We all have times when were waiting for somethingmaybe the doctors office, or a meal at restaurant, or at the auto shopand many times we spend that time checking Instagram with our eyes glued to our phones. Id like to suggest a more productive use of your time that will exercise your mind and make you a better photographer.

Light the Room

When youre waiting around, engage your mind by lighting the room. Consider what it would take to make the room look good in a photograph, and then spice it up by adding the person youre waiting for to the mix.

Here are some questions to help guide your exercise:

  1. Which background is best?
  2. What lens will you use?
  3. Where will you put a strobe?
  4. Will you balance with the ambient light, or overpower it completely with strobes?
  5. Will you need reflectors?
  6. What color gels are required?
  7. Where will the person stand?
  8. What background elements might be distracting and need to be moved?
  9. Where are the outlets for plugging in strobes?
  10. Will speedlights suffice?
  11. How many people could you fit in the picture?
  12. Which light modifiers would you use?
  13. What else could you shoot in this room? Products?
  14. How can you make a completely different mood by changing the lighting?

Even if you don’t know the answers, its a good exercise because it will help you realize where your weak points are. Now you can engage that phone in searching out tips for overcoming your weak areas, and that makes you a better photographer without even pressing the shutter button.

So next time you find yourself reaching for your phone to occupy your down time, instead reach our with your mind and figure out what would make the space youre in a great place to make a picture. This is even better if you’re out with other photographers. Work together to consider how to make a good picture, and you’re bound to learn new things from each other. Plus, it’s a great way to stay engaged with your friends and keep the phones out of sight.

This post was inspired by the Writing Excuses Podcast episode on August 10, 2014. I highly recommend that podcast as a resource for creativity.