Olga Levien
New Zealand Artist | Mentor | Mum

Olga Levien wedding | documentary family photographers Blog

Personal projects and documentary-lifestyle photographs taken by Olga Levien photography artist - wedding and family photographer in Auckland, New Zealand and international.

5 ways to make stronger images {Photography education | online tutorials for photographers}

I heard a lot of questions lately about how to improve your images, build a strong portfolio, and how to make stronger photographs in general. I decided to put a few thoughts together {please excuse any grammar mistakes as English not native to me!}.


When you shooting you often know/feel when few elements comes together and make your image stood out. 

These main elements are:

- light

- composition 

- and last but not least - the moment.

As lifestyle wedding and family photogpraher I always searching for light, consider all elements of the composition, and anticipating the moment which happens unfold {moments can happens really fast, but you need be ready to capture your moment!}.

Its a big giants of photography, you need to learn and practice/shoot to the point you actually SEE the light, think about composition before click the button on your camera and pre-view the moment {wait for it to happen or create conditions when you are ready to capture it}. 

Example: the photo below happen in split second {my son through his lego on the deck and then decided to run through them kicking around. Lucky i had camera in my hands and seen what going to happen, get down low and shoot exact moment, illuminated by light and including leading lines of the deck}.


But there so much more little or big things what you need to know!

I will share with you a few what feels really important to me:

1. Visualising, consider all elements of the frame and include those what important for your vision. 

Image like a puzzle have so many elements or so many layers what you need to learn to see and incorporate into the frame {lines, colour, space, movement, atmosphere, point of view, depth of field and much more}. Basically you want to choose angle and perspective including the elements what best suits your vision.

Yes, all starts from visualising {pre-view}: what do you want to archive, how your image going to looks like. You can imagine it in your head, draw on the paper or discuss it out loud with your friend; what ever works best for your personality. Its one of the most important points which makes you prepared to take a shot and make your vision come to life! {its not mean that your picture will be exact copy of those one what you envisioning; results can be disappointing sometimes, often just been different or better then you though {sometimes the moments can take you in different direction; its all depends on certain conditions - everything surrounding you, your subject and YOU, your feelings}


2. Shoot not how its looks, but how its feels!

Maybe you heard this before but its really important to shoot through your feelings from your heart {if you ask me if I shoot from my heart or from my head, my answer will be most of the time from my heart, how I feel, but also I need to use my head as well and consider all elements of the frame to make picture looks clean, when all elements comes together }.

Shoot from your feelings sometimes can be overwhelming as you can feel you caught up in the moment, but if you know how to work through your feelings and pull out those emotions what you need for certain moments, envisioning what you want to say in this particular image can makes a big difference.

Another question what I been asking myself - how to shoot when you not feel anything {yes, its often happens when Im exhausted after big destination weddings, or just feel flat according the weather, kids behaviour or anything else around me}. Then my advice will be - find the inspiration {something what drives you and bring in emotions as art, movie, nature, your kids, food, and anything else what pull out emotions {its can be any emotions what you want to translate through the pictures as happy, sad, romantic, quiet or energetic }. Second advice - push it through, just go out and shoot. I so many times not felt like shoot at all, been just drawn and exhausted, but I kept pushing through {as third year in my 365 project}, pick the camera again and just shoot, and surprisingly you feel alive again and full of excitement and positive emotions. Shoot for yourself, what you feel and how you like! Then you feel these emotions and drive during the session.


3.What do you want to say, who the main subject {s}, what is your story

Answers for these questions are really important, even before you start to shoot. Your pictures is YOU, your story, your point of view, they reflect your character and personality. If you look at work of different artists you can clear see their voice, elements what they love to incorporate in their pictures {its can be movement, love to negative space, fill the frame, shooting with shallow depth of field, editing style and much more}. I really enjoying looking for these elements in the pictures and understand what person took this particular shot, why its speaks to me deeply, what I love about this image. Its helps to understand myself and my voice.

Main subject. We need pick the clear subject/s and make this subject/s stood out and all other elements of the frame to work for this {lines leading to the subject, placement to most comfortable part of the frame according to ROT, golden triangles or spirals, simple centre composition, framing etc. Other people's eyes gaze towards the subject can be another invisible leading line to your subject. Highlighting the subject important as well. Its might be the most lightest/brightest part of the frame so our eyes naturally landing there {if you see other parts of the frame what take too much attention and in competition with your subject I would consider rearrange the frame or maybe simply burn down the highlights from them}. 

Removing distractive elements needs to consider too {something what take attention from your subject as bright colour, tree coming out of the head, horizon line running through the head etc.}.

What part of the frame is part of your story and what elements you can delete {its can be not necessary things as toys on the ground, other distractive elements, things on the background}. Of course as its your story you decide if this element mean to stay or can easy to be gone from the frame without harm to your vision {if you don't had time to clean your frame before actual shot there always a chance that you can fix it in post processing, but I would say "Make it right in the camera" and not put too much hope on post-processing software, save your time!


4. Bring emotions in. 

Emotions are the most important part of the picture for me. Its can be emotions between two subjects in the frame, their connection, touch and eyes gaze towards each other or out of the frame; also emotions what convey within the image and with the viewer {with single or multiple subjects} are strong part of the picture perfect.

We can also talk here about the atmosphere in the image, mood what its creating, its all connected together.

Its also your emotions as its your vision as an artist and photographer who take this pictures. Do you want this picture looks dark and moody or light and airy? What speaks to you and connect to your vision, what emotions | mood do you want to show, bring in life, what speaks to you and the viewer. All these questions are part of the creative process of making a strong image according to your vision.


5. Improve it.

We all in different stages of our photography and life journey and we can learn from our own mistakes and successes. 

Take a picture - notice what works and what not {why you feel not happy, not feels missing, what can be improved}. Find these elements, write them down or fix in your memory and try them out, shoot again trying to keep in mind your previous analyse and elements what you found works and those what been missing but you feel you need to improve them.

Reflection {analysis} are really important part of my photography and life journey. I learnt this technic in university and applying to every situation in my life. Its helps me to move forward and progress {with lots of practise of course}.

So pick up your camera, visualise, envision your "picture perfect" according to your Voice, your feelings, personality, consider all elements of the frame, search for lightand the moment {wait and anticipate} and get lucky {i would say its another big element for me; but for being lucky you need to bring this luck in by practice, practice and even more practice constantly improving and progress}.

Please let me know if you have any questions! I happy to help.