Lights, Camera, Action. A Guide to Thinking Before Shooting.

One of the things that always helps me when I am trying to do a bit more with my images is to think of things in a certain order. We have always heard movie director say “Lights, camera, action…” but for me translated for photography it means, “Light, composition, pose/emotion.”

I always start with light followed by composition. The final moment before I press the shutter is about the emotion of the shot or the subjects in it.


Light can be found everywhere and in every type. From hard directional light to soft muted light, to reflected light to candle or moonlight. Each type will impact a photograph differently and it is the single most important part of a photographer’s world.

Being a natural light shooter is fantastic as long as you become an expert at recognizing and using all of the different types of light available to you! Adding flash and/or strobe or continuous light to your bag of tricks gives you more flexibility and the ability to shoot in any conditions consistently. I encourage all photographers to take understanding light in all it’s glory very seriously! Our craft depends on it!

Found Light:

Made Light:

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2. Composition

What makes a photograph interesting or unique? I think the answer is in composition and style. This is how you can separate yourself from everyone else. In a world full of sameness – understanding, applying and breaking rules is your ART! The way I like to think about composition is anything that gives a photograph depth – or visual interest. Through tension or balance, this is a way for the viewer to immerse themselves – to get lost in your photograph.

A few basic composition concepts include Rule of thirds, leading lines, framing, formal and informal balance, and S-Curves.

Experiment and try new things. Get low – get high (Vertically – not emotionally or chemically.) Get near, get far. Be curious what it might look like through something or under something. Have fun!

3. Pose/Emotion

I put these together because one can influence the other. Whether you are directing people or observing for moments, once light and composition are decided and in place, the last important element is what does the photograph feel like. Is it happy, sad, romantic, playful, intimate? These decisions are the photographers to make based on when you pull the trigger and what you have decided with the other elements.