Text and photos all by Mia Marchadesch-Jaranilla, of MiaYMarch.com
Most of us have this notion that for a photo to be meaningful , it has to be perfect: A perfect lovely smile; that perfect upright pose; a breathtaking scene; the right outfit; a made-up face and so on. This is true, especially if one is just getting into photography and is excited to immediately produce lifestyle-magazine-shots or studio-like-portraits.
On the contrary, it’s the imperfection in (most) photos that make it more meaningful. I also think that its because of those imperfections we grow and become a better photographer.
Perfectly imperfect shots tell better stories.
For me, the more staged or composed an image is (especially if you don’t know much about photography yet), the more it comes across as cold. Don’t get me wrong: I am not suggesting to just click the shutter without thinking, or at least composing /visualizing a shot. What I am trying to convey is that —
… For a photo to be meaningful, what you are shooting has to be meaningful to you and the end result is gratifying.
Ha! I, too, was guilty of this when I just starting. That’s why I have thousands and thousands of meaningless photos on file. I also realized I was trying too hard and results were not good. So I decided to stick to a simple plan that can help me produce meaningful photos.
Mia’s tips for taking meaningful photos
Here are my four guidelines, developed alongside some old unedited photos I snapped from 2007 to 2009. (Notice that the photos have a lot of flaws, nonetheless are meaningful to me because it brings back a lot of memories.)
1. Capture subjects you love. For example, people: My daughter is the reason I got into photography again. I wanted to document her growing up. She has become my model and I practiced a lot on her. This is one of my first experimental shots I took of her asleep. Still life : I am drawn to beautiful things and from the beginning, spaces and homes were one my favourite things to capture. Back then, I would snap at anything I found pretty. Here is photo of my sister’s Christmas tree and favourite chair which I took last December 2007, our holiday visit in Manila. It’s meaningful because every time I look at this, it reminds me of happy days with the family.
2. Experiment and practice. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Photography is all about trial and error. You have to constantly practice different settings and scenarios (which means knowing the numbers) to get the right balance of exposure and composition.
Experiment with different subjects that you are drawn to and you will eventually achieve that visual style you are aspiring for. I am a coffee drinker and decided to use my daily dose of kuppa as a still life subject.
3. Don’t wait for perfect shots; wait for tender moments. I captured the image of these siblings at play during a family weekend outing at the Singapore Marine Barrage in 2009. Most of the time when we take photos of kids we want to them to stand or sit up properly, look at the camera and ask them to give a big smile. What we don’t realize is that kills the mood altogether.
Below in the series of snaps, I just let them be and continuously pressed the shutter until I saw the perfect, tender, unguarded moment — the last shot below.
4. Include people in travel or destination shots. Now, bear in mind that they don’t necessarily have to be you or any one you know to make the photo meaningful. By including people in photos, it will add layer to the image and will convey the mood.
For example: I snapped this shot (below) in Singapore, the same day as my “siblings” shot (above), in 2009. By looking at this scene it brings back memories from that fun day with family and friends even if they are not anywhere in the photo, don’t you think?
MIAYMARCH.COM is natural light lifestyle photographer based in Bangkok. She accepts private portrait or lifestyle sessions and conducts onsite or online photography workshops. If you are interested in any of Mia’s services, visit www.miaymarch.com. or email her directly at email@example.com