Want To Shoot Like Patitucci Photo? Start Here

I’ve been known as “One more time.”

As in, “Ya, that was great, but can you (Insert: run, ski, hike, bike, climb, reach) a tiny bit more left next time? Great!! Now, one more time.”

Why? Because we want it perfect. The photo, the feeling, the energy—perfect. Or, at least, our version of perfect.

I can provide my thoughts on some general photo rules, but it’s up to you to decide what to do with them. That’s the beauty of creative work. Anything goes, but there are a few things that you might consider first.

Each year during our Mountain & Adventure Sport Workshop, I focus on a few key points that I want guests to work on the first day. What they boil down to is simplicity and a clean final image.

1. Less is more. Learn what to eliminate in images.

Showing less is the key to showing more. Less stuff in the photo might mean more feeling, or more impact. Getting rid of unnecessary clutter, distraction, annoying elements, empty space, etc., is often done with a lens change, movement in where you make the image, or simply re-composing. Do you really need 20 feet of carved up powder in the foreground of your image? Or that nasty dead tree in background? Probably not, so re-frame the image by changing focal length or moving your position.

Show only what is needed for impact.

In both of the above images, there is little in the images that isn’t necessary for a strong image. Imagine each of these with 20 extra feet in the foreground. The image would lose something.

Challenge: When you are next shooting photos, think as much about what to keep out of the photo as what you want in it.

2. Lose tangents and use color well.

Have you ever looked at an image that is seemingly great, but something just feels wrong? It may well be a psychological issue you're having with the image that comes in the form of intersecting lines, bad color combos or poor subject placement.

Tangents are lines not working together. Lines that cross through one another in bad positions, or shapes not quite lining up in proportion. As a photographer, avoiding tangents comes with experience. You need to develop the ability to see them when you shoot, and/or quickly identify them on your screen and declare, “One more time!"

Notice the rear person’s head in this shot is placed against the black rock while the front person is entirely against white. It helps to have the separation without just one part of the body getting knicked by the background. Ideally, both would have been against white.

In this photo, that foot hanging below the line of the snow is, for me, a no go.

Working with color is an art. You can use it to create a feeling or mood, make something more dramatic, work with complimentary colors that please the eye, or use different tones for separation.

In the two photos above, do you think black or grey tops would still work? Probably not as well. Put color to work for your photos.

Subjects typically need to separate against the background, and color can do this. A runner shot against the blue sky probably shouldn’t wear a blue toned outfit. Think yellow, or orange.

But an entire scene can also be a color, or in photospeak, a tone, and color temperature. Blue is cold, yellow, or orange is warm. Want to make an alpine climbing scene look frigid? Cool it down with bluish tones throughout the scene.

A good example of the power of color is food advertising, or fast food branding colors. Green is rarely used in images about food, so too the corporate food logos. Green is sickly. Red and yellow are healthy and vibrant—think of all the fast food logos. When viewing images, small things make a big difference. It all adds up.

3. Master subject placement.

Our eye likes to see things placed within other things, neat and clean. A line going through a face is distracting, or a tree growing out of someone’s head is just plain annoying. Consider where your subject is and how you might place them in the scene so as to be clean.

Both of these images have the subjects strategically placed. The top image is obviously meant to have them separated against the busy wall, and by being in the triangle of white, the eye goes right to them after the initial impact of the mountain. Meanwhile, the runner in the second photo is placed against the lighter, evenly toned grey rock.

As a pro photographer shooting products for clients, we often need to make the product the hero. It really needs to pop. This usually means making the human subjects pop. This is done using all of the above points, but none more so than subject placement in the image.

Challenge: Keep the subject of your images free of distraction. Place them cleanly in the image and use color to your advantage.

4. Learn to edit your own work.

Scanning Instagram and Facebook is a lesson in how not to make photos. You need to be your own best critic, and you need to learn to edit. Do you really need to show twelve blurry images of a dot’s butt climbing a slab? No! Your Facebook friends will thank you, your hard drive will last longer and by really studying your own work, you’ll likely start to become a better photographer. Studying your mistakes is probably the best of all lessons when learning to make better photos.

Years ago, I read a study that had been done where a laser tracked the eye movement of viewers as they were shown an image. In images with some of these “rules” broken, the eye rapidly went back and forth from the mistake to the main subject, but over time, the eye stayed on the mistake. In well known images, or famous photos without these “mistakes,” the eye landed on the subject and stayed there before drifting about the image, slowly. The eye had found peace in the image. There was a balance of its elements.

If given the opportunity, this is all the more reason to start incorporating the “one more time” strategy. To get things just right. After practicing all of this, even your quick shots will benefit as your eye becomes used to seeing the best image. Like all the other things we do in the mountains—climbing, skiing, running—getting better requires practicing the best techniques. These days, photography is part of most everything we do. Time to start training.


Dan & Janine Patitucci will be presenting a three day Mountain & Adventure Sport Workshop September 4 - 6 in Grindelwald, Switzerland. The workshop is for intermediate to advanced photographers, as well as aspiring pros, and will focus on photo technique, digital workflow, working in the mountains and breaking into the photo business. For more info, and to sign up, visit https://viewfindercenter.com/offer/adventure-sports-photography-workshop/.