Photographing with Intention
Setting an Intention
In yoga, an instructor will often encourage their students to set an intention for their practice. My intentions for a yoga practice are usually things like calm or forgiveness. Regardless of what your soul is asking for, setting an intention gives you something to focus on while you move through the asanas (postures).
In photography, setting an intention for a shoot is also a powerful tool. A photographic intention can refer to your subject or the mood you want to create in your image. It can be strictly defined, or as ethereal as a feeling. In my experience, an intention is often the difference between good photos and great photos.
Photographing with intention is not necessarily something that has to be done hours or days in advance. It can be instantaneous!
You walk out of the grocery store one evening and the sky is on fire with the most vivid sunset you’ve ever seen. You grab your camera and head to the nearest vista point to capture it.
Without really contemplating you’ve identified your subject – the sky, and perhaps the feeling you have when you see it. That is what you will try to convey to your viewer. You are shooting with intention!
Occasionally, however, shooting with intention will take a bit of time and research.
You have the opportunity to travel someplace beautiful. You’ve seen many lovely photos of the place you are visiting and would like to photograph that same place, but with your personal style. In order to get the best shots you’ll need to know a few things:
- How do you get there?
- When should you go?
- Where will the light be?
- What gear will you need?
Without the answers to these questions you may end up unprepared to capture the moment. Once you arrive on location you may ask yourself a few more questions:
- What is my subject?
- What is the story I’m telling
- What is the feeling I’m trying to convey?
- How can I compose the image to convey my message to the viewer?
The answers to these questions will determine how you capture that slice of time: where to stand (or lie down, or climb up); what gear and settings to use; and how to frame the scene. All of these aspects work together to help you capture the photograph that you imagined – i.e. getting the image you had in your head onto your camera.
Slow Down & Prepare
Next time you go out to shoot, slow yourself down. Take time to think about the image you want to make and set an intention. Personal experience has shown that preparation and intention are key aspects in making consistently great photographs.
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