Last week I attended a surprise birthday party and as usual it was an opportunity for everybody to get out, dress up and take pictures. (I mean we want proof we scrub-up well, right…?)
Whenever anybody takes photos at any event, it’s usually common knowledge that these photos will be up on Facebook within the next 48 hours. These images can often be horrifying!
From various conversations with friends I now realize that not everyone is familiar with the basics of photography. Why should anyone care about things such as composition? It dawned on me that I so often take what I’ve learned for-granted. Subconsciously I sometimes expect everyone to know how their cameras work, and have an interest in producing better images. The truth is, many people experience “mental shut-down” at the mention of a few technical terms, and so because I’ve been there before, just snapping away without any pre-thought or knowledge of how to take a semi-decent photograph, I can relate to you. I’ll try to explain and keep it as simple as possible.
So for those of you who are interested in slightly sprucing up your images and taking snapshots which flatter rather than disparage your subjects then you’ll find a few tricks of the trade here.
Thinking in terms of composition today. What is composition?
When you look at the following image try to think about which part of the photo you look at first and which part of the photo you look at last. Simples…
Before I take a photo, the first thing I do is think of where I want the person who’ll be viewing’s eyes to go.
Shapes help lead the eye to the subject as well as leading lines. Leading lines? Check below… Leading lines help direct the eye. Below is what I suspect you were thinking when looking at the photo above. Your eye either went from the top-down the footpath or from the bottom of the steps -up the hill.
If I had stood more to the left I might not have been able to include the curve of this footpath. If I had stood more to the right, I would have had a straight leading line to the monument which didn’t make for an interesting photograph. Most photographers use a GRID to help position their photographs better.
This grid is not 100% accurate but you should be able to see what I mean. Most, if not all cameras have a grid which can be found when either looking through the viewfinder or on the preview LCD screen. If you don’t use this function, try to look for this in the Menu settings and it will definitely help. The grid as you can see is divided into thirds, hence the reference to “RULE of THIRDS” applies here.
The rule of thirds: By dividing an image into thirds, horizontally and vertically, one gets to use these intersections aka the “golden mean” points (where the red dots are) to position our subjects and strengthen our images. If there was a person in the picture above, then the head would be on/or very close to either of these red spots and the eyes would be in line with either of the the horizontal lines. It is often frowned upon to place a subject directly in the middle of the frame. The idea is that these points help lead your eyes naturally to the point of focus or the subject of your photograph.
|When photographing people and placing them on either sides of the grid (left thirds or right thirds), the subject’s eyes should be leading into the image or straight at you, rather than outside the frame as shown in the image below.
|This image would have been much stronger if more “*negative space” was to the right rather than the left of my subject. Subjects should ideally be looking into or facing negative space. *Negative space is the area around the subject.
There are also other ways aside from the rule of thirds that can help strengthen the composition of your images. ShApEs.
Circles, rectangles, triangles etc… Try to look for shapes in photographs in magazines, newspapers and online. You’ll soon start noticing consistencies within images and you’ll notice your own images compositionally improving.
Another way to strengthen your image is to use a frame within a frame. The frame can be absolutely anything and automatically helps lead the eye to the subject of the photograph. One can be very creative experimenting with different frames. These frames can be in any shape and don’t need to surround the subject completely. For example…
On a final note, when taking photographs, always aim to avoid distractions. Anything that can be in the way of a clean subject should be avoided. Usually the best way to achieve this is to get closer to your subject. The closer you are, the more *detailed your shot will be. (*details that pertain to your subject). If you like the sky, clouds, flowers, buildings etc… try to take images of that separately or get much closer. If your subject is a person and your aim is to capture a portrait, focus only on the person rather than including all the distractions that surrounds him/her. The simpler the negative space, the more pronounced your subject will be, which will make your image stronger and much easier to process visually.
I hope this has been helpful and I’d be happy to share a few more hints to help improve your photography at home, in the pub, wherever! Let me know how you get on and feel free to send me some of your photos. Please send images to firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll post the best ones here on the blog and credit you for your craft!