Over the last couple of years I’ve really enjoyed learning the ins and outs of photography. It has been the creative outlet that I needed that is similar enough to user experience design, but different enough that it doesn’t feel like work. Now that I’ve been shooting for awhile now, I’m finding that many of the habits I have when practicing ux design are starting to carry over into my photography. The hook between the two lies in the attention of detail, a specific moment in time and properly serving the subject being photographed. The importance of these three concepts is the same in photography and in user experience design.
Attention of Detail
The ability to point out the minor flaws of an object or interface is curse for every designer. Personally, nothing drives me more batty now then seeing a UI widget be a pixel off from its intended alignment with other UI widgets. The curse exists in the world of photography. Nothing distracts more from a photo than an out of place object. This could someone accidentally, or intentionally, photobombing the subject, or simply a power line spanning the width of the scene. Getting the details of an experience, be it interactive or visual, wrong disrupts the user and takes away from overall engagement. Being asked to take photos for a friends family or going out on a photo walk has helped increase my attention. This experience naturally translate to the work I do at Perficient XD and makes the work I produce for my clients better.
Being In The Moment
When you use an application, website, or product there are certain magical moments that will either hook you into the experience or drive you away. The same magical moments exist when you are photographing a subject. I’ve read a lot about the best way to take photos of a sunset or sunrise. The one piece of advice that is consistent across photographers is find the scene you want to shot and wait. Wait for that moment when the light is perfect, then hit your shutter release. Once you’ve captured that “perfect” moment, wait 5 or 10 minutes and take the photo again. In just that short span of time, you will have a set of photos that tell different stories and convey a different mood. The core of this advice can best be applied to registration and up selling your customers. The span of time to ask and convince someone to sign up for your site or to buy additional products happens during “magical” moments while the person is using your site. Asking too soon or too late means you failed to convert that user or that you missed out on additional revenue. Be patient, wait for the moment that will really “Wow!” someone.
Focusing On The Subject (User)
Nothing is more important in photography than the subject. Not light, ISO, shutter speed or aperture. Without the subject all the theory and settings don’t matter because no one will pay attention to the photo. When designing a digital product, the same level of important should be placed on the user. If you don’t have visitors to your site, consumers of your products or contributors to your content then nothing else about your product manners. That’s not to say the subject, or user, should be the only focus. The settings used when taking the photo, or the design and functionality of a product all have their place. At the center of it all should be the subject though.
There are a lot of great resources out there for learning the theory behind the art of photography. I encourage you to read a post here and there, even if you don’t have an interest in photography. Look for the correlations between the craft of experience design and the craft practiced by thousands of photographers out there.