Improve Your Photography by Getting Back to Basics
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I love technology. The Internet has changed the way we do business and communicate with each other. As a photographer, getting feedback about my work before the Internet was rare. This was usually limited to talks at tradeshows or camera clubs. But talking face-to-face, people are less likely to give you honest, constructive comments.
It’s interesting to read some of the comments from other photographers regarding work published in my books and on the Internet. One person said referring to one of my books,“ I could not find any secrets from this book. Since digital is now the new photography this book is totally film.” Unfortunately he was missing the point. It doesn’t matter if you are using film or digital, the same principles apply.
Just look at any books branded as ‘digital’ and for the most part the content is exactly the same as pre-digital how-to photography books with the possible inclusion of a few technical descriptions on how to use features such as auto white balance. The digital camera as with any camera, is only a tool. It is not responsible to producing great images, the photographer is. As though there is a secret formula to follow a step-by-step procedure to create powerful images.
Ok, in a way there is, but I’m sorry to tell you, there are no secrets. Man did not land on the moon, there was a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy and there were no weapons of mass destruction. It’s been there in front of us all along in countless books and magazines on photography. They are the basic principles of creating powerful images beginning with lighting, more specifically the correct lighting for the subject whether it’s a landscape, close-up detail of nature, or a building.
Secondly, a strong composition in combination with the right kind of light and you’re heading in the right direction. And finally, timing. Capturing the ‘decisive moment’ as Henri Cartier Bresson coined the phrase can make or break an image. Whether it is tripping the shutter at the precise moment when capturing a moving element or waiting until the light falls onto the scene in the correct place, timing plays a vital part of creating powerful images. This is especially true when all three elements lighting, composition, and timing coincide to create a truly memorable image.
If you study any image that captivates you, ask yourself what makes it a powerful image? Chances are it will be a combination of lighting and an effective composition. Using the Rule of Thirds, leading lines, and of course, I like breaking the rules when necessary to create an image with impact.
When is it a good time to break the rules? For example, putting the subject in the centre of the frame instead of on the third. I generally look for a conceptual theme such as in the image of the heart-shaped sunflower. As it’s the only flower in the field that is open making it special, setting it apart from the rest, so centre position calls more attention to it. Some conceptual words could be individual, unique, special, love, and exclusive. It would not have been as effective if it were placed on the third. By the way, other than only 2 strategically placed petals, it is a straight image.