Think Before You Shoot


The Art of Taking Creative Photographs

by Santino Zafarana

Why images matter and how to create consistently powerful and captivating ones, from the perspective of a renowned photographer.

Fueled by the handy cellphone camera and social media, we’ve become obsessed with digital images―from posting “selfies” on Snapchat to featuring still lifes of what we’re having for dinner in our Facebook stories. Yet, for those seeking more creativity in their lives, there’s nothing like taking photographs through the lens of an actual camera, complete with a focus ring and shutter button.

“Photography helps you look at the world and your life through fresh eyes,” attests Santino Zafarana, an internationally recognized photographer and teacher. In Think Before You Shoot Zafarana offers an illuminating guide to understanding the art of seeing, with 21 techniques to make taking photographs a conscious act. To consistently capture wondrous images, he emphasizes adopting a simple yet deliberate practice: before you press the shutter button, stop to observe and answer four critical questions:

  1. What are you looking at?
  2. Why does this image captivate you?
  3. What elements should remain in the image?
  4. How can you show your viewer all that you see?

The book also covers these important points:

  • Why photographs matter―to developing a sense of identity, tracing your personal evolution, preserving cherished memories, keeping a record of your ideas, and securing your legacy.
  • How the cellphone has changed not only the way we take, view, and share pictures but also the nature and meaning of photographs themselves.
  • The importance of understanding good, basic lighting―including natural window lighting―and how light affects the quality and “feel” of images. As Zafarana stresses: “Light creates mood.”
  • Why to never overlook a photograph’s background, and how paying attention to subtle background elements can strengthen and enrich your subject in the foreground.
  • Pointers for effective cropping―including why to never crop a picture at the person’s knees, elbows, ankles, wrists, or toes.
  • The power of the photographer’s point of view and its impact on a photograph’s focal point. “Every decision about point of view changes the way your viewer will see the photograph,” notes Zafarana.
  • The rewards of investing the care and developing the consciousness to take great photographs, including finding creative fulfillment and building self-esteem.

Hardcover | 204 pages | GOFF BOOKS | 2022

Santino was born in Polizzi Generosa, Sicily, Italy in 1954. He was introduced to photography by his uncle Salvatore Dolce, who gave him his first camera ― a Kodak brownie. Later he received a Rolleiflex for his 15th birthday. For more than forty-five years Santino Zafarana has simply photographed “the magic of light.” He realized early in his photographic career that understanding how to control and capture the essence of light with his camera can make amazing photographs when it illuminates an object or a person. His artistic aspirations sent him on a quest to understand the quintessence and authenticity that led to a workflow and language that has allowed him to help thousands achieve their dreams of taking great artistic photographs. Santino’s work moves smoothly and with great subtlety between abstraction and surrealism, constructivism and humanism.

Santino currently teaches and mentors at the Creative Photography Workshops school in Los Angeles, where he has taught at for more than eighteen years, and which he owns with his wife Tracey Landworth―an accomplished photographer in her own right.

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