== Love Photography == Delight in Light ==

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Photo 101 - Lesson 8 - The Use of Style

Hopefully by now you are getting the hang of thinking about composition when you take your photos. Maybe you're even getting a bit sick of that topic.

But, sorry, no apology. Oh, hang on, that is an apology! Oh well - what I'm trying to say is, it was deliberate. I've concentrated on composition for this long for a reason.

The word "photography" comes from two Greek words that together literally mean "drawing with light". Concentrating on composition is a good way to start to train yourself to actually think about the fact that what you are doing is creating a work of art. You're drawing. You're painting. You are no longer just taking a snapshot.

But actually, composition is only part of what makes the difference.

The main thing that makes a photo stand out from ordinary ones is what I think is best called "the use of style"...

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Photo 101 - Lesson 7 - Change Your Position

In lesson 2 we introduced the idea of "composition" (how things are arranged in the photo). Since then we have had a number of lessons that are all really to do with that same topic. We have looked at moving closer to the subject (arranging your subject so that it is bigger in the photo than it would have been); we have looked at simplifying (changing the arrangement of the photo by removing distractions); we have looked at arranging the photo so that it includes a natural frame, and we have looked at arranging lines or objects so that they seem to draw you into the picture.

Now, this may sound obvious, but, as we have already seen, in many (maybe most) cases, the key to changing your composition is to change the position of your camera. So - in this lesson I want to you to think about just that: changing your camera's position.

There are basically four changes of position that you can consider. Of course not all of them will be possible in all cases, but try to remember to at least consider each of them. They are:

  • Elevation - You can move your camera higher or lower - you could choose a very low, slightly low, medium, slightly high, or very high viewpoint. You could even (in some cases) position your camera directly above or directly below the subject.
  • Distance - You can more closer or further from the subject - we previously talked about moving closer, but sometimes moving further away actually works better.
  • Direction - You can move around to one of the sides or to the back of the subject rather than simply photographing it from the front.
  • Camera Rotation - Instead of holding your camera horizontally (level with the floor - in what is normally called "landscape" orientation), you could hold it vertically (on its side in "portrait" orientation). You could even try holding it an an angle.

All these options are illustrated in this diagram:

So your homework today is simply to concentrate on trying different viewpoints. Find a few subjects and take a series of photos of it from multiple different viewpoints. Remember to think about all four of the different movements. And also remember to combine them in different ways - close up, low down and with you camera in portrait orientation; far away, high up, from the side; and so on. Then think about which ones worked best. Oh - and don't forget to have fun!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Photo 101 - Lesson 6 - Walk This Way: Near and Far

In the last lesson we talked about creating a "frame within a frame" - including something in your picture that creates a border around the edges. Normally (although, not always) you do this by including something (like a tree, an archway, or something like that) that is closer to the camera than the actual subject.

In this lesson I want to continue along a similar theme - including things in your photo that are different distances from the camera.

One problem with photos is that they are 2-dimensional. They are flat. They don't have any depth - if you look at a photo from the side, all there is is a single line. The real world is not like that. There is depth to it. The challenge is to get the photo to look like it has depth too. There are many aspects to this, but one important way of doing it is to include objects at different distances within your photo so that people feel like they are being drawn into the picture.

You can achieve this by either including individual objects in the photo that are different distances away from the camera or by having some kind of line (like a road, path, wall, etc.) that starts near the camera and runs towards the distance (this is called a "leading line" because it feels like it is leading you into the picture). Or, of course, you could use a combination of both.

Here are some examples:

Whistling Sands Beach

Mountain Mist

Princess Paradise

Millennium Seed Bank

In all of these photos there are things that are at clearly different distances from that camera - and these give the photos a feeling of depth.

So - your homework this time is to give this a try. Take several pairs of photos: in the first photo in each pair, avoid having something in the foreground; in the second photo, include an object or a line that "draws people in".

Once you've done that, have a look at the resulting photos and think about which ones you like more. Consider questions like these:

  • Did having something in the foreground improve the photos?
  • Which pair(s) benefited most from this sense of depth?
  • Were they any where including something in for foreground actually made it worse?
  • Did lines or individual objects seem to work best?

Don't rush it, but once you're done, don't forget to come back for lesson 7 :)

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Photo 101 - Lesson 5 - Frame Within a Frame

Every picture has some kind of boundary, and how we arrange things within that boundary is called the composition or framing. Back in lesson 2 we talked about the fact that when you take a photo you should try to compose (or frame) things in an interesting way.

However, in this lesson I want to talk about a different type of "frame"...

Have a look at this picture:

Sunday Morning

The tree and bits of bush around the edges create kind of border (or frame) around the main part of the picture. This gives the picture more of a feeling of depth - as if you are secretly looking out at it from inside the depth of the forest. It adds to the mystery and interest of the picture.

Here's another example:

A Corner of Wakehurst

Here again, I have used some trees in the foreground to create a natural "frame" for the main part of the picture. In this example, the foreground trees are not even in focus, but that, I think, only adds to the feeling that we are emerging out of the trees and discovering the gardens beyond.

So, for today's lesson, I would like you to go and take some pictures that include some kind of "frame" within the picture itself. It could be trees as in these two examples, or it could be something else - a doorway, a window, the end of a tunnel, the space between some buildings, etc. etc. - anything that allows you to take a photo that includes a "frame within the frame". Try to be as imaginative and creative as possible in your choice of frame.

You know the drill now - have a look at the results of your efforts and save the best ones in your folder. Don't forget to also spend some time thinking about why you like those ones best.

