Do You Feel Lucky? It's A Big Question, But Are You A Lucky Photographer?

Do You Feel Lucky? It’s A Big Question, But Are You A Lucky Photographer?

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Recently I was looking over some drone images I had taken on a recent trip to England. What struck me was that they were pretty good despite the fact they were very much afterthoughts to video footage that I was shooting at the same time. 
There are quite a lot of external factors that can occupy your mind when flying a drone. There is the flying it itself, the awareness of the space around you, the constant monitoring of telemetry to make sure you stay within rules and the possibility of distraction by people, dogs or even bird attacks.
So with all these factors taking priority over composition, why did my images come out well? Am I just a lucky photographer?

With so much to think about, why did this come out well? By Jason Row Photography

Am I A Lucky Photographer?

My first thoughts were that given the location and the light, I had just got lucky. But looking back, in particular at drone images, there were still plenty of well composed, technically competent images in less beautiful conditions and with less than optimum light.
I also looked at a lot of my ground-based snapshots, images which had literally been shot on the go with little thought or consideration and many of these stood up well too. I was really a lucky photographer, or was I?

Being A Lucky Photographer Comes From Experience.

There is a well worn English saying, “you make your own luck in this life” and this is easily applied to photography. Luck comes with experience. The more you shoot, the more you become familiar with all the elements that make up a good picture.
Good light, great composition, nailing the settings, achieving the right focus. When all those elements come together for a shot, you subconsciously remember those elements.
The more you shoot the more instinctive you become at recognising the conditions for a great shot.

This was shot whilst shooting video on a gimbal. By Jason Row Photography.

Luck Is Created By Good Instinct.

The experience you gain shooting will lead to you becoming an instinctive photographer – and in turn, make you a lucky photographer!
You will look at a scene in front of you and pretty much know what the exposure settings will be without ever looking at the camera. If shooting on an auto mode, when you look through the viewfinder, that same instinct will tell you to dial back 1/3rd of a stop from the exposure.
For composition, your eyes will be instinctively looking for elements that you know work well. You will incorporate them into your shots almost as an afterthought. There will be certain types of light, certain compositional elements that you learn to like and trust.
You will return to them again and again. What you are in fact doing is creating your own style. 

Seeing the boat coming, experience suggested a good shot to me. By Jason Row Photography

How Do You Create Your Own Luck?

As we said earlier, luck comes from experience but that does not mean you cannot help it along a little.
The technical aspect of photography is the easier side to concentrate on. Your camera has manual modes, start to use them. Manual focus is probably the easiest to master, then move on to set the exposure manually. Build up experience in these manual settings as you shoot, learning from your mistakes, and experiment all the time.
Once you have become comfortable with manually setting exposure and focus, try to manually read the light, setting the aperture and shutter speed to what your eye is telling you, not the camera’s meter. Once you have nailed this, you will be able to instinctively judge the technical details of a shot.
Composition is a little harder to get “lucky” at. Some people are born with an eye for it, others have to work at it. Start with the simple day to day compositional rules and build your experience with them:

The elements are all fairly easy to see and occur readily in everyday scenes. Concentrate on getting good at those simple rules and you will soon find yourself seeing them everywhere, even when you do not have your camera. You will have developed a basic instinct for composition. 
With the building blocks of basic composition in place, you will find yourself looking more and more into the scenes you are shooting and looking at ways to break or enhance those compositions and perhaps incorporate more advanced techniques into your images.

The shot was composed and set up. The luck was the people crossing the bridge. By Jason Row Photography

Are You A Lucky Photographer?

Of course, the lucky shot does exist. Sometimes you are just in the right moment, have the right light, and the right settings on the camera. However, those shots are few and far between. The real lucky shots are the ones where your instinct has kicked in and your subconscious has made most of the decisions before you have even raised the camera to the eye.
Those shots come from experience and experience comes from getting out there and shooting. So what are you waiting for?  Grab that camera and be lucky. 

About the author

Jason Row

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here

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