I always carry a camera. Doesn’t this pic shout “Travellers”? No comfortable seating; he is on his smartphone; she is looking at her fingernails; aircraft operations go on slowly in the background. A big but not too busy airport (Las Vegas? No. So where? I cannot remember). Where are they going? Where is their carry-on luggage? Questions.
Here, from years ago, is an assignment for you:
Put your 50mm f/1.8 lens on your camera and, using just available light, go shoot twelve things in your living room that show its character. Or shoot lots, but pick the best twelve.
Then put these together in a 3×4 arrangement, like this (yes that was my living room at the time):
This assignment forces you to look properly. What is it that shows the character? What makes for a simple shot? It also forces you to use the right techniques for simplifying and filling the frame. And you get to practice low-light shooting, selective focus, and so on.
But most of all, you get to think about subjects. Initially you’ll struggle to find ten – then suddenly 100 pictures will suggest themselves.
Show me your results!
This morning, I ran an outdoors workshop in Toronto, for US-based Digital Photo Academy. And I took some snaps, although I was not there to shoot. (I think I was there to melt: it was 30ºC and 95% Relative Humidity).
So anyway: let’s look at a few of the compositional principles I used.
What was it that struck me in the image above?? The perfect symmetry. Flat water, clear reflections. And white sky (and hence water). Learn to spot reflections–just in case. This is a case where you do put things in the middle, rather than using the Rule of Thirds.
Above: Motion. I “panned” with the bus, i.e. I moved my lens with the bus, at 1/30 second. That way, the passengers are sharp, while the background is streaked in the direction I moved my lens (left-right).
Next, this photo of a certain well-known tower:
…which is a good example of framing. I am using the buildings and the tree to frame the CN tower. So it’ll go to prison for a murder it didn’t commi…. oh never mind.
Next, some words.
People in front of signs are interesting when the words mean something. Culture. And is that two men pushing the baby–stroller? Questions are good. rather than spoon-feeding your audience, make them work out what’s happening, You can spoon-feed babies, instead.
Now to bigger matters:
Great stage, especially when seen through a 16m lens (on a full frame camera). Sharpness, symmetry, and the Maple Leaf flag.
In that picture, we see a blurred CN tower—but only blurred a little. The framing tree is sharp. And above all else, we see… simplicity. A golden rule of good photography:simplify, simplify, simplify, simplify, and simplify.
The same applies to this:
And I presume you see the Rule of Thirds being applied there too. As well as in this picture:
And that picture is, of course, all about the Right Moment. And about another rule: “If It Smiles, Shoot It”.
A snap of a person wrapped up in her iPhone.
An airplane photo. Because why not.
And then, back to progressiveness:
Toronto really is a very progressive city. (Though now, with a career politician at the helm, I wonder).
What I need not wonder about was today’s weather. 30ºC, and 95% Relative Humidity, interspersed with frequent heavy downpours, and air that looked like it was trying to start to rotate. Those clouds looked dangerous:
What was I using there? Clear subject, simplicity, Rule of Thirds.
Do some of your own now. And think, consciously, about the principles and techniques you can use. Your pictures will be better for it. Take one of my courses if you need to learn. The good news, “it’s all just technique” and “it’s all simple to learn”.
Take a look at my e-books:
This is why. Just one example, a builder selling a wonderful, large, home in a prestigious Toronto neighborhood. So we’re talking millions. And in selling that, visual imaging is everything.
So this is what a non pro produces:
And this is what I made of that on a few seconds:
Colour, geometry, sharpness, all much better.
Details matter, and quality matters, and when you are a pro you take great care to get all the details right, both when shooting and afterward.
And I would have used a tilt-shift lens to get it straight without having to edit.
Cropping your photos is important. Of course you are doing that while shooting, but you often do it while post-editing, as well. Remember a few things.
- There is a “feels best–orientation” for many photos.
Look at this:
It is clear that a horizontal layout suits this best. It’s all about those four equal sized horizontal layers. Yes, I was lucky. And see how simple I kept it. The one bird. That’s the only item other than those layers. Every item you crop out makes your photo simpler.
Also good and simple. But it occurs to me that this would also make a good magazine cover if cropped vertically, thus:
Often, the only way to know is: try. So in Lightroom, experiment with closer crops and with altering orientation.
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