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Think Before You Click
Lessons Learned, Photography Ideas

Why it is important to think before you click

At the end of last year I read a book about living a simpler life. One of the main things they talked about was living “intentionally”. I realized I should use this idea when it comes to my photography as well. I have read many articles talking about not being a “lucky” photographer who just happened to get a good shot, but to be a good photographer who knows what you are doing to get the good shot. Therefore, I decided to start photographing more intentionally.

What does this mean?

Basically it means, don’t get in front of your subject and take 20 pictures in a row just hoping you get one that turns out.  Instead, set yourself up with the composition you want, take a breath, and wait for the right moment to capture your subject.  Let me just warn you, I am NOT good at this at all.  I tend to be a little shutter happy so I’m also writing this post to remind myself as well.  We can help each other.

Why is this a good idea?

    • You won’t end up for 200 pictures of the exact same thing. Come on, you know you have done it.  I have ALL the time.  I used to just shoot and shoot and hope that I get a good one of my girls where they aren’t looking crazy but instead like sweet normal kids.  You don’t need 200 pictures of your kid sitting in their Easter dress and having barely any difference in each of the photos.
    • Saves you time editing. Who wouldn’t like more time to actually spend with your family away from the computer??  If you shoot with a purpose you won’t take those 200 pictures but instead will maybe take 5 which are much easier to weed through.  For example, Friday I had the honor of photographing one of my friends fun family.  Before I left, I decided I was going to shoot intentionally and not just click away.  The last family I photographed I took around 600 pictures.  This time I only took 150.  I was so proud of myself I called Ian on the way home to tell him!  What’s funny is, going through the pictures took no time to pick my favorites.  Also, I still ended up with the same amount of good ones as I did when I took 600 pictures.  I had more variety to choose from instead of looking at 15 pictures of them in the exact same position to pick the best I only had to choose from 3 pictures.
    • You need less memory cards. I have to be honest, this was the main reason when I did that shoot that I decided to shoot intentionally.  I could only find one memory card.  Oops!  So I knew I couldn’t mess around and go crazy.  I knew the most pictures I could take in RAW on my card were about 375.  I was shocked when I was able to capture them in even less!
    • It’s what the pros do. I had the honor of observing a professional photographer do a shoot a while ago.  She would pose her subject, take a picture or 2, and then repose them.  It was an eye opening experience.  She took her time, got the shot, and moved on.  AMAZING!!!
    • You will thank yourself later. I can’t stress enough how much time and headache I saved from having fewer pictures to choose from.  Not only was that easier but I realized that maybe I do know what I am doing and don’t need to just click away.  I am now a little more confident as a photographer.
    • You force yourself to slow down. Since you know you aren’t going to snap away, you can slow down. Relax. Look at everything in your frame. Wait for that wonderful moment, expression, or feel you want to capture. Then, click.

Just to prove that this theory still allows you to get some great pictures here are a few from my photo shoot.  Aren’t they the cutest family!  Some much love and joy!!  I had a blast!!!





Do you have any advice to add as to why you shoot intentionally?

33 Comments
  • May 9, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    Those are wonderful pictures! Love them!

  • May 9, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    Yep. Guilty over here, lol.
    I love the shot of the family walking away on the beach, definitely my favourite :D

  • May 9, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    OMG those pictures are fantastic. I love them all so much but, especially love the door shot and the one of the two kiddos up front and the parents behind. BEAUTIFUL! I enjoyed this post a lot and think it is sage advice for aspiring photogs. I used to take 300-400 pictures at every session just because I was nervous I might miss something. Now, like you I have learned to cut back and be more effective and it really does make a difference I agree!! Awesome!

  • May 9, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    Wonderful photos! The last is my favorite!

    I am often guilty of being snap happy. But it is a big pain trying to weed through to find the best shots. So I have also become more purposeful when taking photos. Thanks for the reminder!

  • May 9, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    Great post. I’ve been feeling a push recently to make my life less cluttered, physically and digitally. Being more intentional with my pictures will help me feel less overwhelmed–because even digital clutter can get you down!

  • May 9, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    awwww!
    this family is so-oo cute, so in love and so happy!
    you did awesome job at capturing that!

    I also agree with you concept of intentional shooting!
    p.s. what book are you referring to? was it The Power of Less maybe?

    • May 11, 2011 at 2:10 PM

      It is “Organized Simplicity” :O) I will have to check out that one though!

  • May 9, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    Does 392 pictures Saturday night at my Dining Out possibly refer to “CLICK HAPPY” Omg and the time I spent hitting the arrow key 5 times for the SAME photo … in all fairness though I was having a hard time as the night went on … one ;) the GROG bowl. I was sent to it often for forgetting the rules of the mess. But also lighting! I only have the flash on my camera. I HATE the flash. Any tips on low light indoor shooting for functions where you need to add light but don’t want to traumatize your subject with a paparazzi FLASH light in their face? If I set the settings on my camera for the correct balance of light, the shutter speed was too slow to capture them before they were moving.

