In the age of digital cameras — especially ones built into cell phones — photography’s slowly becoming a lost art. Where we used to take the time and attention to line up shots, to set up the equipment, to develop the prints, now we just whip out our gadget of choice, take a few snaps, and move on. We barely even need to pay attention to what we’re doing.
If you search for outdoor photography tips, you’ll easily find lots of pages that list all sorts of technical things you could be doing better. Pay attention to the weather. Keep the horizon level. Diffuse direct sunlight as much as possible. Use focus and perspective to your advantage. Etc etc. This is all worthy advice, and all very important to understand and think about, but the most important rule of photography — the one idea that has fueled some of the most famous and memorable photographs in history, whether taken in the outdoors or not — is largely ignored by all the technical mumbo-jumbo. And it’s something we think about much less when we’re just snapping away with our gizmos and devices and barely even thinking about what we’re doing. It’s the most important, and yet, it’s the most simple, and it takes no technical knowledge or skill whatsoever. It’s an innate human skill, in fact.
Tell a story.
That’s it. It’s as simple as that. Don’t just take pictures of pretty things. Put them into context. Make a statement, a juxtaposition, express a thought or an emotion. Give the viewers something to think about. Something to move the gears of their imagination. It’s not easy to do in a single photograph, but with a little care and a little patience, it can be done, and it will make all the difference in the end.