Ken Rockwell drops another article on “ow to make good photographs,” this one emphasizing composition and urging you to carefully study your image before taking a picture. He has a particularly formalist bent, but the basic idea of thinking and experimenting before shooting is important.
The only way to ensure strong composition is to look through your finder and make it that way before you press the shutter. Move yourself around to change perspective, which moves elements around in your frame. You can change the relative sizes of elements by moving in and zooming out to maintain the same framing. When you do, closer elements just got bigger while distant ones just got smaller.
This is all true, but there’s another phase of thinking and work that takes place after the picture’s been taken that often gets under-appreciated, which is editing. Editing is looking at your photos after they’ve been taken to figure out which ones are the good ones. What happens during editing is just as important as what happens while shooting. Photographers who post 50 photos from a single day just don’t get it, or they’re not trying to make art. You need to do the hard work of finding the one or two images that rise above the rest by a confluence of factors. Forget what you were thinking while you shot the pictures, and forget which ones you thought would turn out the best; invariably, the best pictures are the ones you didn’t give a second thought to while shooting.
My photoblog isn’t really about taking pictures. Most of the photos I’ve posted so far are years old — it’s about looking at old collections of photos with a new perspective. Editing. Take today’s picture, from a trip to Prague in 2002. I enjoyed this photo at the time, but only years later does it stand far above most of the others. Mastering technique and composition is critical to becoming a good photographer, but so is the ability to look at a hundred photos and realize that the best way to represent the whole group is to just show one.