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PHOTO-COMPOSITION - The Basic Elements Of Photo-Composition

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'PHOTO-COMPOSITION'





PhotoComposition is the foundation upon which we build our Photo
Images by the correct Selection, Arranging, Organizing and Combining the
Visual Elements within the picture area to produce a Harmonious and Pleasing
Photograph.

The following rules of Photo-Composition are for guidance only, not for
absolute and complete obedience by Photographers. No picture was ever made
by rules alone, since Photo-Composition involves your personal tastes and
preferences. Your natural instincts are worth more in photography than many
ridged rules.

However, your must know the rules before you can break them and only
break them when you have a good reason for improving the photographic image.

Photo-Composition is based on Artistic Composition up to a certain point.
The Artists of old have always used composition in all their works and of course
broke the rules when they thought it was necessary for the improvement of the
painting or drawing.

Artists of course have the advantage over the Photographer. They can move
objects around in their picture frame to suit their own artistic desires. Thus, if a
tree is not in the right place in Nature, the Artist will move it to another place on
his canvas to make a better Composition. If a fence or house is not situated
correctly in the natural scene the Artist moves them around to suit his own
artistic needs.

Photographers are limited to the use of objects in the scene before them but
that does not mean they have to photograph them like a tourist, head on, without
looking around for the best angle and lighting conditions in which to take the
photograph.

A Photographer’s job is much harder than that of an Artist who can take
artistic liberties by moving objects around to suit their needs. The Photographer
must find a scene that has the best Composition by finding the right angle,
choosing the right lenses, being there at the right time of day for the best
lighting conditions and using creative exposures.

The Basic Elements Of Photo-Composition

Photo-Composition Is Composed Of:

MASS - LINE - FORM - VALUE - COLOR

MASS:- Equals objects, such as trees, houses, mountains, lakes or any
other large or small object within the picture area. These are the objects the
Photographer is ‘stuck’ with and has to do the best with what is in front of the
camera’s lens. MASS comes in two sections: Formal Balance and Informal
Balance.

FORMAL BALANCE:- Sometimes called Equal Balance or Classical
Balance. It has a feeling of Dignity and Repose but makes Static, Unimaginative
photo images as the objects in the picture area are of Equal Size, one balancing
the other equally like two children of equal size on a playground seesaw. The
seesaw will not move up or down. It stays horizontal with each child balancing
the other on the board.

This type of balance has been used in large public buildings where each side
of the building matches each other with wings and the entrance is in the middle.
It makes the building uninteresting and boring after the first look.

A photograph with this type of balance will also be boring and very
un-interesting so be sure to avoid it whenever possible, unless you have a
definite reason to use it.

INFORMAL BALANCE: Gives UN-even or UN-equal Balance in the
picture area. If you have a LARGE object in the picture it should be
COUNTER-BALANCED with a smaller object or Objects to make a good
Photo-Composition.

Pictures the seesaw again with a 5 year old boy on one side and his Father
on the other side. The BALANCE will be UN-even as the Father is larger and
will make the seesaw heavier on his side. The boy will be high in the air and the
Father will be at the ground level. This makes and Informal Balance.

In a photographic scene, if you have a Large tree on the right side of the
picture frame then you must try to balance it with a smaller object such as a
house, a small tree or even the figure of a person on the other side of the picture
frame.

The way you balance the objects in your picture frame will determine the
success or failure of the image. Many times you will have to resort to the use of
different types of lenses in order to create the balance you want.

A 24mm wide angle lens can create unbalanced composition very easily by
taking the objects in front of the lens at close range. This will make the front
objects appear very large in the picture frame while the rear or distant objects
will appear smaller even though they are actually larger.

Another way to create unequal balance is to find a position that will cause
one object to appear larger or smaller because of the angle you took the
photograph. The next time you are out creating photographs be sure to keep
these rules about Balance in mind and try to incorporate them in your work.

BULL’S EYE COMPOSITION: A definite ‘NO, NO’ in good
photo-composition. When you place the Main Subject right ‘smack’ in the
center of the picture area it is called a Bull’s Eye. This should be avoided at all
times, unless you have a definite reason for doing it.

With the main subject in the center of the picture frame the eye will go in to
the picture and stay in the center of the frame looking at the Bull’s Eye Main
Subject and will not move around in the picture to see and enjoy any other
items. The eye will get tired very fast and lose interest in the photograph.

