The difference between a good and a great image is three minutes

Above: Image, Gina Milicia

Three minutes is a very long time. If you don’t believe me, then try holding your breath for three minutes. Go ahead; I’ll wait for you…

See what I mean? Holding your breath isn’t the only incredible feat you can achieve in three minutes. You can also:

  • take 134 selfies, which is a world record achieved by two UK school boys in April 2017
  • eat an entire jar of Nutella. (Relax people I’m not talking about the 5kg tub, the small 500gm/1lb size.)

Most importantly taking just three minutes before you press the shutter to check exposure, composition, lighting and cosmetic details will not only improve your images but save you hours of “I’ll just fix that in post.”

Life is short, Netflix is awesome, you don’t have time to waste hours fixing avoidable mistakes in post-production. Wouldn’t you rather be binge-watching Game Of Thrones, reading a book or taking more photos instead?

“You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.”

How often have you taken an image that you thought was great only to view it later and realise it was underexposed, overexposed or you accidentally cropped out half of someone’s hand or missed focus?

A poorly composed and exposed image in the camera will only ever look average even with the best quality post production.

A great photographer will spend 80% of their time planning, composing, exposing and lighting their shots and 20% of their time on post-production.

An inexperienced photographer will dedicate 20% of their time on planning and composing their shot and 80% of their time trying to fix their mistakes.

If you want to take your photography to the next level and free up more time to hone your skills (or watch Netflix), then try and focus on getting your images right in camera. A few extra minutes of care before you press the shutter will save you hours.

Many inexperienced photographers often rush a shoot because they are worried about how they will be perceived if they work slowly or keep checking their gear. They may think they look like an amateur if they stop a portrait shoot to check focus or move a light. The truth is, a professional will shoot much slower than a beginner because they know the importance of nailing focus, exposure, and composition.

Here are a few of my favourite hacks to help you get a good shot SOOC (straight out of camera).

  1. Pre-visualize your shot

Having an idea in your mind’s eye of how you want your image to look will help you capture the shot you want rather than randomly pointing your camera at something and hoping the photography gods will bless you with an amazing photo.

  1. Compose

Once you know what you’re going to shoot, stop and take a few moments to compose your image.

If you’re not sure how to compose an image check out this earlier post or this episode of my podcast with Valerie Khoo for some great tips.

  1. Get sharp

Ever taken what you thought was the shot of the year only to have your heart broken when you have a close look at the files the next day and realise your image is soft?

The LCD screen on the back of the camera has two essential functions:

  • To check exposure and composition
  • To check focus
Most LCD screens allow you to zoom right in on an image to check focus. Before you commit to a shot check focus by zooming in on the eye area of your shot.
  1. Find or manufacture the best light

If you have a choice between a great location with bad light or a poor location with great light, always pick great light over location. Light is everything in an image. Nothing else matters. Spend the few extra minutes to move your model to better light, move your light or add a light. You won’t regret it.

  1. The one percenters

Anyone can take a photo these days. There is zero barrier to entry. The thing that sets the great photographers apart from the pack is the “one percenters”. It’s paying attention to the tiny details that the average snapper fails to notice.

  • Posture of your model
  • Are there stray hairs across your model’s face?
  • Garbage in the back of your shot or pole growing out of the back of someone’s head.
  • Lint, creases, crooked ties, ill-fitting clothes not only lower the quality of your image but also become major time wasters.

So next time you’re just about to take a shot, allow an extra two-three minutes to get the shot right in camera and save yourself hours in post-production. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to get back to watching Netflix.


Get your copy of Gina’s guide “The Shot” FREE when you sign up to her newsletter. You’ll also receive FREE Lightroom presets every month.

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About Gina

About Gina

Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

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