Knowing how to be an intentional photographer is a valuable skill! Intentionality can most concisely be defined as the fact of being purposeful or deliberate. It is doing or saying something that leaves no doubt in the mind of anyone on the receiving end about your ambition. It is a kind of matter-of-fact-ness.
I believe most, if not all, photographers aspire to be intentional photographers, even if they’re not consciously aware of this aspiration. Of course, it’s easy to overlook this concept of intentionality when we live in a world built on a foundation of immediacy.
Digital cameras (phones included) make everything photography-related quick and accessible. These characteristics have value for sure, but they can also lead to creative detachment, where you merely hold your camera up in front of something or someone, press the shutter button three or eight times, pick the shot you like best, post it on Instagram and watch the likes roll in.
If you’ve found yourself locked in this insipid cycle and need to break loose but don’t know how, read on to discover 4 ways to become a more intentional photographer.
Know What You Want To Shoot
The “what” here doesn’t necessarily mean a specific subject — thought it could — rather, more generally, a style. You have to know what you want to focus on (candid street scenes, natural light portraits, environmental portraits, photojournalism) so that you can make deliberate decisions about how, when, where, and why you shoot.
It’s fun to take walks and just photograph random things or people that catch your attention, but intentionality is about reining yourself in a bit and being disciplined instead of letting randomness rule.
Envision The Final Shot
Envisioning your final shot is essentially about fine-tuning everything that came together in the previous step. The more you know about what you want to photograph, the more you will know about how to acquire the desired shots. You will eventually develop enough insight about yourself as a photographer so that no matter where you are, you will be able to adapt to your environment and get the shots you want.
Don’t Rely On Luck
Luck indeed plays a role in photography. Sometimes you just find yourself in the right place at the right time when some photo-worthy but unexpected thing happens. Even in those situations, shoot like you know what you’re doing.
Don’t succumb to the spray-and-pray method just because you’re confronted with unfamiliarity. Trust your skills, trust your eye, and approach novel circumstances with confidence.
To be present is to be mentally in tune with your surroundings. It is difficult to be present, and therefore intentional when you are distracted. Often, the things that are most distracting have nothing to do with photography: a problem at work, a recent health scare, family troubles.
And then there are those times when you begin to doubt yourself as a photographer, or when you’re thrown off your game by something/someone around you, or when you’re putting pressure on yourself to capture the perfect shot.
There are numerous elements that might be working against you at any given time. The goal is to use photography as a means of silencing those distractions and accepting that there’s no such thing as an objectively perfect shot.
Think back to the other things mentioned here — know what you’re shooting, form an idea of your final image, trust your skill — and center your thoughts around them both while you’re actively using your camera and while you’re not.
Know that it is impossible to separate being present from being intentional.
Try to avoid the pitfalls that lead photographers to grudgingly pick up their cameras. There’s nothing wrong with finding joy or pleasure in photography, even when the subject matter is serious.
Have fun. Be an intentional photographer.