Your purpose in taking photographs is to have people look at them, enjoy
them, talk about them and buy them. If they cannot get interested in a
photograph they will not bother to look at it and will definitely not buy it.

It is best to always have the Main Subject OFF CENTER. Even if it is just a
little Off Center it will improve the picture’s composition and not give you a
Bull’s Eye picture.

THE GOLDEN MEAN: Sometimes called “The Rule Of Thirds”. The artists
of old discovered it and good photographers always use it to improve their
photo-composition.

When you take a picture area and divide it into ‘thirds’ Horizontally and
Vertically, where the lines cross in the picture area is a ‘Golden Mean’, or the
best spot in which to place your Main Subject or Object of Interest as it is the
Focal Point of your picture.

There are Four Spots where these lines cross:- the Upper Left the Lower
Left, the Upper Right and the Lower Left . You will note that all these ‘Golden
Means’ spots are away from the center Bull’s Eye position in the picture frame.
The two best ‘Golden Mean’ spots are the Upper Right and the Lower Right
because the eye enters the picture frame at the lower left hand corner of the
picture frame, travels to the center of the picture area and then reaches the right
hand ‘Golden Mean’ position where it stops to look at the ‘Center Of Interest’.

The reason the eye enters a picture at the lower left side is because we are
taught to read from Left to Right. This is a psychological fact that has been
proven over the years.

Next time you are in an art gallery or art museum that shows the Old
Masters paintings, notice how many have the Center Of Interest, a figure, a
haystack, a house, an animal, etc. in one of these Golden Mean positions.

Be very careful that you do not place to centers of interest in two Golden
Mean positions, especially on opposite sides of the picture frame. This will cause
the eye a lot of trouble as it will keep going back and forth from one Center of
Interest to the other and will get confused and tired and want to leave the picture
area.

Get use to visualizing the view finder in your camera as having the cross
lines of the ‘Rule Of Thirds’ (Golden Means) and try to place your main subject
at a Golden Mean position. You will find your photographs have more style,
interest and impact because of it.

IMPLIED LINES HOLD THE PICTURE TOGETHER

Implied line are not actual lines that you can see in the picture area, they are
‘implied’ and are made up by the way objects are placed in the picture area.
Sometimes actual items or objects do make lines such as, railroad tracks,
telephone wires, etc.

These ‘implied lines’ can actually create a response in various ways:

THE VERTICAL LINE:- It denotes Dignity, Height, Strength, and Grandeur.
We find vertical lines in trees, tall buildings, fences, people standing up,
mountains, etc. A tall building shows height, strength, dignity and grandeur.
Trees show height and strength.

THE HORIZONTAL LINE:- Denotes Repose, Calm, Tranquillity and
peacefulness, such as a person lying in the grass sleeping, flowers in a field, the
flatness of a desert scene or lake. You can make your photograph show these
feelings if your look for them in the picture area and use them in your
photographs.

THE DIAGONAL LINE:- This like gives the sensation of Force, Energy
and Motion as seen in trees bent by the wind, a runner at the starting line or the
slope of a mountain as it climbs into the sky. By knowing this you can create
Force, Energy and Motion with your camera easily by tilting the camera to make
objects appear to be in a diagonal line. A dignified church steeple when
photographed at a slant will change to a forceful arrow pointing towards the sky
and show motion.

THE CURVE:- Here is a line of great beauty and charm and nothing gives a
better example than a beautiful female form with all it’s lines and curves. Of
course there are other examples: The curve in a river or a pathway through a
flower garden.

THE ‘S’ CURVE:- This line goes further than just a plain ‘curved line. It is
called the ‘Line Of Beauty”. It is Elastic, Variable and combines Charm and
Strength. It has Perfect Grace and Perfect Balance. You have seen this ‘S’ Curve
hundreds of times in drawings and paintings and other works of art.

Examples: the double curve of a river makes an ‘S’ curve. A path, row of
trees or bushes that curve one way and then the other way create the ‘S’ curve.
Look for this type of design and use it in your photos to add interest and beauty.

