When an amateur photographer heads out to take a picture, they take the photograph quickly without much thought as to the composition of the image itself. If life is happening, they take the picture.
A professional photographer is more focused on taking a great photograph by concentrating on the details that will impact the image.
Yes, you still want to take life as it happens. But instead of snapping the shutter quickly, take the few extra seconds needed to think about the final outcome and adjust from there. Are you standing in the optimal position to take the image? What if you moved two feet to the right? Or had your subject move forward two feet? Or what if you dropped to the ground and shot up at your subject? And in many cases, you can anticipate what is going to happen, put yourself in the correct position, and wait for the magic to happen.
Getting into the perfect position will not only improve the photograph, but can also improve the quality of light on the subject. Photographs with hot spots and sun flares have an amateurish look. And if you are shooting in direct sunlight, your subject won’t be at his or her best either – squinting eyes and face wrinkles aren’t attractive on anyone.
I recently wrote a basic Tutorial On Lighting in which I described in simple language the different sources of lighting. As a photographer, it’s important to be ready for any type of lighting circumstances, which is why we always carried reflectors and diffusers with us. It’s important to have both ready at hand to turn an average portrait into a great one.
The idea isn’t to capture everything you can see with your eye. Instead you capture a portion of what you see – the portion that will give you the best story.