Your first step in taking a great digital photograph is knowing the story you want to tell with your photograph. Before you take a picture, ask yourself what you’re trying to portray.
When you photograph a landscape on a bleak dreary day, perhaps you’re trying to portray a certain mood. Or perhaps your goal is to portray the beauty of a place or your love of the place.
Another mood you can portray is power and majesty such as when you photograph a bald eagle in flight with dinner gripped tightly in its talons. When you know why you’re taking the picture, visualize the end result in your mind’s eye.
The image you envision may not be totally achievable in the camera. You may have to augment the image with filters in your image-editing application. Some people think this is cheating, but most of the great photographers manipulated their images in the darkroom.
The difference is that our darkroom doesn’t have any nasty-smelling chemicals or papers with potentially hazardous content. Our darkroom is totally digital.
Master landscape photographer Ansel Adams was a proponent of visualization. He said he never released the shutter until he had a clear picture in his mind of the final image. If you adopt this technique, rather than pressing the shutter button in helter-skelter fashion taking lots of photos and then hoping for a few good ones, you’ll add creativity and end up with better pictures as a result.
Sure, you may end up taking quite a few photos of the scene or subject to get the image you want, but you’re working with a goal in mind instead of relying on luck to get a good picture. When you envision the photo in your mind, you’ll know which settings to use, which lens to use, which vantage point to shoot the photo from, and so on.