1... 2... 3... Perfect! / by brandon burkhardt

Ok, its not THAT easy, but here is the idea: If your a "professional" you ought to be able to nail a shot in 3-4 clicks of the shutter release. (actually I borrowed this definition from Kevin Vandevier, though the information below is from my own experience) Now, I'm about to summarize and simplify the entire photographic experience to the point of silliness. The information here is more like a table of contents with some chapter summaries. Every subject could be hours of course work to even begin to understand. Hence... PROFESSIONAL! You know, If you do it right. 

Borrowed the images from here

Let the shutter be released:


This shot is the "does this work" shot. There is so much to consider on this first shot. From "does this even look like it will achieve what I am going for" to "how is the subject positioned". Here is the things you are looking for in the first image.

  • Composition - rule of thirds? golden rule? Just go with it? Angles / Perspective
  • Exposure - highlights, shadows (for detail), HDR, shadows (on the subject)
  • Depth of Field - background / foreground / bokeh / focal point
    • This plays in to everything and is more properly an issue of what you have in focus, but im also using it here to describe what is in the foreground and back ground, what is out of focus and what is in focus.
  • Subject - Does the subject work in this environment?


At this point you should already know you can achieve what you set out to create. If not you are starting over and rethinking your image all together. But, If you see the shoot you want... your going for it. Lets Review:

  • Composition - YOu have decided you like how the subject fits in the frame. However, you are making an adjustment, small or drastic to the dynamics of your composition.
  • Exposure - You were either way off, and need to adjust dramatically, or making some tweaks to balance the dynamics of exposure. This could included many controllable and uncontrollable lighting variables. (Many, many hours of classes... photography IS light)
  • Depth of Field - Did you blur the back ground enough to draw focus to the subject. Do you need to adjust where you or the subject are sitting/shooting from. Is the foreground boring... or perhaps over powering. 
  • Subject - At this point, your subject becomes the major focus of your adjustments. Is it/he/she lit well, positioned properly and all the details visiable or hidden as appropriate. Shirts straightened, hair in place, ear rings angled, awesome belt buckle showing...


If you're awesome, when you take this picture... your done! (sans any post) However, if your really trying to get the best shot, your usually going to make a few final adjustments

  • Composition & Depth of Field - Really ought to be established for what you want to achieve at this point. Minor adjustments to get to your goal.
  • Exposure - Here, honestly, you could still be way off, or you could be going creative at this point. Playing with the light is the biggest challenge and the most fun you are going to have as a photographer. Does that background just HAVE to be blown out to get the subject lit, or am I going dark with some serious negative space...
  • Subject - Chin, hips, hands, eyes, shoe laces, necklace facing out, stray hairs, sipper, bra strap, mystery hands, mystery objects laying around, skin roles, lint... check it all before the final exposure...


If your lucky... ohhhh..... ahhhhh. Perfect!