Shooting With Your Subconsciousness To Be A Better Photographer

Shooting With Your Subconsciousness To Be A Better Photographer

Do you often find yourself hesitating when changing the settings on your camera? Are you constantly missing or find yourself unable to get the shot you wanted? Does this sound like an infomercial? Did you answer "yes" to any of these questions? Well, you're in luck because this is not an infomercial but I will nonetheless offer some solutions that photographer Willy Foo shares for these problems! 

Foo is a Singaporean event photographer who has been shooting for 18 years. He is one of the most sought-after photographers in Singapore's event photography scene and once managed a Facebook page with two million followers.

In a sit down interview, he shares that there are certain drills you can do to train your subconscious into making many of your necessary actions as muscle memory. "This allows you to use the camera instinctively and to be able to test a shot for flash and compensate your settings with your hands automatically, as though it’s second nature."

Yes, Jedi training for photographers. That is EXACTLY what you just read. Luke Photowalker! Too much? Probably. Let's move on. He points out that sometimes when you are shooting events or perhaps a celebrity where you only have 10 minutes to work with, you need to be able to work quickly and getting hindered by taking the wrong lens or taking too long to figure out your settings can make you seem unprofessional and amateurish. It might also lead to a frustrated model and that is never the right ingredient for a great shoot. Below are some drills that Foo explains in order to be a faster and more accurate photographer.

Drill #1 – Knowing Your Lens

Foo shares that it is important to understand the perspective and focal length of your lens. "When you know the angle and perspective of your lens then you don’t end up wasting time figuring out where to stand or where to place the subject which is going to be a big help in all genres of photography! It can make it easier for you to set up for your studio or help you know exactly which lens to reach for while shooting fast-paced event photography. Knowing the perspective of lens allow you to go to a site and know which lens would be best for the image, whether your aim is to accentuate a subject or to hide things from the frame."

1.      Choose one lens to practice with first
2.      Find a scene you want to shoot
3.      Imagine the composition in your head
4.      Make a guess on where you should stand with that lens to get that composition
5.      Go to that point and look through the viewfinder to see if you’re too near or too far 

When practicing, you will likely end up making wrong guesses but just calibrate them accordingly. If constantly under guessing, keep adding more. Practice until you're familiar with the width of the lens.

Drill #2 – Blind Shooting

As an event photographer, Foo knows how important it is to be able to blind shoot. This is also applicable for any photographer who loves to shoot at weird and interesting angles such as angles that they are unable to look through the viewfinder before shooting, may it be top down above a crowd or bottom-up from the floor. Most photographers struggle with this as half the time, the subject is not centered and too far off the frame. Below, he demonstrates how he trains himself to be more accurate with where his camera is pointed.

1.      Find two subjects at a distance from each other that you would like to shoot
2.      Hold the camera at a weird angle where you are unable to see where the lens is pointed at
3.      Alternate shooting subject A and subject B for approximately three times each
4.      Have a look at your results to see how often you are able to get the subject in the center of the frame
5.      To make this harder, do not hold the camera in front of you but to the side 

Example of him shooting between some paper flowers and me.

Practice seeing if you're consistent. If you are consistently off to one side, it is easier to tweak. If you are all over the place, get another friend to help you look through the viewfinder to show you where it is centered and then practice to get back to that position consistently. 

Here Foo shows an example of how to do it in video form.

Drill #3 – Fast Settings

Getting your settings right quickly is critical in getting the shot and Foo shares, "If you are an event, sports or wedding photographer, you will need to keep up with your subjects and environment which means being able to change your settings very quickly. Being too slow would mean having the shot wrongly exposed or worse, to completely miss it. Another example would be if you are commissioned to photograph a celebrity and maybe you need to capture four shots in four different setups in a very short timeframe, you won't have time to preset everything and will need to think on your feet on how to quickly switch your settings."

1.      Scramble your camera settings out of whack
2.      Shoot a subject
3.      See the result and then try and achieve the right settings needed with as little tries as possible 

Drill #4 – Lights by Stops

This drill also helps you be able to get to your settings quickly. According to Foo, "When you understand what is the difference of one-stop visually, you’re better able to estimate how much to compensate exposure by. Therefore it can be incredibly useful to train your eye to see light by stops. Also once you understand the above, you can train yourself to get to the setting you want quickly by knowing the number of clicks on the dial of your camera to reach the difference of stops your need."

1.      Take a series of photos doubling ISO from iso 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
2.      Study the brightness of each photo and understand that that between them would be exactly one stop difference
3.      Practice the number of stops to number of clicks (ie one stop is 3 scroll clicks on the camera)

If photo is almost one stop brighter, it takes three clicks of the dial.  If it is slightly more than one stop, it's four clicks. If it's slightly lesser than two stop, then five clicks. If practiced then all of these should become second nature as well as automatic. Like a driver who doesn't think of changing a manual gear, your body can automatically react to these technical aspects of photography allowing your mind to focus on the creative aspects. Ultimately we all need to be more comfortable with the gear we are working with and really make our studio "our zone". It's not just to seem more professional to those around you but also to ensure you are getting the most out of the time, gear and people you are working with. You too can become a Jedi Photographer and its all thanks to this not-an-infomercial set of recommendations from Willy Foo! 

Lead image by Kaique Rocha via Pexels.

Shavonne Wong's picture

Shavonne Wong is an award-winning fashion/ celebrity/ advertising photographer based in Singapore.

She has worked with Vogue Global Network, Glamour South Africa, Female Malaysia, Cosmopolitan HK, Lancôme, Sephora and is a returning guest photographer for Asia's Next Top Model. She is also an X-Photographer for Fujifilm.

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before i read this, i just want to point out the title hurts my brain.

it's either, "shooting with your SUBCONSCIOUS..." or "shooting SUBCONSCIOUSLY...," preferably the latter to be fully, grammatically correct.


A flip out screen takes the error rate out of blind shooting. Every event photographer should have a camera that does this. We should be able to think ahead about the stages of a shoot and set the camera accordingly.I think the title of this is misleading.

I didn't see the need for that flip out screen until I start shooting more from ground level. I end up using Live View on my belly. Which isn't always bad. But, there are times when I wish I had that flip-out.

I personally don't have a a flip out screen cause I don't shoot events. Once awhile I do try to shoot from an angle I can't really see through though so it still applies to me.

I'm trying my best at #4. When I set up my light and meter the exposure, if I have to change it, with all things relatively equal, rather than remeter the shot, I calculate the exposure difference in stops and adjust the light accordingly.

Great article! Something I need to work on for sure.

Also just wanted to point out there's a double "that" typo in drill 4 point 2.