A good photo is something that makes your mind wander, ignites your curiosity, and question what you're looking at. When I frame a photo, I look at the composition — meaning the form, shape, lines, repetition — before examining the lighting. Other things come into play as well, such as the subject, colour and ambience. But a great photo really stems from the frame and composition within it.
When you take a shot, don't rely on Photoshop. Really get the shot to where you want it, and then image will become stronger because you really go the extra mile. I learned that during my internship with David LaChapelle. His sets were so immaculate.
When I was working as an assistant in Paramount Pictures, I asked people what they wanted to hang in their homes and what draws them to a photo. It's a commitment to buy a photo you have to see everyday. All my work starts with the same philosophy: Is it something I want to look at everyday? When I'm in the field, I naturally know when I get the right shot. But when I edit, I can doubt what I knew was originally right. Self-doubt is never a bad thing. It's just human.
I learned photography in the darkroom in high school when I was 16. Those days of shooting in black and white were really good times. With only 32 exposures, you have to really try and frame your image. Digital photography makes it easier in the sense that you can just click away and pick one shot, but it can also overcomplicate things when you edit.
Top-down shots work so well on Instagram because they're relatable — it's a perspective that you can imagine yourself. If people can relate to your image or at least the caption that you leave, they'll like it more. So if you post something crazy, no one will understand you. For me, a photo becomes fine art when it really conceptualises a series and there's a statement behind it. It's not just a photo — it's really something you're trying to convey.
After I take a series of photos, I make a selection, step away, and come back. The right image will eventually come forward. I start with 25 shots and get it down to 14 or 12. You need to pick the ones that speak to you. If you take a digital memory card and put it away for two months, then come back to it, those images will mean so much more to you than when you just click and look at it. Everyone can practice that.
A photographer and creative director of his eponymous brand, Gray Malin's fine art prints hang on walls and appear on lifestyle products. He currently works with Le Meridien to unlock destinations around the world through photography. Follow Gray Malin on Instagram at @graymalin or search #FollowGray to shadow the photographer.