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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Composition in Photography


So many of us want to be better photographers, and so we point and shoot. Now that's a laugh, but really, especially since the invention of the digital camera, more of us find it to be a whole lot less frustrating not having to hand over our film for developing, then waiting a week to pick it up only to discover that we just paid for 8 out of 10 photographs that stink. I can even remember going through a number of packages of photos thinking "What the heck is this?" 

Resting boy

No more.  We no longer have to suffer with such things unless, of course, we enjoying self-inflicted pain.  Still, instead of taking several hundred shots on your digital camera hoping that one is good, how about taking this excellent tool of technology - the digital camera - and learn to use it - and use it well?  It truly is a creative tool in many ways that don't involve Photoshop.  Of course, for me, I'd almost rather learn Photoshop and try to fix the screw ups, but that is just stupid if you ask me, and time consuming, and although it is fun to play around in Photoshop, I'd much rather know a bit more about my camera and composition and spend less time in the photo-repair-shop (if you know what I mean). 

Now I'm not saying Photoshop is a bad thing - as Tony the Tiger would say - "It's Grrrreat!," but how about we give our Photoshop something awesome to begin with?  Sound like a plan?  Good. 

Just so you know, I am not a photographer, I am an artist, and although I know a lot about composition of the painting, and can apply some of that knowledge to photography, I have been simply lucky to have taken some very nice pictures with my camera (the Nikon D300), but prefer that it becomes a little less luck and a lot more professional understanding


And so, I turn you over to my friend, Sheila, better known as Dr. Cason, who is a Pediatrician, a passionate photographer, a wife (to a man who could pass as Tom Cruise's brother), and a mother.  Oh, and she is a blogger too!  You've gotta stop by and say hello to her at Drcason.org.  She'll be happy you stopped by, and be sure to comment!  Also note, that she is currently living overseas, in Guam, with her beautiful family.  How exciting is that? 

Take it away, Sheila! ...

Composition in Photography

Hi everyone, my name is Sheila Cason and I run the photoblog- http://DrCason.org. It’s my pleasure to explain a little photography for Raisin Toast readers! First off, let me say that I’m a doctor, not a photographer, but I take both pretty seriously. Okay, I take the doctoring more seriously, but I’m really crazy about photography!

I carry my camera everywhere and when I’m not taking photos or processing them, then I’m reading about taking photos or processing them!  In particular I love reading about what makes a good photo.  For me it comes down to composition.  With the advancement of digital photography and the ease of auto programming, it gets easier and easier to take a clear and sharp photo, but is it good?  Is it interesting?  Does it move you?  This is where doing your homework can help you.

There are a lot of rules within composition and you don’t need to follow them all.  Like they say - "rules are made to be broken," right? But, it’s nice to know what they are before we go ignoring them.  So let’s get into some details of composition.

1. Remember the Rule of Thirds

Most people have heard of this one. To put it simply, just take your image and divide it into nine equal parts with two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines. Then place your subject matter along these lines or at their intersections. Hard to imagine huh?

Let’s look at an example.  Here is my middle girl.  Isn’t she cute eating her corn? Man - what is it about kids and corn?  Mine love it!  Anyway… Look at her… Her body lies along the first vertical line and her sweet face is right at the intersection.

Photo 1 Rule of Thirds copy

2. Use Lines

Lines are a great way to lead our eye to your subject.  The main focus here is my boy and the lines all lead to him.  Isn’t he cute?  BTW - that is an ear of corn in his hands!!  LOL.

Photo 2 Use Lines

3. Fill the Frame

Too many times I see a picture that would have been better if only the subject had been closer.  Get close!  Dare to interact and make your audience really see what you saw.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised.  I didn’t crop this photo - I was really this close to those sweet boys.

Photo 3 Fill the Frame

4. Show Texture and Color

Don’t forget that you are really trying to show your audience what you saw and the more texture and color you include, the better it will be.  I took the following photos at a Balinese cooking class.  Are you drooling?  I was!

Show Texture

Photo 4.1 Show Texture

Show Color

Photo 4.2 Show Color

5. Shoot Upright or Horizontal

This is a question you’ll have to answer every time you take a photo. Don’t get stuck into shooting horizontally. Sometimes the vertical choice is the best!

Photo 5 Shoot Upright

6. Use Scale

Scale is a great way to illustrate what it is that you are trying to show.  For example, I was really impressed at the enormity of these tree roots and I took a lot of shots that failed to show the size appropriately.  It wasn’t until Jake walked right in front of the tree that I knew I got my shot.

Photo 6 Use Scale

7. Select Viewpoint

Actually move around and get down to the eye level of your subject.  Don’t forget that sometimes the best picture is above you!

Photo 7 Choose Viewpoint

8. Keep it Simple

Many photographers overly complicate things and include too much activity in their photo.  I think people want to capture it all… with as few photos as possible.  If you start thinking this, STOP and just take a photo of something small.  If you lean toward the sparse side, then you’ll usually end up with a better photo.

Photo 8 Keep it Simple

9. Photograph with Passion

I can’t stress enough that you need to photograph with passion and sometimes forget about the rules.  When I take photos I don’t consciously think of all the rules of composition, I just look through the viewfinder and take what I think looks great.

Have you seen enough?  Learned enough?  Are you dying to go take some photos?  Yeah, me too!  So go now… you have nothing to lose (and everything to gain!).

Photo 9 Photograph with Passion

Dr. Sheila Cason


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