While there is no universal recipe for taking a good shot, every photographer has a set of tricks, which invariably come in handy. Well, here are mine.
1. First of all, tell a story.
Find the motivation for each object in the scene; some integrating vector. What are these objects? How did they come here? Who brought them here? Who is the protagonist? What’s going on here?
A good photo is like the climax scene in the movie. Looking at this kind of photo, the viewer will be able to see what happened before, and can guess what will happen after. For your photo, invent a coherent story (with a beginning, middle, and end), and then simply capture a culminating point.
2. Create and use mind maps.
It’s the perfect exercise to make your mind work and get it running. I believe you can easily find detailed articles about how to use the mind maps, but here is a summary: write the main theme (the object you are working with, the mood you want to convey, and so on) in the center, draw rays of main branches (shooting conditions, associations, available props, supporting ideas, location). Refine each of these parameters using the supporting branches. Then, ask yourself which of the two resulting details fit together best? And then build your picture on this finding.
When I first heard about mind maps, it seemed like a pointless idea. I thought I could just write down associations in a column with the same success. But mind maps can give you something better than that. They provide a structure, allowing you to combine a lot of elements and make connections which you never think to do at first glance. Give them a chance. They’re perfectly simple and useful.
3. Do not allow the material to control your imagination.
We often think to ourselves, “If I had this kind of camera…” or “If I had this prop…” But you already have everything you need. You have an imaginative mind, so use it! Photos do not have to be realistic. If you need a dragon, you do not necessarily need to recreate a giant fire-breathing lizard, you can just cut it out of paper.
4. Make a tribute
This is an interesting and creative process, and a good practice for using various artistic means. Do you have an interest in painting or film? Select an inspiring artist, director, or creator, and try to make a shot in his style. Analyze his or her distinctive techniques, colors, angles, and try to tell your own story within these parameters. You don’t just get a good exercise, but you also create an interesting postmodern piece of work.
5. Start a big project.
Select a theme and promise yourself to follow through and produce your best work. What is the biggest series you’ve ever made? Five images? Ten? Fifteen? Multiply this number by two.