Once you're done, don't forget to come back for Lesson 6 :) - see you then!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Photo 101 - Lesson 4 - Keep It Simple

Last time, in lesson 3, we talked about moving closer. A large part of why that often leads to better photos, is that it helps to make sure that there are no distractions in the picture. If you move closer, you are much less likely to have all sorts of other things competing for attention with the main subject of the photo. The photo is much less likely to look all cluttered and untidy.

So, this time, think about that general principle. "How can I stop this picture from looking cluttered and untidy?"

There are, actually, many ways of doing that. But I want to concentrate on one other specific approach that is frequently helpful (and possible!) -- find a nice, uncluttered background.

When you take a photo, think about what's going on around and behind your subject. If there are lots of different things going on in those areas, then they will be likely to distract people from your main subject. So try to find a way of positioning your subject and/or yourself so that the background is as plain and uncluttered as possible.

The easiest way to do this is to find an area of your surroundings that is relatively plain and undistracting. A nice, plain wall, for example, is often a good choice. But it also may be something less obvious than a plain wall. Look at this picture - it taken at the London Aquarium where there's not really a lot of excess space (or plain walls), but I still managed to frame the picture so that there was only blue water in the background - thereby eliminating distractions:

Ocean Flight

If there isn't anything around you that offers a suitable background, what about above or below you? Many times you can use the floor or ceiling/sky as a background - and potentially get the added benefit of an unusual viewpoint as well. Here's some examples of where I've used those approaches:

Baby Smile   My Little Paper Aeroplane

Ok - now it's your turn. Try to take a bunch of photos with nice clean backgrounds. Find a wall; shoot from low down with the sky as a background; shoot from high up with the floor as a backbround; and so on. If necessary, consider moving things that are getting in the way. Or think about making your own background with a bed-sheet (neatly ironed!) or some paper/card. That approach is particularly useful when photographing small objects like flowers, etc. where this is more practical to achieve - setting up your own background for a full length portrait of a person can be rather challenging, but it's usually not too difficult to prop a piece of card behing a flower you are trying to photograph.

Remember too that the background doesn't necessarily have to be completely plain. Sometimes a background with a bit of a pattern or texture can also work well. Like this one, for example:

Pink Lizzy

As usual save the best ones in your course folder before you move on to Lesson 5.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Photo 101 - Lesson 3 - Move Closer

The next thing that I want to talk about is again not something that is difficult to do. It's simply this: Move closer to your subject.

I'm not really sure why this is, but beginner photographers often have a tendency to include lots of unnecessary space around their subjects. Now, it is true that there are times when it is a good idea to have the subject (e.g. a person) quite small in the picture. However, more often than not, the reason someone has left extra space around their subject is that they haven't really thought about making it larger.

So, for your lesson this time, I want you to practice taking photos where the subject completely fills the frame. Zoom in or move closer so that there is nothing in your picture except the subject itself. Here's some examples of the kind of thing that I mean:

Sleeping Child

The Warmth of the Rose

Try this with a variety of different kinds of subjects if you can, and don't limit yourself to just one shot of each subject - experiment with trying to fill the picture with your subject if different ways. If it's a person, for example, try different angles, or take photos of the person's hands or feet (rather than just their face), etc.

Once you've done that, take another set of photos where the subject doesn't completely fill the frame, but does almost fill the frame. Something like this, maybe:

I Can See You!

Again, you may like to save your favourites from these exercises in your lesson folder so that you can refer back to them later.

The main thing, in all of this, is to try to get yourself used to thinking about filling the picture with your subject. Get used to asking yourself how large your subject should be. That way, if you do decide do make your subject smaller in the frame, you will have done it intentionally - not just because you didn't think about whether it should be bigger.

Have fun, and see you next time for Lesson 4 :)

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Photo 101 - Lesson 2 - Compose, Don't Shoot

Welcome to Lesson 2 - in this lesson I want us to start thinking about composition. "Composition" just means "how things are arranged in your photograph".

The word "shoot" (or "shot", etc.) is often used to mean "take a photograph" - for example people may say things like, "I'm going to see if I can get a nice shot of that view" or "My friend has asked me to shoot his wedding".

However, there is an important difference between photography and shooting - well, I mean in addition to the fact that you are not firing bullets around! The difference is that with shooting, you are trying to keep the target (subject) in the middle of the sights so you hit it. Getting it right in the middle is normally considered a good thing. With photography, getting something right in the middle of the photo usually isn't particularly the best option.

Many people, when taking a photograph, point the camera so that the thing they are taking the photo of - the subject - is bang in the centre of the photo. Usually, however, the photo will look much more interesting if you keep the subject away from the middle of the photo.

So, what I want you do to this time is to take some photographs (you can choose any suitable subjects), and concentrate on composing the shot in such a way that you keep the subject away from the middle. If it's a person, for example, try to have their head to one side or the other and either above or below the centre line of the picture. If you are taking a landscape, put the horizon line somewhat above or below the centre. And so on.

For example, in this photo I had the horizon only just above the bottom of the picture:

Silver Lining

Try some pictures where you compose important points well away from the centre (like that example) and also try some where you have them only a little way away from the centre.

The important thing is to remember to compose your photo - be deliberate about where you put the things in the picture - don't just point the camera at something and take a "pot-shot"!

Again, you can copy some of the best ones into your course folder and make some notes about what went well or could be improved. In particular, think about whether or not your choice of placement made the picture better or worse. If worse, would some other placement/composition have worked better?

Have fun, experiment lots, and get into the habit of thinking about composing instead of shooting. Then we'll see you back again next time for Lesson 3 :)