THE LEADING LINE:- The line that leads your eye in to the picture area
easily like a road or fence, a shoreline or river, a row of trees or a pathway. A
successful ’Leading Line’ will lead your eye in to the picture and take it right to
the Main Subject or Center of Interest

An ‘UN-Successful ‘Leading Line’ will take the eye in to the picture but will
ZOOM the eye right OUT of the picture if there is no Stopper to hold the eye in
the picture frame; such as a tree, house or other large object on the right hand
side of the picture frame which will STOP the eye from going out of the picture.
The Center of Interest or Main Subject will act as a Stopper and hold the eye in
the picture frame.

The best Leading Lines will start at the Lower Left area of the picture frame
but not in the exact corner. Again, the eye likes to enter a picture frame at this
point and the Leading Line will help it get in to the picture easily and swiftly.

IMPLIED FORMS ALSO HOLD A PICTURE TOGETHER

‘Implied Forms’ are a combination of ‘Implied Lines’ and they help to
hold a picture together. The eye enjoys these interesting forms and will stay in
the picture area to examine each one of them, if they are present.

THE CIRCLE:- Is made up of a continuous ‘Curve’ and it’s circular
movement keeps the eye in the picture frame. There are many circles in nature
and man made objects and if you find them in an image before you, be sure to
make good use of them in your photograph.

Circles can be made up of children playing ‘ring around the roses’ or a small
pond or lake is usually in the form of a circle and of course many race tracks are
a form of circle.

THE TRIANGLE OR PYRAMID:- This has a ‘solid base’ and will show
Stability. It also has Height and Strength. The Pyramids of Egypt have survived
for thousands of years while other types of solid buildings have crumbled in to
dust in less time.

A Triangle can show up in your viewfinder as three points in the scene, such
as two trees on the grounds pointing to a cloud in the sky. Sometimes a fence in
combination with a stream and a farm house can form the Triangle Composition.

THE RADII:- Is a connection of ‘Lines’ meeting in the Center and it is also
a expansion of ‘Lines’ leaving the Center. The Radii is usually found in Nature
Subjects. The best example of the man made Radii is the spokes of a wheel.

The eye has two ways to go when it comes upon the Radii. It can either be
drawn in to the picture area or it can be led out of the picture area. You must be
careful how you used the Radii and try to have the eye led into the picture.

THE CROSS:- A showing of ‘Opposing Force’ that will give the picture a
feeling of Cohesion and Relationship. The horizontal bar of the Cross will act as
a “stopper’ while the vertical pole can act as a leading line. The windows in a
large skyscraper will form crosses and will keep your interest in the building.

The Cross also has religious meaning and the subtle use of the Cross can
give hidden meaning to a photograph.

THE ‘L’ OR RECTANGLE:- This makes an attractive ‘frame’. It can be
used to accentuate important subjects. Many times it is a ‘frame’ within a
‘frame’. A tree with an overhanging branch at the ‘right’ side of the picture area
will form a ‘Rectangle’ and help frame the Main Subject in the picture. By doing
this you will make the Center of Interest stand out and be noticed clearly.

VALUE OF COLORS

Color can also help in Photo-Composition by drawing attention to the
subjects and objects. The eye will ALWAYS go to the ‘Brightest and Lightest’
coloris in a photograph. You must watch the play of Colors at all times and make
sure they are doing what you desire in your image.

VALUE:- The Value of colors are Intensity, Brightness and Luminance
Factor. Thus colors are said to have Strong or Weak Values. They can be Warm
or Cold, Advancing or Receding. The ‘longer wavelengths’ from Red to Yellow
are usually described as Strong, Warm, Advancing colors while the ‘shorter
wavelengths’, the Greens and Blues may be described as Weak, Cold and
Receding colors.

Pastel colors are Quiet and Moody while Bright colors are Strong and
Active. However, certain colors ‘react’ very strongly with each other to give
“Strong Contrasts’ and to many people these will become ‘Discords’ rather than
‘Harmonies’.

HUE:- Is the scientific counterpart for the more popular word ‘Color’. Red,
Yellow, Green and Blue are the Primary HUES, while Orange, Blue-Green, and
Violet are Secondary HUES.

