I can't believe how much I learned in just 1 hour of browsing on Pinterest! Why have I not done this before??
If you're a nerd like me you're going to love this exercise. We're basically going to be gathering a lot of inspiration on Pinterest and comparing our own images to them.
This all came about as I was brainstorming ways to improve my work. I've been a portrait and wedding photographer for about six years. Lately I've felt frustrated with the sense that I'm not making the most of things when I do a portrait session. I've gotten into such a predictable groove. I feel confident that I can deliver a session of photos that clients will be happy with and that's a great place to be at. But I don't want to stay here. I know I have a lot of room for improvement. I want photos that are more striking, more engaging, more beautiful, and I want to be able to deliver them consistently.
I LOVE the above photo, which I recently took during a styled bridal shoot. After a careful study on Pinterest, I now realize in a really specific way why I love it so much... and what I could've done to make it even better.
I started this exercise by collecting images on Pinterest that spoke to me on a deeper level and were representative of styles, colors, and tones I'd like to bring out in my own brand. After spending 15 or 20 minutes gathering images onto a new board, I opened the board and studied the collection. There was definitely a common theme among the photos I had gathered, which is what I was hoping for. I spent quite a bit of time asking myself questions like "Why do I like this?" "What makes this photo such a great photo?" "What are the common elements?" In studying the photos I was able to make a list of sixteen things that I need to incorporate into my own work consistently to make it better. For example, almost all the photos I collected had gentle curves and movement in the composition... and no strong lines. Wow! Talk about clear direction. Now I have a really helpful list of things to be working on between now and my next shoot - a styled bridal shoot - the perfect opportunity to test out these new ideas.
After studying the board, I then brought in a handful of my own images so I could compare them in every way. I did this by creating new pins and uploading my images. This was so eye-opening! It really allowed me to see my images objectively for the first time in a long time. I dragged similar photos next to one another on the board so I could see my pics side by side with the other photos. This helped me to easily recognize which elements of my images weren't working that well and how I could have done things differently to make the photo better. For example, in several of my photos there were strong lines or lighting that was too harsh - both things I now realize I need to stay away from if possible in order to create the specific look I'm after.
Ahhh. I feel so invigorated. Isn't it so life-giving to learn something new? I feel encouraged, inspired, and so pumped that I have a clear plan to move up in my photo game.
What about you?? Pinterest is a pretty awesome place. I'm pretty sure you could do this same exercise no matter what kinds of things you love to photograph... cats, people, food, travels, products, or anything in-between!
So just to recap, here's how to do this simple study:
1. Search for and collect images that represent what level/style of photography you'd like to be able to create, add them to a new board. (Only study one genre at a time. It will be impossible to compare seascapes and food photography in a meaningful way!)
3. Study, observe and ask lots of questions about the photos you added
4. Add your own photos to the board by creating new pins.
5. Arrange similar photos side-by-side to compare. Make notes!
Here are 16 questions you could be asking as you study the photos:
1. Why do I like this?
2. Is the lighting bright or dark?
3. Are there lines or curves in the image?
4. What types of colors am I seeing?
5. Is there movement in the image?
6. Is the composition busy or calm? Balanced or unbalanced?
7. What is the subject of the image?
8. Does it look like the photo was taken with a normal lens or a wide angle or telephoto lens?
9. Does it look like the photo was taken from eye-level or higher or lower?
10. Where was this photo taken? Indoors, outdoors, in a studio, next to a window?
11. What direction(s) is the light coming from?
12. How much of the image is in focus?
13. How is this image different than my own image?
14. How could I have made my image better?
15. What do I like or not like about my own image?
16. Is there any method or equipment I might want to incorporate next time I shoot?
Do you think you'll give this a go? What types of photos will you collect for your study??