Assignment

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):

Living Room Miniatures

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!

Some composition techniques

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.

Reflections

Reflections…

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.

Sightsseing in motion

Sightseeing in motion.

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:

Coilour coordination

Colour coordination

…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.

Culture, and progressive values

Culture, and progressive values.

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:

"Exit Stage Left"

“Exit Stage Left”. Waterfront

Great stage, especially when seen through a 16m lens (on a full frame camera). Sharpness, symmetry, and the Maple Leaf flag.

CN Tower

CN Tower.

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:

Master of its domain

Master of its domain!

And I presume you see the Rule of Thirds being applied there too. As well as in this picture:

Fun and joy

Fun and joy.

And that picture is, of course, all about the Right Moment. And about another rule: “If It Smiles, Shoot It”. 

 

People and their devices..

People and their devices.

A snap of a person wrapped up in her iPhone.

Short Final

Porter on (Very) Short Final.

An airplane photo. Because why not.

And then, back to progressiveness:

A progressive city

A progressive city, eh.

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:

Dark skies

Dark Skies. Incipient Rotation.

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”.

Have fun!


Take a look at my e-books:

Shoot it all.

One piece of advice to you photographers out there: shoot everything. As do I: from news to portraits to industry to birds. So sometimes I go out with a friend for a few hours, as I did last night. Here’s a few of the results, from Hamilton, Ontario. An industrial city (“Steeltown”), and more; I go out opt my way to shoot that industry. Why on earth? Surely there’s no beauty there?

Well, I think there can be. Especially if you choose the moment right; in this case, around sunset. Here are a few samples:

For these, I needed to be quick. Back focus (no time even to change to AI Servo) and quick reactions meant most were good:

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For these, I had to wait until ambient light was almost gone:

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This is out of focus deliberately:

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MV Floretgracht (and you are Dutch if you can pronounce that):

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And a few more samples:

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Layer cake?

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I do not often shoot these things–which makes it important to every now and then do just that. Do the same: go shoot something you rarely shoot!

 

 

I don’t often desaturate, but when I do…

I do it properly. During a portrait session with a client just now, I also did a few “desat” portraits. Because why not!

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Also black and white and “standard linkedin” colour. And high-key (without jacket) as well as standard. What I mean is this: when you do portraits, do them well, so you are seen as not “Uncle Bob”.

 

Summer is (almost) here

And with that, go outside and bring your flash!

You can learn from me this coming Monday, in Burlington. It promises to be great weather. Or you can learn in Brantford on Sunday, even earlier.

Either way: learn how to use a flash in outside light. To do that, buy my flash book, come to these courses, and in all cases, start here:

  • Manual
  • 100 ISO
  • 1/250 sec (or 1/200)
  • f/8

Then check background, and adjust only aperture. If flash is not bright enough, turn up power, remove modifiers, or bring it closer.

And have fun.

Here’s an example of outdoors on a sunny day:

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Benefits: You get no annoying sunlight, and you avoid those horrible overexposed backgrounds. And you can direct the light. Control is everything!