Why Photography, and why do I care.

Photography – Tells a story!

So I’ve heard from more than one motivated presenter when describing why they make images and what the images are saying.

This is usually follow by tips such as;

Get it right in the camera, even though digital images do not have the same constraints and film and prints who wants to spend a large part of their waking hours in front of a PC screen interfering with pixels? Not me so ‘Get it right in the camera’  is good advice.

Although getting it right means a lot more than merely capturing a technically well exposed and focused image, there is so much more to composition and lighting. Many of the people whose skills I admire when making images have been honing those skills for many years there are occasional exceptions, some people seem to have an innate ability to know where to point the lens and which are the best bits of the scene in from of them to capture.

Some more tips on composition include;

  • Use different levels for effect, as in high and low and stuff in the middle parts as well, for example a city scape could include buildings in the foreground with lots of interesting detail and other buildings on a grander scale making up the background, big cities like New York excel at providing opportunities for this kind of thing.
  • Use lines to create the 3rd dimension, Ken Duncan one of Australia’s talented image makers has shown examples where he has used the built environment such as jetty’s or natural features like a line of hills or trees to lead the eye deeper into the picture and create depth.
  • Another good example of how to create depth and add interest is to use an object like a small boat or canoe in the foreground of a scenic view of a lake, these images usually work quite well with out the canoe but adding it makes a big difference to the interest in the image. It draws the eye to the image and then you explore the rest of the picture after you have been hooked by the canoe. Kind of like advertising but a little more subtle.
  • Use reflections from a low angle, such as shop windows to catch people unawares or water on the ground after rain, the trick seems to be to get down low and shoot the angles. Tall buildings can look particularly striking when this is done well.
  • Line do not have to be straight as many of the images of the Disney Auditorium in Los Angeles attest. This structure is a remarkable collection of curves and textures, using the cures draws you in to the interior of the building.
  • Negative space gets a lot of airtime in most image making tutorials, I never really understood why the stuff outside of the bits I was trying to capture were so important until I tried to get an image of a garden sculpture with lots of negative space around it. My picture was an accurate description of the sculpture surrounded by lots of negative space but it had not context, so by moving 90 degrees to the right the negative space now contained a house and garden beds so it made sense why the sculpture was where it was. Negative space is usually used to good effect to focus us on the intended object when we make studio portraits, we do not need or want clutter to distract from our model or sitter. University graduation images seem to be the exception here, the sitter is normally placed in front of a large shelf of books holding their parchment, no negative space here, fill it all up with stuff to give our graduate context and maybe allude to the idea they had to read a lot of books to secure the parchment.
  • While I am on portraits here it is also suggested that the sitter should be located a third in from one side of the image, their body should face into the space but the head is usually facing directly into camera. For some reason I don’t completely understand it seems to work better if the sitter is to the left of centre and facing right. this is only for a single subject couples and groups involve a different set of rules, check out your own family snaps to see where people are placed and who they are placed beside and you may start to think how to do it differently next time. Think about family hierarchy and couple relationships, maybe even create on ordered family tree with your image.
  • Advice from Ken Duncan also suggested that keeping your ‘peace’ is important when making images. Be aware of what is going on around you and be in the moment, this applies to capturing beautiful landscapes or a single portrait opportunity. Try to understand your relationship to the land or place you are capturing or if it is a person develop a relationship with them if only for the brief time it takes to make they mage. It will only take a few moments to ask them what kind of day they have had or what they are looking forward to next weekend. Everyone one has a story to tell whether it is a family member you may know very well or someone in a studio session for a business profile image.
  • Understanding what appeals to you in others images will help you think about how to make your own interesting and  appealing images. There are numerous sites on the internet to allow budding image makers or even professional photographers to show off their art. For a more lasting impression you may prefer to go to a gallery where there will be fewer distractions than when surfing the web. To really get to terms with quality images if you can afford it then purchase one or two photographic art books by well know or recognised photographers. Having the photograph in front of you on a printed page allows you to take enough time to really study and get to know how the image was constructed and why the photographer and editors chose that particular image. You can take time to understand the lighting, the focus points the composition rules that have been used and those that were ignored.
  • Once you have figured out how to use aperture, shutter speed, ISO and lenses these issues become secondary to creating and capturing your images. Yes, you need to know how to use your camera to get the best possible result but do not get too immersed in the technicalities, meanwhile the sun will continue to drop below the horizon and that opportunity with the amazing orange and purple clouds will be gone.

Adelaide – Wednesday 7 January 2015


About baylisp

I live in Adelaide South Australia, I am into cycling and occasionally use a digital camera.
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