Spray and Pray – Learn From The Good AND The Bad

How does a beginning Photographer take better pictures?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “spray and pray?” It means that you take tons of pictures and hope one or two will be worthy of keeping.

princess taken with no thought
This is the first shot – no thought given to composition.. just point and shoot.

There was a comment recently on one of the camera forums that basically suggested we go back to film photography. The reason was that it will give the photographer reason to think before shooting.

“Spray and pray” is not a tactic that one would employ when doing film photography. It would be far too expensive and, indeed, a waste of time.

Better composition
After taking the time to think through the shot, this is the result.

The idea of taking lots of pictures when using digital cameras is actually one of the reasons that many people are now upgrading their camera equipment.

Should you “spray and pray?” Maybe…

It is a good tactic for those who are just learning about photography. However, when the photo op is over, you should stop and reflect on your results. The idea is to learn photography, and many times, mistakes help us to learn as much as successes.

After your photo shoot, you will be able to eliminate many photos even before you get them onto your computer for a more detailed examination simply because you can spot the most obvious mistakes.

But don’t be too hasty to press the delete button on your camera. There could be some redeeming value in a photo that makes it worth keeping. For instance, many blurry photos are quite interesting because of the story they tell. Pro photographers take blurry pictures on purpose at times, and, even though ours might be a mistake, it could be one that has interest and character.

Now, after uploading your photos to the computer, take the time to evaluate. The photography learning process continues as you think through your pictures.

Considerations that may help beginning photographers:

What did you do that created the most interesting pictures?

Photography is all about light and composition. As you take lots of pictures, move around so you can get photos from different positions and perspectives. Don’t think you always have to get the subject centered and straight. And if you are a logical thinker who will naturally put the subject right in the center, force yourself to do it differently. You can force yourself to “focus” on better techniques.

What camera settings gave you the best color and light?

Even if your camera is set on Auto, there will be information about Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO that can help you determine which settings give the best results. Then, start experimenting with changes “on purpose” so you can explore how each change affects the outcome. See more about this in these articles:

How do the backgrounds look?

Examine the backgrounds in your photos and decide how you could have isolated your subject more to eliminate background clutter. A beginning photographer must learn to evaluate the entire scene. You might see the subject as very interesting, and rightly so, but there is too much in the picture to distract the viewer’s eye. Distractions will destroy an otherwise great photo. See the whole picture, not just the main subject.

What are the limitations of your particular digital camera?

Not every one of us can afford the most capable equipment. The camera and accessories of your dreams may be outside your budget. No worries.. Just understand that great photos are taken by great photographers, not necessarily great cameras. A good photographer has been trained to “see” the picture, and even if she only has a camera phone, she can get a fantastic photo if she knows exactly what she can or cannot do with her camera phone.

How can you overcome these limitations?

As you examine the pictures from your photo shoots, think about how you can improve your technique to eliminate the shortfalls of your digital camera. For instance, if your camera has a long “shutter lag” time, you have to press the shutter button far enough in advance to capture the picture. You might even have to get your subject to pose in an action position without moving just to get a sharp picture. Again, just take time to think through the photo process. Next time the same photo op presents itself, you will be prepared.

Is it possible to make your pictures better with software?

Are you aware the nearly 100% of the photos you see published have been altered in some way? Just a minor adjustment in color or exposure can dramatically change a photo. Experiment with pictures on your computer to see if they look better after some minor tweaks. You don’t need the most advanced photo editing software for this. Photoshop Elements, iPhoto, or even a free online software program will give you good results.