    And I DO love these shots. I actually am looking at trying out Portrait style, next years Gala its my goal to be the photographer at it.

    • May 11, 2011 at 2:07 PM

      Ha! The Grog bowl! Yikes…I get Ian to go to it for me :O) he he

  • May 9, 2011 at 4:57 PM

    Thank you for this great Article. Great Photos as well.

  • May 10, 2011 at 1:10 AM

    Love your photos Courtney! They turned out great!

    I have learned to get the best SOOC shots (which is all I desire to achieve) is to take my time getting all the settings right in camera. I slow down – look for the light – get the subject in line with the best light and then go from there – posing, etc. I don’t want to spend time deleting photos that are the same and I only take two shots of every pose just to be sure no eyes are closed :-D

    Great post and tips for your readers!
    Jill

  • May 10, 2011 at 1:44 AM

    Fabulous shots! I love the one with the girls looking at each other. Such expression in those eyes! Nicely done.

  • When you shoot intentionally, you get to shoot more in the same amount of time. I rarely photography people, I mostly do objects. When I shoot intentionally, like when I went to the tulip festival, I was able to scout out the area, plan my shots, and take them, getting home without that nagging obsession about the one shot that I missed, because I ran out of time.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. This is a great post!

  • Karin
    May 10, 2011 at 6:24 AM

    These photos are beautiful, Courtney! And your thoughts about photographing with intentionality are very helpful.

  • May 10, 2011 at 11:38 PM

    this is a great post! I am currently working on the same thing! I have very much improved on shooting intentionally, but I do find myself occasionally just snapping away. Once I am aware of it, I really make a point to look at them, and see if I found my shot or not, while I am there so I don’t keep doing it.

  • Yvonne
    July 4, 2012 at 6:10 AM

    Your website is the first I have used of this kind. It is very refreshing to know I am not the only snap-happy person out there! Sadly, I over shoot, then have a million of the same/slightly different shots. I truly believe it comes from lack of confidence in myself. I need to work on the technical part of photography a bit more. I rarely use flash, even indoors in low light situations, so rely on my ISO, shutter speed and tripod. I think I am really going to enjoy this site, and spend way too much time on my computer now! I actually did my first critique on here. Thanks again for such a wonderful site, and great advice.

    • Courtney
      July 11, 2012 at 1:55 PM

      So glad you are thinking more about slowing down and concentrating on the shot! Don’t beat yourself up for overshooting! We are all guilty of that. You will slow down as you gain more confidence like you said! Yay, for doing your first critique!! That is such a fantastic way to improve your own photography! Welcome!!

    • Steph
      January 27, 2014 at 9:46 PM

      Hang in there Yvonne! I lack confidence, too! While I don’t celebrate that you have a rough time, it is comforting to know I am not the one one who struggles :). Your comment helped me!

      • Steph
        January 27, 2014 at 9:46 PM

        *only one

  • Steph
    January 27, 2014 at 9:41 PM

    Hi there! Thank you so much for this entry/lesson. I do have one question, one that anyone can answer for me… it is something I REALLY struggle with. One of the “tips” is to slow down. Wait for the perfect moment. When shooting portraits, how do I do this? Maybe it is a symptom of being an unsure photographer (and really, a person who lacks confidence in general), but it seems as though people aren’t going to pose for all that long before they question my ability. It seems to me that once you get everyone in position, the logical thing to do is click and click (I know its NOT logical… but I feel like I am not doing a great job by having folks wait. I don’t know.. I hope this makes sense :/ (and BEAUTIFUL photos by the way! What a lovely family <3) Thanks in advance for any and ANYONE'S advice to a severely self-conscious and new photographer!

    • January 28, 2014 at 7:58 AM

      Hi Steph,

      Something that works for me is to direct portrait subjects into a beautiful spot with lovely light, then give them something to do. A topic to chat about or something to keep them occupied and take the focus off me (e.g. I’ll ask a groom to whisper to his bride what he thought when he first saw her at the other end of the aisle, or get kids to draw in the sand – anything that engages them). I tell them before the shoot that I’ll be doing this, and that I’ll ‘press the shutter when everything looks natural and beautiful’. That gives me space to take my time and shoot when I’m ready.

      If it’s a portrait of a single person I still give them something to do. ‘Watch Mummy make faces,’ ‘Whisper a secret to your dolly,’ ‘What do you think the groom is doing right now? (when I’m taking a bride’s portraits pre-ceremony).

      If it’s a ‘looking at the camera shot’ then I put them into the nice spot, get them smiling at me, take the shot once and move on.

      I shoot film (mostly) so I can’t afford to shoot doubles, triples and more!