COMPLIMENTARY COLORS:- Colors that go with each other will
Compliment each other and are desirable in any painting or photograph. If you
place the Primary and Secondary colors on a ‘Color Wheel’ you will find that
Red will be opposite Green; Orange will be opposite Blue and Yellow will be
opposite Violet. These ‘Opposites are Complimentary Colors and can be used
together to create the best Color Harmony.

For example, a Red barn in a Green field of grass has harmony. The Blue
and Orange sky of a sunset has color harmony. Always look for Complimentary
Colors in the visual image you plan to photograph and use them to create better
photographs.

END


The Golden rule

Let's start with an introduction of a technique that is well known for many centuries now: The 'Golden Mean' (sometimes called 'Golden Section') is a geometric formula by the ancient Greeks. A composition following this rule is thought to be 'harmonious'. The principal idea behind it is to provide geometric lines which can be traversed when viewing a composition. The Golden Mean was a major guideline for many artists/painters so it is certainly worth to have in mind for modern day photographers as well.

Well, let's begin with some words about the theory. The formula starts with a perfect square (marked blue in illustration A). Now we devide the base of the square into two equal parts. We take point x as the middle of a circle with a radius of the distance between point x and y. Thereafter we expand the base of the square till it hits the circle at point z. Now the square can be transformed to a rectangle with a proportion ratio of 5:8. The ratio of A to C is the same as the one from A to B. Luckily the 5:8 ration fits pretty close to the ratio of the 35mm format (24x36mm = 5:7.5).

So now we've something which is thought to be a 'perfect' rectangle. What's next ? We draw a line from the upper left to the lower right edge of the rectangle (see illustration B) and another line from the upper right directed towards point y' (taken from illustration A) till it hits the first cross line. Obviously this divides the rectangle into three different sections. In principal we're finished with the 'Golden Mean' now. Just try to find objects/parts in your scene that fit roughly into these three sections and you have a 'harmonious' composition. You can vary the formula by flipping and/or mirroring the scematic rectangle from illustration B.

golden.jpg (38336 bytes)


Rule of the thirds

The 'Rule of the Thirds' is actually nothing else than a simplification of the 'Golden Mean'. The basic philosophy behind it is to avoid a symmetric compositon which is usually pretty boring because the view is centered. The connection to the 'Golden Mean' are the 4 possible crossings of the dividing lines (see the examples in illustration C1 and C2). To counteract symmetry the 'Rule of the Thirds' can follow two concepts: First we can divide the image into two distinctive areas which cover 1:3 and 2:3 of the size of the picture.

third.jpg (47589 bytes)

The second possible application is directly based on the crossing points of the Golden Mean. e.g Let's assume that we a landscape that is pretty charming but lacks a major feature or interesting geometric structure. The resulting image is a boring picture of an empty landscape. So what can we do here. Try to find an object which provides a contrast to the otherwise 'monotonious' surrounding and place it at one of these crossing points. This object is an anchor for the first look and invites to a further observation of the scene.

empty.jpg (60103 bytes)


Moody light

This section is actually no description of a photographic technique but the key issue of a great nature photo is often just 'being there'. Many photos cannot be planned. So feel the moods and exploit unusual light situations. One main problem here is that these light moods disappear as fast as they come. Overall it's a good idea to shoot first and ask later - waiting for the perfect moment often results in missing the moment. A few pictures for the trash bin surely doesn't hurt as much as no picture at all so experiment and SHOOT, SHOOT, SHOOT!

mood2.jpg (25146 bytes)

mood3.jpg (23476 bytes)


Cross lines

Crossing Lines/diagonals are actually again another simplyfication of the golden mean. The basic idea is to provide a sort of 'guideline' for the eyes to follow. It is a good idea to place the start or end of such a line to one of the extreme edges. The classical approach states that the upper left edge is the best starting point because most humans start to traverse a picture from here on. However, it cannot hurt to break this rule (see 2nd picture). Just a straight line would be pretty boring thouhg so there should be some sort of disturbance in the picture. The following picture shows a focus point where many lines find together so there are enough of directions for the eyes to follow making the picture interesting.

diag.jpg (90188 bytes)

diag2.jpg (68109 bytes)


Skyline

skyline1.jpg (18679 bytes)This is a pretty nice and easy effect. Just search for a interesting 'skyline' - typically near the horizon or at middle distances and wait for the time around either sunset or sunrise. Now meter a very bright spot in the scene so the foreground gets totally black on the final picture. Due to this you've to place the foreground at the lower third of your picture - a black something is surely not interesting enough to allow more space here while the graduated color of the sky is of major interest here. Skylining is finally nothing else than a special 'backlit' situation but with a much more exaggerated effect.


