How to Think Like a Photographer?

The journey from ‘a person with a camera’ to a real photographer.

Keith Chen

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Image by author. Shot in Pittsburgh.

One of the reasons I like photography is because it requires both your left and right brain. There is the technical side that you need to learn and practice, but there is also the art side that you have to continuously absorb and refine. I think there are enough articles that talk about the technical aspect of photography, so why don’t I focus on the “right-brain thinking” in this article and talk about the thought process behind my street photography works.

Image by author. Shot in Pittsburgh.
Image by author. Shot in Pittsburgh.

#1 — Photographer aims to achieve a nice consistency across their photos. I’ve met many people who asked me to give feedback on their works. Usually, their pictures look very nice individually, but they are lacking consistency when viewed together. This is because they only think about each picture one at a time. On the other hand, photographers keep consistency in mind when they shoot and edit. They usually achieve this through color tone, contrast, location, subject, or even emotions. Take a look at the first three photos in this story — you see similar lighting, subject, background. You know these were taken by the same person with the same editing style because there is a strong consistency across them. You don’t achieve this by coincidence, instead, you have to keep that in mind before and during your shooting, and even afterward when you edit the photos.

Image by author. Shot in Tokyo.

#2 — Photographer starts with a vision before clicking the shutter. When you first start photography, especially with a digital camera or cellphone, you just click click click and see what comes out. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you want to get more serious about photography, you want to train yourself to envision the end product even before you shoot. Before I took this photo in…

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Keith Chen

Photographer, Product Manager @ Google, Professor, Runner, Hiker, and World Traveler. Took photos from 50+ cities (and counting). Language : 中文 / EN