The Thought Process Behind an Image

I wanted to interview a photographer and get their thought process that they go through when they create an image. I asked one of my favorite photographers, Dylan M Howell, to tell me his typical process. Here’s his website:

dylan m howell photo

Dylan is a wedding photographer in Portland and I’ve been following his work for a few years. He was one of the first photographers that I saw incorporating nature with portraits, so I wanted to ask about that mix. Landscape photos can be so difficult because you have to think of them as a portrait, and many people don’t.

Here are Dylan’s thoughts:

Thanks for asking me this question! I’ll try to break down my typical thought process when doing a portrait in nature.

First, I need for the client(s) to be at ease with having their photo taken. Nothing looks worse than a nervous subject. I usually schedule an extra 30 minutes or so of portrait time at the start, that I use to get them used to being in front of the camera. Then, by the end of the session they are super into each other and can forget that I’m there. I also want to get to know them, their personalities, how they interact with each other, and look at how to best light them.

Second, I look for good light. Preferably, this nice light also has a flattering backdrop. I tend to schedule my sessions around sunset, so that my favorite images will be happening just before or after the sun goes below the horizon. I love the soft glow during that time, as well as the color temperature. It is really pleasing on both skin tones and allowing for a less dynamic scene in the background. Most of my images are in these situations.

Third, it is time to start interacting with the couple. I want them to look connected and in love. I want it to look natural and not overly posed. I try to keep them focused on interacting with each other and not with me directly. Most of my images have them facing towards each other. I find this key to having connection in the image.

Fourth, now it is time to start composing. I’m looking at the flow of the image, the client’s placement in regards to points of contrast with the background, and making lens selection to play with background foreground compression, depth of field, and field of view. I want to make sure they stick out from the background, I also want to make sure the horizon isn’t cutting through them in a distracting way. I’ll then also start looking for leading lines in the foreground / background that I could place them in to draw the eye even further towards the subject.

Fifth, now that I have it composed I usually just take multiple versions, trying to get different emotional responses from the couple. I’ll also change lenses and try to attack it from a different point of view. This helps later on, I can decide what I like most when I am looking at them in the computer. I can take time to critique the image and figure out what I can do differently in the future to make it better.

It is super helpful to also get other eyes on your work. I’ve learned so much by talking with other photographers about how they’d handle a situation. It is great to see other ways of creating an image in the same scene.

Thanks again for asking me to be on your blog! -Dylan