I just watched Dr. Strange – and man, I was blown away. I was blown away with the morals of the movie (the idea of living for something greater than yourself), the visuals (surreal), and the cinematography was fantastic.
No matter how experienced we may get as photographers, there are always ways to improve. Sometimes it’s learning something new. At other times it’s simply seeing something in a new way. Occasionally, it’s just getting reminders to help us lose bad habits that might make us screw up.
The folks at Mango Street have been putting out some quite cool videos recently, with some great advice to help with this. In their new video, they offer up 10 tips to take your photos “from BASIC to BOSS”. They pooled some of their professional photographer friends to see what tips they had to offer. I don’t quite agree with all of them, though.
In the studio, making your subjects stand out from their background is relatively straightforward. Because you have control over everything. You choose what goes behind them, what lights you use, and where they go. Outdoors, though, these options aren’t always available to us. We have to work with what our environment provides. So, how can we get some separation between our subject and their background on location?
In this video from photographer Moose Winans, we hear what’s going through his mind when photographing things outdoors. What he’s looking for, and how he finds it. Some of it is backgrounds that complement the primary subject from a compositional standpoint. Other tips include using brightness and contrast to your advantage to make your subjects stand out.
We’ve all seen the animations showing “how focal length affects your subject“. Whenever one gets posted, the smart ones chime in with “It’s nothing to do with your focal length, it’s all about subject distance”. And, they’re right. The confusion really all comes down to equivalent framing of the subject. If you stay where you are and just change focal length, nothing happens to the distortion in your subject’s face. They just get smaller or larger in the frame.
But, if you want to keep your subject the same size regardless of lens used, you have to move. With a longer lens you go further away. With a shorter one, you have to get closer. To illustrate this, the folks at Fstoppers have put a video together showing how the two work in combination with each other. The correlation between changing focal length and subject distance.
Composition is one of the crucial elements of photography. It’s a powerful tool to express the idea and communicate your message. In this video, Ted Forbes focuses on low angle photography, how it works and what it communicates. He also presents useful ideas for combining points of view and getting dramatic, powerful and unique shots.
Photographers can learn about composition from movies and TV shows, and a Twitter account Comp Cam: Geometric is a wonderful example of this. They have recently released Geometric Shots: a searchable database of composition breakdowns from movies and TV shows. You’ll love it if you like exploring composition, no matter if you are a photographer, videographer, or just a fan of movies and TV series.
Focal point is a term that photographers and photography blogs throw around continually. “Create a focal point,” it’s said, “it should be the first and last place the eye goes in your image.” That’s true, of course, but like most important things it’s easier said than done. A strong focal point is better thought of as the punctuation at the end of a carefully composed sentence. You need to know not only what makes the best single focal point, but also how to compose the sentence that precedes it.
First, consider what makes the best focal point; the best punctuation. There are a few things that your eye will shoot to first because of the way your brain processes visual information: points of high contrast, high sharpness, faces, human and animal forms, forward color tones (usually warm tones, like yellow) and recognizable objects that are large in frame (which reads as close). For effective punctuation of your visual sentence, you need an object or entity that creates interest and is comprised of at least one characteristic from this list.
Imagine a boat at sea, that is swaying in the ocean. Without an anchor— it would float away (and possibly be captured by pirates).
What is your “visual anchor” in your frame?
Treat the same metaphor to your photos; your viewer is looking at your image. What is the “visual anchor” which keeps their attention from swaying? What is the one thing you want your viewer to focus on in your image? If you make your photos too complicated, your viewer will become frustrated, and move on.
You want one central visual anchor for your viewer’s eyes to settle on — to keep their intrigue. That can be a single eye, a single hand-gesture, a single color, or a single subject.
Perhaps “with help from a little Will Smith” would’ve been a little more accurate, but still. The “rules” of composition are widely known and hotly debated. On the one side, you’ve got those who swear by them, live by them, and can’t break free from them. On the other side you’ve got those who claim they “don’t live by rules” and ignore them, while suggesting others do the same.
The simple fact of the matter, though, is that a lot of the time, the “rules” work. Sure, there’s times when you want to break free. But, if you don’t understand how and why they work, how can you know when to effectively break them? In this video, filmmaker Darious Britt talks us through some of the rules of composition. He also explains exactly why they often work so well. Basically, it all boils down to familiarity and comfort.
When doing photography in general, and in my case Travel photography, the use of a photography template can be very beneficial and help improve the overall performance.
By photography template I mean pre-defined, well-known and efficient photography composition templates that are recurrent and relevant in photography, and fit popular “good taste”.
Knowing your usual and favorite photography templates will help you be faster and thus nail the shot when things happen very quickly, which is very often the case when photographing people.