Color, color

Image composition is about light and light is about contrast/brightness and colors. It is either a good idea to surpress as many different colors as possible (resulting in monochromatic pictures when going to the extremes) or to make use of color contrasts by looking for complimentary colors - red, green & blue. The more pure the base color the more extreme is the difference (color contrast) making an image interesting. There're various possibilties to increase color saturation and therefore contrast. Polarizers are the most popular option. These filters work pretty good to enhance the blue sky or shiny objects like the sea or other non-metallic object. The effect is maximized at a position 90 degrees of the sun. Often it is a good idea not to go for the max here. Graduated color filters can help as well here and there. There're also various sorts of direct color enhancers like 'Redhancer' filter etc. pp. Just make sure that you know what you're doing

color.jpg (64982 bytes)

color4.jpg (40112 bytes)


Framing

Sometimes you've a object of huge dominace within a scene. While breathtaking on-location the final picture looks often much less impressive due to uninteresting space around the object. Try to find a frame which can eliminate the unimportand surrounding and focus the view. The right picture uses the surrounding trees as a sort of portal to frame the mountain in the center.

frame2.jpg (62330 bytes)

frame3.jpg (48471 bytes)


Panning

panning1.jpg (69900 bytes)The first picture is pretty straight just as you would expect it in a sports magazine or so. It shows sharp picture of a rallye car shot at a high shutter speed around 1/500 sec. Nice but it doesn't show anything arty except the capability of the camera's predictive AF.

panning2.jpg (42928 bytes)The next picture is somewhat more interesting - just the main object is sharp but everything else including the same focus plane is totally blurred. How's that ? It's not all that difficult but it costs lots of film. Just choose a very slow shutter speed. The picture below was taken with 1/60 secs at 300mm! Additionally you follow the subject trying to keep it in the center of the viewfinder. In maybe two out of 10 pics the main object is indeed quite sharp and the background is fuzzy due to motion blurr. Compared to the first picture the motion itself is much more obvious.

panning3.jpg (46479 bytes)The following picture is even more extreme - you can see only a very small & sharp portion (the '8') - the rest is blurry. This extreme effect was shot with 1/30s at 300mm. The angular movement was very extensive so every detail around the sharp center is lost in motion. Such pics don't reflect reality but show a very dynamic mood.

Composition rules

  • Implied lines hold the picture together. Use lines in photographs to focus attention.
  • The eye will always go to the lightest and brightest colors. Use contrast to identify your subject/purpose
  • The visual 'center' of a picture is not the 'bull's eye center', but the intersection of vertical and horizontal thirds. Use thirds.
  • Look for ways to give the center of interest in your pictues the most visual attention by looking for visual simplicity.
  • Achiving good informal balance is another composition rule leading to professional looking results.
  • A 'frame' in a photograph is something in the foreground that leads you into the picture or gives you a sense of where the viewer is. Framing can usually improve a picture. The 'frame' doesn’t need to be sharply focused
  • When the subject is capable of movement, such as an animal or person, it is best to leave space in front of the subject so it appears to be moving into, rather than out of, the photograph.
  • Avoid mergers—plants sticking out of people's heads, telephone poles 'rising' from shoulders, etc.

 

Picture

Composition  is the start of the photographic process on the creative side. On the technical side we start with light which is the raw material for our image and work with the exposure controls.

Composition is the placement of elements within the restriction of the frame of the photo. On a 35mm camera this is a rectangle. On a Twin Lens camera it is a square. In either case, the frame is going to see LESS than our eyes, so the trick is to decide what to point the camera at.

A photo has two main parts. First is the subject which is what we take a photo of. Second is treatment which is how that subject is arranged within the frame.

Perhaps the most important guide for composition is called the Rule of Thirds.  When the frame is divided into three parts horizontally and vertically we get the arrangement shown here. The lines of intersection are ideal placement points for the dominant element in our photo.the part of the photo that attracts  our attention. We call that the center of interest or subject. Each photo should have such a point.if there is nothing that attracts your attention then the photo does not communicate as well. 