      PS – as for the confidence thing: fake it till you make it! Act confident and people will have confidence in you. You don’t have to act over the top about it – quiet, assured confidence is fine if you’re not a ‘crazy jump-around’ person. If you’re comfortable with stillness and silence your portrait subjects will be too.

      I do tend to talk to my subjects a lot about what I’m seeing through the camera. ‘I’ll just wait a second for the guy in the background to move out of the way.’ ‘Oooh when that cloud moves the light will be perfect.’ ‘That’s looking a bit awkward – let’s loosen it up a bit!’ And so on. I tell them about the emotions I’m seeing between them as I shoot. That way they’re looking for those emotions when they see the final photos.

      I hope this helps! I’m looking forward to what everyone else has to say.

      Have a great day,

      Michelle.

      • Steph
        January 28, 2014 at 11:14 AM

        Michelle!

        These are wonderful tips! Thank you very much :). I will certainly hold them in my heart as I continue growing! I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. :)

    • January 29, 2014 at 11:57 AM

      I think Michelle hit it on the head. If you want a natural shot ask them to do something while you wait for “the shot”. But if you are looking for an everyone smiling at you very posed shot, then you don’t need to wait as long.

  • Jesse
    January 27, 2014 at 11:34 PM

    Oh my goodness, I heart this topic! This is a concern of mine as well. I love how you mentioned that you had more variety to choose from vs. 15 of the same pose. I think that definitely encapsulates the whole concept of why a person should think before they click so to speak.

    I still struggle with the emotional feeling that I will “miss the shot”, should I slow down and assess the situation, but I realize this instinctual thougth process is actually going against my desired outcome. Thank you for the great post!

  • Jake
    January 28, 2014 at 6:03 AM

    Great post!
    With film, we were all very conservative and economical with the shots taken – film was costly! Then came digital, and the promise that you’ll never ever miss that “one” shot – just keep your finger pressed in burst mode. Ugh! Worst shift in philosophy ever.
    Some things never change, even though technology does. An “eye” for composition and a mindset for conceptualization will never be replaced by a chip.
    Thanks for the post. I so enjoy reading your blog.

  • Christy
    January 28, 2014 at 6:17 AM

    Wow I felt as I was reading it you were writing this just for me . But when I do shoots with children I find it hard to hold back from being a shutter bug and just clicking away . But I am going to try this I am very new to this as a profession . But I should know to step back take a breath and look at my subject I have been a hair stylist for 24yrs and that was always key especially when I was on the other side of the camera making models just perfect for a shoot … Thanks as always for your good advise !!!

  • Christy
    January 28, 2014 at 6:20 AM

    I forgot to let you know the shots were beautiful I enjoyed them !!! :-)

  • Melodie
    January 28, 2014 at 7:02 AM

    I am not a professional photographer. I am known in my family as “the picture taker.” My family says things like “Your pictures always turn out so well,””look how beautiful Judy looks,” or ” how do you get such pretty shots?” I never thought about it until I read this. I shoot intentionally. I wait until Judy is laughing naturally or until the deer raises its head…I see what would be beautiful “only if” and wait for it. Now, sometimes you want a shot of Judy no matter how she looks because the light is just right or maybe because you love her, but it pays off to wait intentionally for the natural to happen.

  • Geoff
    January 28, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    Brilliant reminder to us all!

    I’ve recently been scanning through and archiving to digital my backlog of old transparencies taken many years ago before my digital era. I’d come to the conclusion that some of my better material was taken when I had a manual camera with no autofocus. Back in those days I had to concentrate and think more about the shot, not to mention that you couldn’t afford to run rampant with film. It’s too easy these days to go mad and keep pressing the shutter button without applying as much thought. Your comments fit perfectly with the realisation I’d come to not too long ago and I’m now shooting less but taking more care in putting conscious intent into the process.

  • KATHY
    June 3, 2015 at 7:54 AM

    Awesome article. It was me to a T. I will practice this and hope to feel better and improve. As always, Great Article!

  • karren hubrich
    June 4, 2015 at 1:57 AM

    You are right. I just learned this AGAIN. If I took time to think, I could do much better. It is always dumb mistakes I make. I am going to make a real effort to slow down and think things through rather than just shoot away.

  • Jenny
    September 29, 2015 at 10:50 AM

    Love this article! thanks for sharing! and I love Michelle Ellis’s tips. One things that looms over me is “will I be able to make my subjects feel comfortable” . It is so vital and so important and when I’m not naturally a conversationalist, I need all the good tips anyone can offer.

  • shunta
    August 14, 2016 at 6:17 PM

    I love this post. I actually just read through every comoment. I am also labeled as the picture taker in my family.. I’m not a professional, but its a passion of mine and am looking into it. Melodie hit it on the spot, my family looks for me to take pictures for everything because they say I always get good shots of everyone. When you sit back and just wait for the moment you can get some awesome shots. I also shot intentionally.
    Thank you for this post. The pictures are awesome!!!

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