Compose Then Shoot – Don’t Shoot Then Compose

So many photographers have 20+ megapixels cameras and brag about how they now have more latitude when cropping in on a photograph. This is very true but is it really as great as it sounds?

Personally, I’m of the old school film days and have always tried to get what I wanted in the camera at the time of the shutter release and not after in the darkroom. Of course, things are much easier now within our “digital” darkrooms but still today just like years ago our photographs suffer from cropping.

Let’s look at it this way…

You have a brand new shiny 21 megapixel 5D Mark II that costs you nearly $3000. Haphazardly you take an image with your wonderful new gear and find that to compose the photograph properly you must crop-in on subject by 50%. Your final image would have a whopping grand total of 10.5 megapixels of resolution; While another photographer, taking the very same image with say 50D whom took the time to compose within the camera would end up with 50% more pixels of resolution at half the price!

Let’s keep this mind: All of the expensive Gear in the world will not make up for the Wet-Gear between our ears … It’s time we all stop worrying about the tools we use and focus on the process we use before depressing the shutter.

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  1. So true and sad how many self-declared photographers with deep pockets feel the gear itself is a prime qualifier. Just need to take a glance at their work to knock this growing premise. Better gear serves to support and enhance the visual possibilities of great photographers, while boasting the egos of the self-deceived and crappy.

  2. Get over yourselves. The image at the end of the process is what counts. You can cry like a baby all you like that somebody ‘cheated’ by using a particular piece of equipment or software, but the picture desk doesn’t care, the competition judge doesn’t care, and the general viewer doesn’t care.

    What you produce is what counts. Not how you produce it. If, heaven forbid, somebody sneaks past you, fires off 24 frames, throws away 95% of the shot pixels and still delivers a better 3000×2000 of content than you, then you have a problem. And you need to smarten up to that, or watch as time after time somebody else’s pictures are chosen over yours.

    Yes, good composition and technique play a huge part in producing quality material, but if you think that somehow you’re going to get extra ‘points’ from some big picture editor in the sky for getting it all right in camera, you’re only deluding yourself.

  3. Paul, were you responding to my article or another?

    In your first paragraph, and actually throughout, your comments seems more like a Freudian Slip regarding past contests that you have entered than a response to my article that didn’t discuss, “cheating”, “particular equipment”, “software”, “competition” nor “judges” and alike.

    In paragraph two once again you speak about one image being selected over an other, even though, as it seem to me, the photo you’re referencing may have been created using an all too common technique since the advent of digit photography called “Spray & Pray”. Sure, if you hold down the shutter long enough you “could” obtain a result that you may like, or as you indicated “Judges” may like, but at to what end? This forum is about learning & sharing techniques to help folks get better with their equipment and photography in general but in no way requires going “Church” for results.

    In paragraph three, you admit that “good composition and technique play a huge part in producing quality material” which is fantastic! Likewise, my article discussed the value of composing first; filling the frame and then releasing the shutter to minimize the amount of cropping required during post production and suggests this technique would ultimately produce a “higher quality / greater megapixel” image. [Not A Better Photo] Some how your train once again came off it’s tracks as you went into a rant regarding “extra points”, “picture editor in the sky” and finally suggested that I was some how deluding myself? :/

    Bringing this topic back to the station, no pun intend; I think you should take a few moments and re-read the article with a more level head in hopes that you may be able to better discuss the merits or lack there of too filling the frame within the camera prior to releasing the shutter as opposed to cropping a photo after the fact.

    Thank you for your comment.

  4. I completely agree! I’m old school film still adjusting to this digital age. (even though I’ve had my digi for 6 years now, it’s just hard to move on) When I started I was extremely poor student and mom, so I didn’t waste film. Now I do overshoot and get frustrated at the editing process because I have 20 equally great images and now I have to choose. After checking out some other photographers work flows, I felt bad that I rarely cropped in photoshop. But I don’t. I compose in camera and while I do make adjustments in photoshop, cropping is rarely one. Thanks for this article!

    Paul-while I see what you are saying, I don’t care if some judge or client or admirer loves my work. I really want to make MYSELF love my work. And unfortunately that’s not always the case. Being the worst critic you know. I still feel like I cheat using photoshop.

    • Dayna, I spent a few moments re-reading comments and wanted to take a moment to send you a brief note.

      Keep doing what your doing! I still believe everyone should begin their journey as a photographer with film and a light meter. Having a limited # of shots gives one pause before releasing the shutter. This “pause” is the process which elevates one from a shooter to the ranks of a photographer.

      Keep photographing!

      Thanks for your comment.

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