 

Subject placement can also be placed along one of the thirds to be effective. The horizon line should be placed on the thirds line and never in the center if it is visible.



Picture

Picture

This is a photo example of Thirds.notice that the dot represents the part of the photo our eye comes to rest onthis part of the photo is in contrast in color and shape to the rest of the photo and thus attracts more attention.

Pay attention to lines in your photo. Lines can be actual lines from a road or fence, or from an arrangement of objects such as these cars.  Lines that are horizontal or flat tend to be peaceful and reduce the excitement of a photo. Diagonal lines make a photo have a feeling of action or excitement. Many times a movie producer will tilt the reality of the scene by tilting the camera to throw the ballance off and make a viewer feel the tension or action.  Here we have the larger truck placed on the diagonal lines to attract attention. Notice how it was placed on the thirds. 

Picture

Picture

CURVED lines also are important. ANY line in the photo adds to the composition feel, here we see curved lines made by the arms of the swimmer add to the feeling of peacefulness. Notice how the face is placed in the thirds line.

Another example of LINES, in this case we call them leading lines. The lines made by the freeway overpass draw our eye INTO the photo and off toward the ending point where the white dot was placed.

 

You can see all of these examples on the Magazine cut out assignment. To really understand composition a new photographer must look at good photographs like those found in National Geographics magazine and examine and analyze how the composition was accomplished.

Picture

The motion of our subject is where the composition meets the technical. Here we find the shutter controls motion on our photo. If the shutter is fast (like 500 or 1000) the motion is frozen and if it is long or slow like 60 or less the motion becomes a blur. Each has its effect on the final photo. The important part is that the photographer has decided in advance how the photo will look. Notice how the rule of thirds has been used on this photo also.

 

When the shutter is set to a fast speed like 250 - 500 - 1000 the camera is not getting much light - the aperture will then need to be set to a wider setting letting in  more light in order to get an exposure. The result.less depth of field and a background that becomes less clear.

Picture

The final technical concern in composition is in the background. Is there an obect that is right behind our subject that might look like it is MERGING or growing out of our subject? Is the background needed or not. Here we see two ways to do it - include it or simplify it.

The APERTURE controls the background, although most cameras will only show you the simplified view when you focus. NOW the aperture works with the shutter to control light and exposure.

Background is simplified or made less sharp by a wide open aperture like f 2, f4 or f 5.6. Close pictures or a telephoto lens make the effect more dramatic. By setting our shutter to a high number the aperture is forced to a LOW number and depth is reduced. By putting our shutter to a LOW number the aperture is forced HIGH and depth is increased. The two controls work together.

Picture

Prize Winning Photography - video notes

Notes taken from a video watched in class. These are key points of the show and make good points for our internet visitors as well as students.

Blur creates a feeling of speed - panning or moving the camera along so that it follows a moving object takes practice but makes a photo more interesting

Posterization is darkroom technique that converts the photo into simple tones of black and white or simple blocks of color

SIMPLICITY is the key to good pictures that win awards

Everybody looks but not everybody sees.  Imaginative seeing the potential of a photo is the skill to develop - look for pictures in the things you see

Little extra touches in a photo such as a moon in the sky for comparison of shape or for a distant focal point is good. Take the time to examine the objects in your photo and look for the best viewpoint to show them

Lighting plays a part in a prize winner.  A silhouette or sunset can do a lot to make a photo simple and interesting. To make the exposure aim the meter away from the sun to the bright part of the sky and adjust exposure then hold it and recompose the photo for a dark sky and a silhouette of your subject. A silhouette simplifies the photo

Time of day - the proper lens and vantage point  as well as care in focus and exposure is what  makes a prize winner.

The telephoto lens makes things look closer together - it can be used to  select the portion of the photo you like best

Prize winners are EASY TO LOOK AT with the eye following the action - the subject is obvious and has impact - LESS IS MORE concept of getting in close and checking the frame for a photo that tells a story or sets a mood.

People pictures are popular subjects.  Look at the camera angles or vantage point to find one that gives a simple background with colors and objects that do not compete with the subject. Good expression is key to people shots -- look for how the mood is expressed -- be alert and have camera r

TEST YOUR UNDERSTANDING - advance to evaluate a few photographs and see how your views compare to others.

eady and semi-adjusted in advance for speed in response.

