The Five Basic Steps to Making a Successful Photograph And How To Think About Them

There are MANY steps to making a successful image, but I've created a basic list of five that are important. Here are the five steps…

  • STEP 1) Shoot
  • STEP 2) Transfer
  • STEP 3) Edit
  • STEP 4) Process
  • STEP 5) Share

When you make a photograph, you would do well to remember all five STEPS mentioned above. Now I realize that you have to do several of these steps no matter what, but my point is that you should consider doing ALL of them, ALL of the time. Secondly, I want you to actually THINK about them when you are in the field, pressing the shutter. Why?

Well it’s simple really. If you don’t think about all five steps when you press the shutter, your results will be less than satisfactory. Oh you may get lucky and get some good shots, but if you stop and think about all five steps, you will get better shots - successful shots.

You need to understand that each of these steps is part of a process. And like many things in life, the sum of these steps is important to the end result. No one step is necessarily more important than the other. If you think of them as equal partners, it will change how you make pictures.

Obviously you shoot first – then you transfer – that is, you either take your film to the lab and scan it or you copy images from your memory card to your scanner. Next, you edit. Decide which of the images are your best. Processing is the step where you clean the image up and make it ready for the world to see. You adjust exposure, dodge, burn, filter, sharpen, etc.

Think about editing. If you know you are going to bring the photo into your favorite post processing software, it may influence you to make a different exposure than you would if you just had to print straight out of the camera.

Then there’s the last step – SHARE. While it may be last on the list, it is equal in importance. Do you really think about what you will do with each picture you make? I do. And it makes a difference. When I just shoot randomly, my pictures are not as compelling as they are when I am thinking about the audience.

Ask yourself who the picture is for? Ask who will see it and where will it be displayed? This should influence how you capture the image.


Look at all five steps and think about them each time you press the shutter. I think you’ll get better pictures out of your camera.

(NOTE: I am not saying these are the ONLY steps required to making a great photo - just a starting point. As always, your mileage may vary.)


Photo Courtesy Levi Sim

Scott Bourne is a member of The Board Of Advisors at Macphun, an Olympus Visionary and a professional wildlife photographer, author and lecturer who specializes in birds. He was one of the founders of This Week In Photo, Founded Photofocus.com and is co-founder of the new Photo Podcast Network (photopodcasts.com.)

Scott is a regular contributor to several photography related blogs and podcasts and is the author of 11 photography books.

Scott is available to speak to your birding group, photography group and for both private and small group bird photography workshops. For more information on engaging Scott as a speaker or workshop leader, or for image licensing and print information, e-mail scott@scottbourne.com.


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