The Three Guidelines for Great Photographs - Part 2

A Good Photograph Focuses Attention on Subject

This is Part 2 of a series of articles about The Three Guidelines for Great Photographs

Once you know what you want the subject to be, you are ready to peer into the viewfinder and organize the image as it will appear in the photograph. At this point, it’s time for you to apply Guideline Two—Draw Attention to Your Subject.

 
How do you do this?
 
Now, let's add another question you need to ask whenever you are about to take a photograph:
 
How can I focus attention on my subject and draw the viewer's eye to it?
 
There’s one sure-fire technique which was used in the picture of the Kid on part 1.  He fills the frame. He is clearly, obviously, unambiguously the subject of the picture.
 
For now, just concentrate on this one technique of drawing attention to your subject:
 
Make the subject fill the frame.
 
It does not matter if you’re photographing an infant, a child, an adult, or a tiger. It does not matter what camera you’re using. This simple trick will work every time with any camera. Just get in close and fill the frame with your subject.
 
To start with, be bold and fill the viewfinder with your subject. If the subject is predominantly upright, shoot the picture vertically. If your subject lends itself to a horizontal picture, shoot it in a landscape format. In the early days of your photography, when you review your pictures at the end of the day you will be surprised to find that the subjects are much smaller in the frame than you expected. You must make sure that when you look through the viewfinder you are looking at everything that is in the viewfinder. Take into account what’s around your subject and ask yourself if it contributes to the picture you are trying to make.
 
One of the advantages of the compact digital camera, which is lacking on nearly all D-SLRs, is the ability to use the LCD screen on the rear of your camera as a viewfinder. I find that people tend to frame their pictures far better when using the LCD, because they tend to look at the whole picture. The LCD is so small that your eye cannot wander around the frame. When you’re looking through a normal eye-level viewfinder, it’s easier for your eyes to wander and, therefore, not consider the frame as a whole.
As you start to shoot more pictures and you become more accustomed to filling the frame, start making use of your zoom lens (which most digital cameras now come with) and zoom in on your subject. Don’t be afraid to shoot, for example, an extreme close-up of your friend, or your baby, or a flower.
 
When you shoot close-up portraits, try experimenting with your framing. Your subject doesn’t always have to be in the center of the frame and looking directly at the camera. Perhaps when photographing, say, your daughter, it may be more pleasing to compose the picture with her on the left or right looking into the center of the picture. Now that you are beginning to frame your portraits, you have started to compose your pictures well.
 
The Rule Of Thirds
 
Since the time of Leonardo da Vinci, budding artists have had the rule of thirds drummed into them at art school. I personally find rules extremely boring, but I grudgingly admit that this one is actually very useful to photographers.
 
Look through your viewfinder and mentally divide the screen into three horizontal and three vertical sections, like a tic-tac-toe grid. The points where the lines intersect are the places that your eye naturally seeks out when looking at a photograph. It’s logical, therefore, that you should try to position your subject near one of these four focal points.
 
When photographing a landscape, it’s also good compositional practice to place the horizon or skyline on one of these imaginary lines. At this point I must also mention that it’s important to keep your horizon straight. Failing to do so is the most common mistake when starting out. It’s a real disappointment to see a photograph in which the skyline runs downhill.
 
Point of View (POV)
 
Changing the angle from which you take a picture can hugely transform it. For small subjects, such as pets and babies, try to get down on their level. Lie down and look up at your one-year-old child’s first steps for a far more interesting picture. A tight portrait of your bulldog asleep on the rug is far better photographed if you are lying down on the same level. Choosing a dynamic viewpoint can help your photography and accentuate your pictures. Don’t be afraid to be radical and stand directly above the sleeping dog. This may or may not give a more interesting viewpoint; the point is to keep experimenting and looking to find the most dynamic picture.
 
I know I sound like Polly the parrot, but keep reviewing your images on the LCD screen on the back of your digital camera. A good tip for cameras with an LCD screen that can be used as a viewfinder—if it’s the sort with a hinged, adjustable screen—is to hold the camera on the floor or above your head to gain a more dramatic viewpoint and view the image using your LCD to control your composition. This way you can sometimes achieve a viewpoint that would not be possible if you had to compose a picture through your normal viewfinder. The less agile you are, the more useful this can be.
 
If your frame contains visible or long, continuous lines, such as roads, rivers, fences, buildings, etc., take advantage of these lines when composing your image to lead your eye into the main subject of the picture. This works particularly well when the lines originate from the bottom corners of your photographs. A winding road, for example, leads to the old church you are photographing, or the Great Wall of China starts in the bottom corner of your frame and then leads the eye into the center of the picture.
 
TIP - Your virtual viewfinder:
A very good way of comprehending composition is to form a rectangular frame (your very own virtual viewfinder) with your hands by linking your index fingers to your thumbs. Hold your frame at arm’s length for that telephoto look, or close to your face for the wide-angle effect. You will find that by eliminating the superfluous information from your view, you will see it more the way your camera will photograph it. This may sound absurd—after all, you can always look through your viewfinder—but just try it.
 
So remember Guideline Two whenever you look in the viewfinder. Ask yourself:
 
“Does the image I see draw attention to my subject?” and ask,
 
“Do I see anything in the frame that might distract the eye of the viewer from my subject?”
 
