Since photography is such a huge part of the blogging world (and people have expressed interest in this..) I decided to dedicate a post to going over some of the things I keep in mind while I'm out shooting.. but first..
!! Important part:
All of my example photos in this post were taken with my point-and-shoot. A high-end camera does not make a good photographer. The camera is just the tool.. exactly the same way a paintbrush is a tool to a painter. It's how you use that tool! I say this because I want you to know that you can take good, quality photographs with your point-and-shoot, blackberry, iPhone, or whatever you're using!
...To be fair, yes- a better camera will allow us to attain better results, or why would we shell out the big bucks for our fancy cameras? But, that does not mean that you can't make beautiful art with your point-and-shoot, even if you think it's not a good one.
Ok let's get started then.
10 Things I LOVE to see in a Photograph (followed by how to achieve them)1. A subject anywhere but dead center
2. A horizon line that is anywhere but dead center
3. A perfectly straight horizon line (unless the horizon is not actually straight!)
4. An obviously, purposefully slanted horizon line
5. Long Shadows
6. A path (a visually suggested path, or an actual path)
7. A crop that makes sense
8. Interesting, but not distracting backgrounds
9. Bright light that is part of the composition
10. An unusual angle
Explanations and How-Tos:
1. A subject anywhere but dead center:To make a composition more visually appealing the first quick-fix you can try is putting your subject off to the side. This is especially useful if you're shooting in a scenic spot and want to show more of the background to give viewers a feel for where you are. Strategically placing your subject can transform your image from a snapshot into a thoughtful photograph.
|Matt at Bonticou Crag, NY; 2010|
2. A horizon line that is anywhere but dead center:Imagine shooting a sunset over the ocean. (um, or a cloudy sky over an open road) The sky is going to be more interesting than the ocean at that point. Try shooting with the horizon line in the lower third of your shot. Since the sky is more interesting, you want to show more of it. On a hazy day with no action going on in the sky, try putting the horizon line in the top quarter of your shot.. whatever is going on, on the ground will surely be more interesting than a plain grey sky.
|Open Road in Texas, 2008|
3. A perfectly straight horizon line: (unless the horizon is not actually straight!)So, you're back at the ocean again. The horizon line is perfectly straight (well with a bit of a curve since we know the earth is not flat, but anyway..) make sure it's straight in your photo. A viewer most likely won't think to themselves "look at that amazing straight horizon line," but they might be distracted by an ever so slightly slanted line. This get's more difficult when you're shooting a subject in front of the ocean because you'll be paying more attention to that object- Don't forget about what's going on in the background!
|Self Portrait + Matt; Bayside, NY; 2011|
4. An obviously, purposefully slanted horizon line:Slightly crooked horizon lines can be distracting, but purposefully slanted lines can make for an interesting composition.
|Self portrait (sort of) + Alexi; Breakneck Ridge, NY; 2009|
5. Long Shadows:Long shadows can be achieved very easily! Shoot early in the morning or later in the afternoon. This time of day that produces long shadows and soft tones is lovingly referred to by many photographers as "the golden hour." Shooting at this time will give you some soft shadows and tones as opposed to shooting at noon which will give you a high contrast shot. Not to say you should never shoot at noon! (or that I don't) but try out the golden hour, I think you'll like it.
|Long Beach, CA; 2008|
6. A path: (a visually suggested path, or an actual path)At the end of my high school career my fellow photo students and I sat around the classroom with our teacher and discussed each of our "trademark" styles.. what made it obvious to my peers that a photograph was taken by me? My "thing" (we determined) was paths. Almost all of my photos have some sort of path. Sometimes it's an actual walking path that meanders its way through the image and sometimes it's more of a suggested path. A subject's gaze looking towards a corner of the frame forms a path.. that's one example of what I mean by a "suggested" path. Paths add to the composition.. I especially love when they start and end off the frame.. leaves the viewer wondering where the path came from and where it will take you.
|New Mexico, 2008|
7. A crop that makes sense:Say you're photographing your friend taking a walk with their dog. Cutting off certain body parts is distracting. For example: at the ankle, (where's that foot?) at the wrist, high on the neck. Just be conscious of where you are cropping.
Another way to apply this thought: If your subject is gazing off into the distance and their gaze is looking to the right, crop your image so that your subject is standing on the left side. This can help create the "path" I spoke about in #6. Give that subject some space to gaze at.
|Boo Radley, 2008|
8. Interesting, but not distracting backgrounds:You're uploading your photos and you're so happy with everything about the photo you took of your sister and her boyfriend.. except it looks like a tree is growing out of your sister's head! Generally, we can't control what's going on in the background of our photos when we're out in nature, but you can control where you put your subject, or at least the angle you shoot it. Look through your viewfinder, does anything look awkward in the background? If so, then change your angle or move your subject.
|Mel, Cruise Ship in the Atlantic; 2009|
9. Bright light that is part of the composition:On really sunny days you find yourself squinting because of the amount of light that's hitting you and maybe some glare off the water at the beach. I love to see that extreme light in a photograph. It's there right? So why try to get it out of the shot. Usually, we try to have the sun behind us as photographers, but try shooting into the sun for this effect. Now, how to get it to show up in your photo.. focus your camera low on the ground without any sky in the frame, but don't take the shot. Before you press down to take the shot, raise your camera to whatever it is you want to capture and then finish the shot. This might take some practice, but it's an easy way to trick your point-and-shoot into giving you a more washed out image (since a point-and-shoot will want to give you the "right" (most even) exposure, sometimes it needs to be tricked.)
|Manhattan (Tea at the Plaza), 2011|
10. An unusual angleIf your photographing your dog, crouch down on the ground to see the world from his level. Photographing a tree? Try standing right next to the trunk and look up. Try to think of a new way to photograph something you snap all the time. One Christmas I got a funny cheepy little "pet" cam. I put it on Boo's collar and got some hilarious shots of what he saw during the day. Hm. I need to find those!
|Park in town, photographed from under the tree, 2011|
Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments! If there are enough questions I'll write an additional photography post, otherwise I'll respond individually later this week.
It's now 2:30am. I know I said I'd post this "tomorrow" as in May 9th, but I haven't gone to sleep yet, so although it is now May 10th, I didn't lie, right? Right. Good night!