5 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself Before Taking a Photo

Do you ever feel like sometimes you’re just winging it when you pick up your camera?

That you get all flustered and not quite sure what you should be doing….?

….So you end up just clicking and hoping?

Then this week’s blog post is for you!

I wanted to break down some of the things you should be thinking about when you take your photo - many of them before you even lift the camera to your eye - so that you can shoot more purposefully, and most importantly, get better photos.

So we’re going to go into FIVE questions you should ask yourself when you take your photo. There are more of course, but these are the big ones, the ones that can make or break your picture, so let’s dive into those now…

Learn which questions to ask yourself before you take a photo in this beginner photography tutorial (and grab a mental photography checklist whilst you’re there!)

Before you get stuck in, I just wanted to let you know about our FREE 90 Day Photography Learning Blueprint. This is blueprint is crazy in depth, and will take you from beginner to pro in just 3 months. Go here to grab your free copy!

Q1: What is the purpose of this shot?

Before you even lift the camera to your eye, I want you to approach each shot with an end goal in mind - in other words, what are you trying to capture?

I know that many people pick up their camera just in the hope of getting “something good” but try to get a bit more detailed than that, as the more you can visualise the end result, the more purposeful your shooting will be, and the better the picture will be!

So consider whether the goal is simply a lifestyle / documentary shot for your family albums, or are you going for a full-on portrait to hang on the wall? Also think about what do you want to SHOW with this image? What does it need to include to get your message across? What shouldn’t it include?

The more intent you have, the better in-camera decisions you make, so this is an important one!


Q2: Where is the light coming from?

So now that we know what type of image we hope to take, the next thing you should do is look at where the light is coming from, and how this is hitting our subject.

You want to use the available light in a way that flatters your subject. Remember, if your subject doesn’t look good to the naked eye, they’re not going to look good in the picture either!   Although you can do a lot to an image in processing, you simply can’t “fix” bad lighting (or at least not well) - so this is something that you really must get right in camera.

Try to make sure that the shadows are falling in places that are flattering and moulding the features, and that they eyes have plenty of light in them (called catchlights). Catchlights can be really important, because they help bring your subject to life!

So, look to the light, and move your subject or yourself (or both!) to an area that is flattering and best tells the story you want.

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Q3: Are there any distractions in the frame?

Now that you have decided what type of photo you want to take, and where to position yourself and your subject with regard to the light, take a quick second or two to check your background.

Try to make sure there is nothing distracting in the background, and if there is, remove it. Although you can definitely clone items out later, there are some things that are just really difficult to remove, for example, plant pots growing out of someone’s head, or items that merge with your subject in some way. Plus, can you imagine having to edit out 30 blue balls out of the background when all you needed to do was take 30 seconds to move it out of the way at the time?

Of course, if the background is just super busy (but that gives you the best light) consider perhaps shooting down on your subject, or blurring the background.

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Q4: What settings do I need to use?

Finally! We’re ready to lift our camera to our eye. (Can you see how much of taking a photo starts without even the camera being there?!)

At this point, you want to determine which settings you need to use here. I’m talking about Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO settings primarily, but also your other settings too - such as you focus mode, white balance etc.

I wrote a cracking blog post (if I do say so myself) about choosing your settings in manual mode, so I’d give that a read, and also download my FREE manual settings cheat sheet as well.

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Q5: How can I compose this photo?

Purpose of photo clear? Check! Subject positioned in best light? Check! Distractions removed? Check! Settings in? Check!

Then now, if you have the time (which I appreciate you don’t always have!) try to consider which composition tool you are going to use. You have SO many options here that it can feel overwhelming.

If you are new to photography, then stick to using the rule of thirds for now, moving on to other composition guides when you feel like you could “do” the rule of thirds in your sleep.

If you are more advanced, then try something new - framing, symmetry, negative space, golden spirals or rule of odds, to give a few examples. Have a look at what is the frame - for example, is there a line you can use to lead to your subject? Do you have a perfect triangle? A great background for some negative space?

Then make the subtle adjustments to your position to get the composition you want.


Are there more things to think about? Yes. Definitely. But these are the big 5, the main things you should know before you take the shot.

As always, if you liked this tutorial, I’d REALLY appreciate it if you could share it around.  Pin it to your boards on Pinterest, or share on Facebook or Twitter, or just link to the blog in general.  All shares gratefully received!

Thanks once more for being here, and I’ll see you same time (Tuesday!) next week!