Which brings us to Guideline Three on my next blog.....until then......Keep shooting.....

The Three Guidelines for Great Photographs - Part 1

A good Photograph Has a clear Subject.

This is Part 1 of a series of  articles about The Three Guidelines for  Great Photographs.

 

Each year, we take billions of pictures to record family memories, children’s parties, and vacations. Even with today’s

amazing digital cameras, there’s a problem: The pictures taken by most untrained photographers are no better than before.
The same mistakes show up predictably, ruining what should have been memorable pictures.
 
Why? Simply because—no matter how advanced the camera—most people don’t know a few simple, creative guidelines
that can make snapshots into eye-catching photographs.

Guideline number One: Know your subject

Before you take any picture, you have to answer one question:

“What do I want to be the subject of this picture?”

 
Only after you have answered this question are you ready to take the picture. Now, this seems pretty obvious. You  wouldn’t  be taking this picture if you didn’t know what you wanted it to be about, would you? Yet, it’s the single most important failing in most pictures taken by amateurs.
 
You know what you want to be your subject. But the picture you capture often doesn’t express what you saw in the viewfinder. Let’s say you took a picture of Little Sally in your backyard. Sure, when you get back the print you see Little Sally right there, but you also see the trashcan, the fire hydrant, the broken deck chair, and the telephone pole that seems to be growing out of her head.
 
So Guideline One is Know Your Subject. If your subject is Little Sally, then don’t have her compete for attention with a dozen other objects. In fact, don’t have her compete with even one other object. Your picture should be about her and only her. She should be the unmistakable subject to anyone looking at the print.
 
In the picture on the top of this page, I show a close-up picture of a young child. Is there any question that he’s the subject of this picture? No. Nothing distracts from him. There’s no other place for the viewer’s eye to go. This picture is about this child and only this child. This is the single key to better pictures—the subject is clear, obvious, and unambiguous.
 
But there’s more to a great picture—which brings us to Guideline Two.
 
(Will  be discussed on my next blog).

 


What DSLR means?

 

Digital photography has surpassed film photography
in popularity in recent years, a fact
that has relegated some amateur and professional
film cameras to the unlikely task of becoming a
paperweight. In the art world, however, film cameras are
coveted. The lesson is simple: choose the tools that you
need to get the results you want.
Just a couple of years ago a professional would have
chosen from a vast array of film camera types—single lens
reflexes, twin lens reflexes, rangefinders, and view cameras
to name a few—when selecting the tools of his or her
trade. Now, with the advent of digital technology and digital
software, the serious photographer can, for the most
part, rely on a digital single-lens reflex camera, or D-SLR.
A D-SLR is an incredibly advanced and refined tool
that still offers the all-important ability, as in film version
cameras, to view your subject through the same lens that
records the image onto your sensor. This is achieved via
a mirror and a pentaprism so that what you see is what
you get (often referred to as WYSIWYG). It is hard to
imagine that every time you press the shutter to take a
picture, a mirror between the rear of the lens and the
image sensor flips out of the way, the camera shutter
opens, and the sensor is exposed for the required time.
Meanwhile, the camera’s microprocessor is writing the
multitude of information the image sensor has recorded
to the camera’s memory card. This is incredible in itself.
Now consider how incredible are the cameras used by
sport and press photographers, which manage this at
eight frames a second!
For all intents and purposes, there are two types of
D-SLR cameras. The first is a traditional-looking camera
roughly based on the 35mm film camera bodies that
preceded it. Photographers who would normally use
both medium- and large-format professional cameras are
discovering that in some instances the modern high-end
D-SLR provides superior image quality when compared
to the scan that was possible from their film. (The “format”
of a camera refers to the size of the negative of film
cameras and the size of the image sensor in digital cameras.
Large format refers to cameras with a 4 inch by 5
inch negative and larger, whereas medium refers to cameras
between 35mm and large format.) Previous users of
high-end film compacts and rangefinder cameras are also
gravitating toward the more advanced functionality and
image quality provided by the D-SLR. At the time of this
writing, manufacturers such as Leica and Epson are close
to producing a digital replacement for the rangefinder,
but high-end digital compacts and D-SLRs are currently
filling this void.
The second type of D-SLR is based on the mediumformat
SLR. Some models consist merely of a digital back
on a medium-format film system camera, whereas a few
manufacturers are producing large D-SLRs using the
largest CCDs. These cameras tend to be used for pictures
that require the highest image resolution, such as landscape
and still life.
Once you have your new camera, you should keep in
mind that the camera essentially houses a miniature computer.
Keep your camera software/firmware up to date.
The camera manufacturers continuously tune and finetune
the firmware that runs your camera. Updates can
be downloaded from the support section of the manufacturer’s
website and the instructions to install them into
your camera will be found in your instruction manual.
Copying the firmware file to a memory card normally
does this. Once the memory card is in your camera, use
the camera’s menu to upload the firmware to your camera.
As soon as you buy your camera, check to make sure
that you have the latest firmware.
Bear in mind that this is new technology that is continuously
evolving and improving. Just as it is with computers,
as soon as you buy a new model and are familiar with using
it, a newer one will be on the market.

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