How To Take a Photo

 “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This popular proverb refers to the unique way images capture the meaningful points in people’s lives. To encapsulate such moments in photographs, we use many types of devices, whether it be a phone, a digital camera, a Polaroid camera or a film camera.

If photography interests you, you may be wondering: How do I take that perfect image that truly is worth a thousand words, that freezes that immaculate moment in time? That one photograph, that one piece that serves as a constant memory of a specific instance — how do you make it look good so that you don’t lose that window?

Well, if you’ve seen me around, you know I carry expensive equipment. And as you can see in the image that goes along with this article, I am capable of taking high-quality photos with such equipment. What if I told you that you don’t need all that? Funny, I’m sounding like a YouTube advertisement. Regardless, this quote may make you feel better: “It is the camera, not the photographer, that is the instrument.” While it is somewhat cliché, it is also immensely true. So, what matters when taking a photo?

Before I dive in, I will add three perspectives. One from someone behind the camera, another from someone who’s dabbled in photography and a third from someone I have collaborated with before. I asked all three what makes a good photo.

First, I asked a friend (the person whose picture goes with this article), Gabi Mendoza, a freshman at Boston College. She mentions, “Regardless of the quality, photos have the capability of evoking various emotions within others.”

Next, I asked Sarah Xu (I), who has started to dabble in photography recently. She shares, “There’s a story in every subject. Every color. Every object. Photos are so unique and dynamic because of their ability to capture the nuances of life that words cannot. ‘Good’ photos don’t need to enrapture everyone’s heart; it’s perfect if it can resonate with just one.”

Finally, I asked William Hu (II), who I’ve worked with on photoshoots and has taken some stunning photos. I’ve also taught him a few tricks. He describes a photo as being “a snapshot of the perfect moment. It tells a fascinating story through a distinguishable subject and attractive theme. The perfect photo will make you look back and say, ‘Wow, I remember that.’”

At this point, you’re probably feeling like this article is clickbait and that I’m never going to tell you how to take a quality photo. But hold on. What I’m attempting to show is that I can spend hours explaining the intricacies of photography to you, and what will end up happening is that your photos will start to look like mine. At that point, I would have usurped your creative outlook.

A good photo can be defined by how well you color grade, who or what you decide to capture, the sharpness of the image or how you compose the shot. So what? Powerful images that have surfaced across the past century have all ignored those things. Composure? Gone. Sharpness? Nope. Color grading? I will shoot in black and white instead.

What ultimately makes a great photo is your ability to use that image as your voice. It serves as your message and a memory that you want your audience to understand. And you can do it in any way you want.

If you see other photographers, such as myself, the photos we take may discourage you from continuing in photography because you may believe that you won’t ever get to their level. You’re seeing it wrong. There is no bar to reach.

As I mentioned earlier, mastering photography takes time and patience like any other skill you want to conquer. But if you dedicate yourself, you can produce that perfect photo worth a thousand words.


See Andre’s work on his website.