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Photographing with Intent

Les Colombes (The Doves), Washington National CathedralLes Colombes (The Doves), Washington National Cathedral

When you lift your camera to your eye, what is happening in your mind? In thinking about the scene before you, is your mind working on finding more creative angles and perspectives, avoiding cluttered backgrounds, looking at how light is falling on the subject or considering other elements in the photo? If it is, then you are photographing with intent.

Photographing with intent means creating images with a purpose or a goal in mind. It means that you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve with your images and how you want them to look before you take them. When you photograph with intent, the pictures you make will resonate more with the people who view them. All of us have a unique worldview. No two people perceive what they see precisely the same way. Learning to express what you see through the lens of your camera requires paying attention to more than just what you are seeing.

Fall Foliage, C & O Canal, (near Anglers)C & O Canal (near Anglers) in the fall

Your camera is the “instrument” that is used to create your art, but it doesn’t happen without the interaction between you and your camera – the quality and creativity of your image depends on the level of synergy between you and your camera as well as the connection between you and your chosen subject.

This means that you need to take your camera off “Auto” and know your camera and its settings really well so that you won’t be distracted by the technical aspects of your camera and will be able to concentrate on the art of creating your image. As you learn to control the settings on your camera such as exposure, focus, white balance, etc. your confidence will grow, and you will begin to really “see” what is before you in different ways. The more you are able control the settings on your camera, the more creative your photography becomes.

The Lady of the House, Gunston Hall, Lorton, VA
The “Lady of the House”, Gunston Hall, Lorton, VA

As you gain more confidence, think about how you want your images to look before you take them. Do you want to create the scene exactly as you see it? Or will you adjust the field of view to exclude an ugly element such as a bright or dark spot in the background? How much of the scene do you want to include in the final image? This will depend (in large part) on the focal length of the lens that is being used. Likewise, when you control your exposure, you can expose for highlights and shadows to create a more interesting atmosphere or use the exposure to hide or reveal areas in shadow.

Dragonfly & Waterllily, National Arboretum, Washington,. DCDragonfly on a waterlily, National Arboretum, Washington, DC

Picking the decisive moment (thank you Henri Cartier Bresson!) to press the shutter plays a part in every image and can have an important creative influence on the image as can creating your image in color or black and white. Being intentional about color when creating your image will lead to more compelling works of art.

Also concentrate on your connection to the subject. What has drawn you to want to create an image of it? As you analyze what has drawn you to make the image, you will begin to see your subject in new ways and that will influence your photography. Being aware of how you compose and expose your subjects will help you create images that tell a story, and your images will become works of art that have depth and meaning instead of just a snapshot.

Soleado Lavender Farm, Dickerson, MDSoleado Lavender Farm, Dickerson, MD

As with photographic pursuits in general, photographing with intent takes practice and it will probably be a little disconcerting at first. But like anything creative, the more you apply yourself and practice, the better you will become – and this will show in your photos. As you become more aware of what you want your images to look like, the more compelling they will be to you as well as others.

Interested in mastering the controls and settings on your camera so that you can start photographing with intent? Join WPS on a safari where you will learn how “get off Auto” and control the settings on your camera! WPS offers a wide range of safaris, and the instructors will teach you about F/stops, shutter speeds, white balance and ISO – all of those settings that you need to be able to set without really thinking about them so that you can begin to photograph with intent!

Book your safari now!

Photos by Sherryl Belinsky

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