Tyler’s Tips Episode 3: Three Keys to Effective Photography


“Welcome to Tyler’s Tips. Today we’re going to be talking about the three key elements to building effective photographs.

The three critical ideas in building any photograph, in my opinion, are the story, composition, and the light. I’m a visual guy, and I like visual aids when I’m telling stores like this. So here we have a three-legged stool, one leg for each idea: the story, the composition, and the light. If you think of this as a photograph, if we have all three of our legs working together, then this stool will stand up, it’ll be nice and strong, it’ll hold up somebody’s butt. On the other hand, if we only have two legs, or two of these ideas, or one of these ideas working in our photograph, then our stool is just going to fall over. The same is true with a photograph. They just aren’t nearly as effective if you don’t have all three of these ideas working together.

Carrying the analogy a little bit further, the seat is our camera. Now, this could be an old piece of plywood you found in the yard, it could be a fancy diamond-studded [inaudible 00:01:20] brand stool seat. Either way, if it’s only got two legs, it’s going down. So don’t worry too much about the camera, because it’s actually a lot less important than making sure that you’ve got three good, strong legs to support your butt.

Anyways, the last bit of this analogy is this structure down here. This is what ties it all together, and makes this stool really strong. This, in my mind, is the craft of photography. This is all those little techniques and little things that we do that makes each photograph that much better and more effective.

So there you go, photography in a three-legged stool.

Digging in a little bit deeper into these ideas, the story is why? Why is this important? Why is this idea worth articulating through photography? Who cares? Who is the audience? What did I feel that made me want to pick up the camera and take this shot? All of these ideas, having clarity around what the purpose of the photograph is and what the idea really is, the story, will make it so much easier to make other decisions about what you’re going to do, like composition for example.

The composition is what we choose to put inside the rectangle, what we choose to leave out of the rectangle, which is super important too. And just how we arrange all the pieces inside the box.

Then the last idea, the third leg of our stool is the light. In my opinion, the light is sort of the secret sauce of photography. It’s like, another way to look at I is it’s the volume knob of photography. O if you’ve got an awesome composition and you’ve got a great idea, very clear idea of what you’re trying to say, but the light is dissonant, it’s the light that’s fighting that story or it’s trying to tell a different story, then the whole photograph isn’t going to work very well. All of that idea, just the volume is turned down on the idea.

On the other hand, if you have light that’s just perfect for that moment and that composition and that idea, it has the opposite effect. It just turns up the volume and makes the photograph that much more effective.

So there you have it, the story, the composition, and the light. Next time you’re out shooting, try to keep those three things in mind, and your photographs will be more effective. So thanks for listening to my little Tyler’s Tips. What I’d love to find out from you is if there are any ideas you’d like to hear me talk about. Please leave it in the comments below, and I’ll try to work it into an episode coming up soon. Until next time …”

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