 





Top Ten Tips 

  • Know your subject
  • Keep that camera Ready
  • Look for Good Light
  • Try including Foreground
  • Get in Close
  • Keep Backgrounds Simple
  • Keep it Steady
  • Try it Sideways
  • Use your flash
  • Don't forget the bug spray?

 Welcome to the top ten tips section.

Know your subject:

Knowing your subject may seem obvious but lets say you were wanting to take a picture of a big brown moose. :) How would you go about getting the shot? It would probably be a good idea to know a little about when and where it eats and sleeps. How close can you get without disturbing the animal. Whether you know it or not a moose can seriously hurt or kill you. Hunters and photographers alike have been trampled by these large animals. Knowing these things in advance will help you get the shot and have the least amount of impact on the animals and the environment as possible. You can see where knowing your subject is a good idea. You don't want to wind up on the wrong end of an antler:)Top of Page

 

Keep that camera Ready:

You never know when that shot of a lifetime is going to happen. You could be out at the beach one day and some air force jet make a crash landing right there on the beach in front of you. How would you get the shot if your camera was in the car? 'Keep it ready'.Top of Page

 

Look for Good Light:

Always when composing a shot look for the best light. Near a window with the sun shining through. If outdoors, try to take your picture in the shade or where the light is not so harsh. Harsh bright light will flatten an image and make it stale. Look for the softest or warmest light when photographing people. It makes your photos more appealing and attractive.Top of Page

 

Try including Foreground:

Including foreground in your photo is another good technique. It shows more area and makes for better composition depending on what you are shooting. For example including a rock or small bush or tree will help balance out a photo and in turn make it more interesting.Top of Page

 

Get in Close:

Try something new. If you primarily shoot from a distance try getting in close to your subject. This can have a dramatic effect and make you photos stand out. Photographing flowers and insects is a good example. The idea here is to show everyday things not normally viewed in such a way as new and interesting. It produces a 'WOW I didn't notice that before' reaction in people and makes things way more fun.Top of Page

 

Keep Backgrounds Simple:

Simply don't include too many things in your background. It clutters things and makes your photo confusing to the eye. Keep it simple.Top of Page

 

Keep it Steady:

Whenever possible rest you camera on something sturdy or stationary. Or use a tripod. This helps your photographs come out much more sharp and clear. A human being can only hold a camera steady enough for a clear image with a shutter speed of 1/30 a second. Any slower and blurring will most likely occur. Some photographers suggest not hand holding you camera for speeds slower than 1/60. The point is your hand shakes much more than you realize it. Use a tripod whenever possible.Top of Page

 

 

Try it Sideways:

Huh?! 'What do you mean sideways?' :) Well it's simple. Most photos are taken with the camera right side up. Try it sideways. It lengthens perspective and will give your photos a new look. :)Top of Page

 

 

Use your flash:

When photographing people outdoors in daylight use your flash. It fills in ugly shadows and lessens the dark areas of the photo.Top of Page

 

Don't forget the bug spray?:

Anyone who has ever been outside knows that insects are abundant. Especially in the south. To make your outdoor experience more like fun and less like a slapping contest 'Don't forget the bug spray'Top of Page

 

'Composition'

Composition (noun) The arrangement of artistic parts so as to form a unified whole.

 

Subject:

This is anything you are taking a photograph of. To define it simply.

 

Knowing your subject:

Just going out a taking pictures is great. Knowing your subject is another matter. What kind of flower is that you are taking a picture of? What type of tree or frog or deer is it? Does that beautiful butterfly have a name?

 

Also if you are taking photos of wild or dangerous animals like a Grizzly bear I would imagine it's probably a good idea to know a little more about this animal than the fact that it's big and brown and furry and it's got lots of big teeth to bite you with. Know it's habitat, maybe what it eats and where it goes when it's sleepy would all be good things to know. This way you can be in the right place at the right time and can get a good shot or to know when to leave him be.

 

For safety sake these things can come in handy if you know them and prepare yourself in advance before going out into the field. So whether you are taking photos of a harmless little butterfly or a ferocious Grizzly, it's always a good idea to know your subject.

 

Positioning your subject:

 

Where is my subject located in the frame?

