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Opinion: Stop 'spraying and praying' and you'll improve as a photographer

Opinion: Stop 'spraying and praying' and you'll improve as a photographer
(Image credit: Courtney Cook on Unsplash)

When Tiger Woods hits a golf ball, he doesn’t just take the shot. He has a few practice swings and then stands behind the ball to visualize where it’ll land; only then does he step up to the tee, plant his feet and swing. This pre-hit routine is more than just a ritual – it affords him the time to relax, take stock and set himself up for success with his shot. 

Similar tactics are replicated, physically and mentally, throughout the sporting world and beyond – and I’m willing to bet that us photographers can learn a thing or two by implementing them into our own shooting routines. Now, I’m not suggesting you bend your legs and cup your hands like Johnny Wilkinson every time you take a photo, but I am suggesting that you take the time to visualize and assess what you want to achieve, periodically during each shoot.

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I’ve been guilty of approaching shoots like a bull in a china shop, safe in the knowledge that my 128 gigabytes of storage will be good for over 1500 photos. Then, it’s just a case of filtering out the soft or overexposed duds and praying I got the composition right at some point… 

Clearly, this isn’t good practice and that’s where my sporting analogy comes in. Even if it’s become a subconscious process, great photographers think about what they’re shooting. If you have ever returned home from a shoot and uploaded your images, only to wish you’d captured a little less sky or double-checked your focus, why not take a leaf out of Tiger’s book?

Photo shoots can be nerve-wracking at times, and it’s very easy to feel pressured to spend every precious moment firing the shutter. If that sounds at all familiar, remove yourself from the heat of the moment, visualize the image you want and trust yourself to succeed. 

Really consider every tool at your disposal. Think about the focal length, exposure settings and composition. And if the slow-and-steady approach just isn’t possible, think about how you can better your chances of capturing that fleeting moment ahead of time.

I’m certain you’ll notice an improvement when you upload your images onto the computer. You don’t need to hole it in one, but you don’t need to hole it in 1500 either! 

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Mike Harris

Mike is technique editor for N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine, and spends most of his time shooting skills articles and begging for more external storage. He's worked for a variety of publications over the years and was formerly the production editor for Wex Photo Video’s content marketing team. An avid motorsport photographer, you’re likely to find him (and his trusty Nikon D800) at racing events across the country.