Capturing images that grab attention is a goal of any photographer. It’s exactly this skill that separates a good photographer from an average one.
An image can grab the viewers attention in many ways. A typical one (especially in recent years) is through the use of strong and vivid colors. However, such images (with many exceptions, of course) tend to give only a momentarily “wow”-effect, just to be forgotten as quickly. You want to do more than this, though. You want the viewer to remember your image. You want them to come back and look at it again and again. You want to trigger a certain emotion.
This is easier said than done and it’s a skill that takes years to develop. Even after years, it’s something photographers struggle to achieve.
These tips will help you on the way to capture attention-grabbing images; Follow them and implement them and you’ll be one step closer.
#1. Have a Point of Interest
Your image must have a point of interest in order for it to grab attention. Without a strong point of interest, people are likely to pass by your image without even noticing it.
A strong point of interest doesn’t need to be a spectacular subject. Mountains are great but anything has the possibility to be a POI if used right.
Put yourself in the viewer’s shoes: is there an obvious point of interest in the image? If there isn’t a natural place for your eyes to rest, the answer is no and you need to re-evaluate the image.
Perhaps you have an interesting subject but there aren’t any elements leading your eyes towards it. In that case, try to work with the elements around you to emphasize this subject.
#2. Use Lines to Guide the Viewer
Having a point of interest is only step number one. As I mentioned above, even when you have a point of interest it might not be obvious as you don’t have any elements leading towards it.
That’s where leading lines come in. Leading lines are compositional elements found almost everywhere that will dramatically improve your images. They help guide the viewer through the frame and in many ways tell them where to look.
A very obvious leading line is a tree or a road leading directly towards the main subject. Your eyes will naturally follow these lines up to this point.
Leading lines are more than just roads and paths, though. It can be rocks, branches, cracks, mud, bushes, flowers; you name it. Anything that helps guide your eyes to the subject is considered a leading line.
#3. Use Light to Guide the Viewer
There are more ways to guide the viewer than through leading lines; directional light is another equally important method.
Light is essential in a good photograph. There’s a reason why photographers often revisit locations regularly even after months or years; they are waiting for the light that best showcases the emotions they want to bring forward in the image.
Good light is what makes the difference between a good shot and a decent. Without it, the image lacks life and is simply flat and dull. Just look at the example below. Without the light, the image wouldn’t have been anything special.
Wait for the light to become interesting. If you don’t have time then try to read how the light is impacting the current frame. Is the light harsh? Is it soft? Does it reflect on a subject? Are there sun-rays? Use the given elements to work around the scene and make the most out of the given situation.
#4. Have a Strong Composition
This is perhaps the biggest indicator of the photographer’s skill level. A strong composition makes the image more enjoyable to view and it’s a crucial part of the story told through your image.
The composition is something photographers continuously work on improving. Many believe that you’ll never fully learn compositions and that it’s something that evolves throughout your artistic career.
Guidelines such as The Rule of Thirds and The Golden Ratio are great tools to help improve your compositions but I recommend looking further than these and take other elements such as color harmonies, directional light, and visual weight into consideration as well.
Most importantly, don’t follow these “rules” too strictly. A great composition doesn’t have to be the perfect example of a compositional rule – as long as the visual flow is pleasing.
#5. Be Aware of the Weather
Unfortunately, not all weather is great for all photography. Certain scenes benefit from certain types of weather and that’s something you should take into consideration. There are always subjects to photograph but it’s a matter of being able to find those who excel in the given conditions.
Take the images below as an example. I returned to this spot countless times over a 6-month period searching for the conditions which best suited the scene. The first image shows the conditions I often had and the picture itself is nothing special. However, when the conditions one morning included colorful and quickly moving clouds, as well as a semi-rough ocean, the image became much more interesting.
Similarly, if you’re photographing the forest certain conditions will make the image more appealing; perhaps the sunlight is creating sunrays through the trees or there’s a thick layer of fog.
If you’re planning to visit a local photography spot make sure that you’ve checked the forecast and visit on a day that seems to offer the highest possibility of interesting weather.
#6. Photograph More Selectively
“Photograph as much as possible” is a common advice told to beginner photographers. While it’s a great way to learn how your camera works and to improve your skills, learn to be more selective with what you photograph; or at the very least be more selective with what you post online.
The truth is that attention-grabbing images aren’t occurring on a daily basis. In fact, 99% of the images a professional photographer captures will never see the light of day. They might be decent images but decent isn’t what they’re aiming to capture.
Ask yourself this one simple question before pushing the shutter button: Does this image have the potential to be good? If the answer is yes, then go ahead and capture it. If the answer is no, think of why it doesn’t have the potential; is the composition not good enough? Is the light boring? Is the subject boring?
Answering these questions will give you an indication whether you should make adjustments and capture the image or simply just move on.
#7. Capture More Than Just a Snapshot
That brings us to the 7th and final advice for capturing images that grab attention: Capture more than just a snapshot.
If you’re just capturing images to document your trips and travels and their purpose is to be shared with friends and family, photography anything you want. But if you’re aiming to become a better photographer and capture images that awakes an emotion within the viewer, stop ‘snapping’ images.
Ask yourself the questions given in the previous tip. Use these to determine whether or whether not you’ll capture the image. Don’t be afraid to leave a beautiful place without capturing one single image. Not all beautiful places are photogenic. Learn to enjoy the surroundings instead and don’t worry about ‘snapping’ everything with your camera.
There isn’t a blueprint for a great image, but elements such as light, composition, a point of interest, and weather play an important role. If the image is lacking these elements, will it really grab attention?
About the author: Christian Hoiberg is a full-time landscape photographer who helps aspiring photographers develop the skills needed to capture beautiful and impactful images. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Download Hoiberg’s free guide 30 Tips to Improve Your Landscape Photography and open the doors to your dream life. Hoiberg is also the founder of CaptureLandscapes. You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram. This article was also published here.