How Do I Make My Image Look Like This? Well, Learn Lighting

Besides a ton of photo editing, you can make your image look a certain way by just paying more attention to the world. 

What I’m going to propose in this article may sound absurd to some photographers, especially if you’re new to the art form. When you get into it, you’re swept up: told you should take photos and then spend hours in front of a computer editing your images to get them exactly the way you want them. And more recently came the idea that you’ll never be a great photographer unless you use something like Lightroom or Photoshop. I agree that post-production is part of the process in the creation of a finalized image, but I think the years I spent shooting film and digital side by side taught me a very important lesson.

This post is inspired by the many times I go onto Reddit and see someone say, “How can I make my image look like theirs?” But they only want advice on how to do it in post-production. Here’s a controversial idea: do it in camera.

While there is nothing wrong with editing a photo, I equally see nothing wrong with learning how to light. In fact, it will do nothing but improve your photography skills, instead of just your photo editing skills. For those of you who think I’m crazy, let’s think about this:

  • What’s wrong with executing your creative vision in an analog way (by that I mean in camera). Today everyone pays a ton of money for presets in order to have their images look analog. Why not do it that way in the first place?
  • Why not learn how to understand and interpret lighting rather than just fussing around in post until you create something you think you like?
  • Why not have a creative vision to begin with, and then execute it as well as possible within the camera?
  • Why do we need to spend hours with a piece of software when we can spend a few minutes before taking a photo to execute?
  • Have you ever thought of being a photographer who gets it all done within the camera when your camera gives you full control over the image?
  • Having a RAW file is great; but is there really a problem with the JPEGs you shoot?
  • If there is a problem with the JPEGs you shoot, how can you make those images better within the camera?
  • How can you not rely on post-production as a crutch?

Think about these questions. They’re important.