Is it obvious what I am taking a picture of?

Is it too 'busy'?

Is my subject lost in the scene?

 

These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself when composing a shot. Position your subject or yourself in the best place to show exactly what you are photographing. If you are taking sunset photos then position yourself where you can view as much of the area you can and where you can capture as much of the scene in your viewfinder as possible, but without making it too 'busy'.

 

For example. Let's say you are at the beach and your are trying to get a good sunset photo. There is a sailboat that looks gorgeous sitting out there among the waves and wind and birds flying around. Do you show that ugly buoy floating there in the water that's just sitting there taking up space or, do you try to frame the photo so that it doesn't include this eyesore? This is personal preference of course. Perhaps you want the buoy in the photo simply to give the picture more of a nautical feel.

 

Eye Catching:

Always make your photos eye catching. What would you like to look at? And don't forget to have fun doing it. Sometimes, you so caught up in trying to 'get the shot' that you miss the moment and the beauty of the scene. Try not to let this happen. Enjoy your surroundings.

 

Background:

Or what is behind your subject. Try to keep this simple and with as little distraction as possible. Your subject shouldn't be lost in the scene. Use a background that is clean and clear of clutter.

 

Foreground:

What is in front of your subject. If you are shooting landscapes try including more of your foreground in your photo. For example if you are taking a picture of a field with a big red barn maybe you could include a section of the fence or some such structure to give it more appeal and interest. Keep it simple.

 

Angle:

Angle is the direction from which you are taking the photo. This angle could be anywhere around the subject providing it is physically possible to position yourself and your camera in this area.

 

Simply clicking away at your subject without thinking of the angle you are shooting from and what you subject is can be very frustrating when you get your photos back from the lab. Not to mention it could be very costly. Instead, try thinking of what your subject is.

 

For example, if you are photographing children playing, try shooting from a lower angle to make it more interesting. Eye level is good. If you can get at eye level with what you are shooting (providing it has eyes) then this is a good practice. Tilting your camera slightly in either direction in relation to your subject has an abstract effect. It causes your eye to look at a familiar image from an unfamiliar angle.

 

Many great photos of animals look good because you are looking into their eyes and it produces an instinctive primal reaction. To cause reaction, is an important thing to remember whether positive or negative, like a beautiful bride at a wedding or like a starving child in a third world country. A creative angle has the ability to instill dramatic and emotional response. Like when a dog tilts his head when he is curious, this tilt makes us smile and laugh. It invokes a response, and this is what makes a photo interesting.

 

Focus:

To focus properly requires a combination of things. First and perhaps most importantly is to keep your camera steady. This may seem obvious but you would be surprised to know how little movement it takes to blur and ruin an otherwise perfect shot. Most new cameras have auto focus. This in combination with the shutter speed being preset at a higher speed allows for most point and shoot cameras to take very sharp images even when there is alot of movement. This is why these type cameras are called point and shoots because all you have to do is point it at what you want to take a photo of and press the shutter button. It's all automatic. If you want more control over focus then a manual or automatic SLR (Single Lens Reflex ) camera is the prefered choice.

 

Focal Distance:

This is the point at which your camera is focused during an exposure.

 

Depth of field:

This is the distance between which two objects in a picture remain in focus. Also called the zone of focus or depth of field zone. Depth of field is determined by your aperture settings (or the opening inside the lens that lets light in to expose the film). The size of the aperture is adjusted by setting your f-stop. These f-stop settings are marked on your lens and are usually in the order of 1.4, 2, 2.8, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22 and so on sometime. The smaller the number the larger the opening will be. The larger the number the smaller the opening. This effects depth of field and the amount of light that enters the camera. A smaller aperture increases the depth of field. A larger aperture decreases depth of field. About Aperture

 

An object that the camera is focused upon will be sharper than an object in front of or behind the point of focus. The farther you get from the focal point the more out of focus or blurry things get. For example, if you were taking a picture of three apples sitting on a table in a line directly in front of the camera (Let's say your cameras f-stop is set at 1.4 and you are focused on the second apple) then this apple would be in focus while the other two remain out of focus. If you wanted all the apples to be in focus then you would have to decrease the aperture which increases the depth of field. In other words just set the f-stop to 22 and all of your apples will be in focus. :) I didn't confuse you did I?




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