How to Shoot the Perfect Picture

An image does not just appear in front of your lens and you press the shutter button and there it is. Neither is it luck or pure chance. The perfect image starts long before you press the shutter. It starts when you are far away from the scene you are about to photograph. How to start that process and what route to take to get the image is what I am going to help you discover on this exciting journey as you learn digital photography.

take amazing pictures

Photo by Alan Bloom; ISO 500, f/4.0, 1/400-second exposure.

I discovered many years ago that great images and those dramatically inspired photographs don’t just happen. If you were to speak to a National Geographic award winning photographer, you’d find out that there is a process that leads up to the outstanding image. Now, I am not going to give you the keys to that type of image, because I wasn’t part of the photographer’s process. I am going to give you some basic steps to get you moving toward your personal goal of that perfect image. Before we go on, I need to make it clear that the perfect image for you is one that is in your mind and nobody else’s. So here are some tips to head you in the right direction.

1. Define yourself as a photographer

This is really simple and not as difficult as the step sounds. Defining yourself as a photographer means discovering what you like to shoot and what genres you want focus on. This might be landscape, portrait or close-up and macro. If you don’t do this you’ll be a generalist and never focus on what really motivates you to take photos. As I said, the perfect image starts with a process and this is the first step.

how photographers take perfect photos

Photo by dawolf-; ISO 800, f/4.0, 1/200-second exposure.

2. Learn to think

Once you know what you want to shoot and have an idea of what you really like, it’s time to take a step back from the actually shooting and learn to think. Take time out to think about what the final result will be. Begin with the end in mind. If you love close-ups, is it that green tree frog with bright red eyes? Or, perhaps the bee on a bright red flower? Start to visualise what the final images should look like and what you need to do to get to that point. Where you need to go, at what time of day, and what equipment you need to take with or plan to buy now or in the future. The perfect image comes from a lot of thought and planning.

nature photography

Photo by vincentraal.

3. Take your time

Perfect images can never be rushed. As the golfer who takes a lucky swing and gets a hole in one so are the chances of you getting the lucky shot. By taking your time to find the right location, setting up equipment properly, and thinking about the image, you will increase your chances of that perfect shot. Passion and enthusiasm are sometimes hindrances to great photography because they induce haste and speed, which are big negatives to the process.

4. Plan

This is a key component to realising a great image. It includes finding the best location for a perfect photo, preparing your equipment, working out the technical aspects of the image, and understanding what the best lighting and other weather conditions will be. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. A good plan will increase your chances a hundredfold of shooting the photo of your dreams.

5. Experiment

Although you have a plan and a series of steps you need to take to get the image in your mind’s eye, don’t be afraid to experiment. Make sure that you implement your plan carefully; this is number one. But be prepared to try out other ideas, angles, and settings. You never know what will happen, and a variation of your plan may just result in something dramatic and an image that is beyond your wildest dreams.

how to take the best photos

Photo by Mazda Hewitt; ISO 1600, f/5.3, 0.6-second exposure.

6. Practice makes perfect

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Practice makes perfect is what the old adage says. If the plan doesn’t work out then try it again and again and again and vary it, as I said when experimenting. You may get 70 percent of the plan right or even only 50 percent. Don’t give up, but keep on trying because next time it will be 75 or even 90 percent right. As you go along, you’ll find yourself perfecting your techniques and repeating the successes more often. All this adds to the process, and you will find yourself getting nearer and nearer to that perfect image.

Once again, the perfect image is one that is in your mind and not someone else’s. Nobody can prescribe to you what that image should be. It may look like something in a travel magazine or on the cover of Nature magazine or National Geographic, but it is still your image. Take the time to plan, experiment, and practice until you reach that perfect goal in your photographic journey. As you learn digital photography you will learn something new every day, so build on it, and soon you will become an accomplished photographer. Happy shooting!

About the Author:
Wayne Turner has been teaching photography for 25 years and has written three books on photography. He has produced 21 Steps to Perfect Photos; a program of learner-based training using outcomes based education.

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  1. Great advice. Unfortunately, most of the world’s great photographs wouldn’t exist if the great photographers had followed it.

  2. Have Camera Will Shoot says:

    This is a good article with many fine points about achieving success – not necessarily about a perfect photo. The accompanying examples are nice images, but perfect is in the mind of the beholder.

    For those of us who have been at it for awhile, most will probably agree that practice with your camera is the most important part, and planning is next. But beware of advice that suggest you decide and become a specialist in a certain type of photography – this is a sure fire way of getting into a rut although you may become very proficient in that genre.

    I believe perfect images are those that capture the “moment”, and convey that feeling to the viewer whatever the genre.

  3. Boss says:

    This article really needs a different title and Wayne Turner clearly needs to stop missleading people like a newspaper report.

    The tips here do not answer the question “how to shoot the perfect picture” and are nothing more than general tips that even a newbie to photography could write after 3 months of holding a camera and reading books. It’s common sense and nothing more.

    Shame on Picture Correct for stooping so low and being on par with the likes of The Sun and The Daily Star in quality.

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