Working Your Subject


In my last post, I talked about the importance of having a purpose or subject in mind when going on a photo shoot, and how it can be beneficial to stick to one subject instead of shooting as many subjects as possible.  The photo in that post was of the Gastown SteamClock (December 19 post).  The above photo is also of the steam clock, but from a different perspective.

In my experience, I think it is often very difficult to get a great shot right at the beginning of a shoot.  If you  stick with the subject however, and try to find as many different perspectives as possible, the chances of getting a photo that you like is definitely much better, even for a professional photographer.  Steve Simon, who is a Canadian photojournalist, says in his  book the Passionate Photographer that it is important for him to work the subject to get a good photo.  In the example he gave, he took over 100 shots before he found the shot he liked.    Now taking the time to shoot over 100 shots may not be for everyone.  You may neither have the interest, nor quite possibly the time to take over 100 shots of your subject of interest.  However, I do think though it is important to take as many shots as time and interest permits.   

If you’re interested in reading more about what Steve Simon has to say, check out his book at: The book offers many useful exercises and advice on becoming a more serious photographer.

Below is a sample of types of shots I was getting when I started taking shots of the steam clock.


This above photo is the first shot that I took.   I didn’t like a lot about this shot.  It was too busy.  There wasn’t a clear subject.  The light was not exactly the most pleasing.  I could go on and on….


I liked this next shot a little better.  It was my 9th shot.  I like the details inside the Steam Clock, but it still just didn’t appeal to me.  Looked boring to me.


I liked this next shot a lot better, including the blue sky and the lights and steam in the background.  I also liked the face of the clock, especially the yellow tinge surrounding the hands of the clock.  However, the tree branches in the background still bothered me.


I thought at first that this photo above could have been the shot for my posting that week.  I liked how the clock looked as well as the steam and lights in the background.  I also liked the pinkish/purplish hue on the building to the right.  But of course, I decided to continue….


The above shot of course was the shot I selected to post on my Instagram account (@Instayunman).  I still really like it, especially because of the dreamy, fantasy look of the photo.  It feels to me as if I am in a Harry Potter movie.  Don’t you think?

I decided to count the total number of shots that I took of the Gastown Steam Clock, and it worked out to be 200!  In the end, 200 is probably a number that not all people would have the time or inclination to make.  However, based on just looking at the above photos, you can see my shots became more attractive and more engaging the more shots I took.  I think this is likely due in part to the fact that I became more familiar with different aspects of the subject (e.g. light, angle of subject, background).  In the end, one of the benefits of taking more shots was the fact that I managed to get at least more than 1 interesting photo.

So the next time you want to take a picture of a plate of food you’re having for dinner or a landscape or urban scene, try to take more than 1-2 photos.  Take as many photos as you can…you might just get a photo that you’ll keep for a long time!!


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