional skills and figure out what it is you’re trying to convey with your photography. 

More from John Barbiaux
3 Beautiful Photography Locations In Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is one of the most beautiful cities out there with tons...
Read More
2 replies on “Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Every Shot You Take”
  1. says: Helenmb

    The “looks cool……..50% crap really drew me into this article. How true! Well at least I can see the funny side! LOL. Excellent advice here for all levels of photographers.

    1. says: John Barbiaux

      Haha, thanks Helen. I still ask myself questions like that when I find something interesting to photograph, it really does make a difference.

Comments are closed.