“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” – Ansel Adams

Above: St Lucia, Caribbean, photographed on Canon 5D MK111 and 24-105mm lens


  • unlikely chance occurrence, especially a surprising piece of luck.
  • “their triumph was no fluke”

How to take a great photo 101

Some of my best images that I’ve shot over the last 30 years have been complete flukes. I happened to be in the right place at the right time.  

A portrait of a young boy peering out the back of a vintage Fiat 500 as he drove past me in a tiny village in Sicily was a complete fluke.

So was the image I photographed of the city of Dubai breaking through low cloud cover at dawn. Right place, right time.

Two elderly ladies, walking in the rain, wearing matching outfits in the streets of Madrid was another fluke, a gift from the photo Gods. #blessed

Many photographers spend their lives relying on the photo Gods to give them these amazing opportunities, and if you’ve been shooting for long enough, you will photograph several of these amazing moments.

The photo Gods don’t discriminate, these opportunities are available to everyone regardless of skill level or gear, and sometimes they can appear when you don’t have a camera to capture them. Every photographer has a story about “the one that got away” that perfect moment of time when they left their camera at home or the battery ran out.

If you never want to miss these rare opportunities, the solution is simple.

  • Always carry a camera with you that is fully charged and ready for action.
  • Be on high alert 24/7.
  • Shoot 24/7 and by the law of averages 1 in every 1000 frames you take will be awesome.

The problem with taking photos is you are at the mercy of the photo Gods, and while there is no doubt you will take several striking images in your lifetime, the results are inconsistent.

That’s why the best photographers in the world don’t just take photos they make photos. These photographers do not rely on luck, they carefully plan every detail of the image and make it happen.

The best landscape photographs are not a fluke but the result of detailed planning and location scouting and may involve days, months and in some cases years of work.

These photographers know exactly the image they want to achieve, and the fact that the light is just right is the result of hard work, not luck.

A beautiful portrait is more than just taking an image of someone. The best portrait photographers in the world will work with their model to pose and motivate them. They bring energy and life into a shot. Without these qualities, the image is merely a snapshot.

The secret to great photography is in the pre-planning. A great image is made not taken so if you want to increase your quota of amazing images don’t just wait for the photo Gods to give them to you. Take control of your photography and plan your photo shoots, pre-visualize exactly how you want your image to look and work backwards from there. I always have the final image in my mind’s eye before I shoot. I know exactly how it will be edited, cropped, the mood and the style of lighting I need to achieve the shot. I then use the following elements.


I use aperture to control the depth or look of the shot; I’ll use a wider aperture to blur out the background and draw attention to my main point of focus.

Focal length

I use focal length to control the feel of the shot. A wider focal length gives a sense of space or isolation. A longer focal brings everything closer and feels more intimate.


I use light to control the mood of the shot and direct the viewer’s eye to the main point of interest.

Post Production

The final look of the image is also predetermined, and I shoot and edit according to this pre-visualised image.

What has been your favourite gift from the photo Gods and did you make or take photos? I’d love to hear about it.


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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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