Hey Fellow Photography Nerds!

Does it drive you nuts when you have a blurry picture of your active child? Ever wonder why your subjects look jaundice? And what the heck is RAW? There is so much to know about photography in order to get the images you want, even if you're a casual shooter taking snapshots of your family and friends, and unfortunately, there's also a lack of simple, easy to understand, and most importantly, FREE resources out there. My goal with this blog is to use my experience from working in a camera store and shooting pictures (some as a hobby, some as a business) to help everyone from the "Soccer Mom" to the "Hobbyist" get the images they've always wanted. Have a question for me? Leave a comment and ask away. I'll either do a post about it, or if you'd like, I can send an email (given you leave an email address). Be sure to check out the archives to read about past topics.

If you'd like to add my button for this site to your blog or website, feel free! Here's the HTML:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Composition-Episode One

I know many of you are reading the title of this post thinking, "Wouldn't this be Episode Two"? Well, that's where you'd be wrong. Haven't you seen the Star Wars films?

Alright, let's keep movin! Let's talk about a couple other fringe aspects of composition to consider. Now for the brass section.....oh wait....wrong kind of composition......


Framing is when you use unimportant elements in the scene to outline, fully or partially, another, more important portion of the scene. A commonly used object to do this are trees and tree branches. By lining up the trunk of a tree on the very edge of the frame, or a branch across the top of the frame, you're helping the viewer feel like they aren't supposed to wander outside of the picture they are viewing. Heaven forbid their eyes wander onto someone else's photograph, keep them in yours! This technique is also used to draw more attention to the focal point of the picture. You'll have to excuse this example, it's not my best photograph, but when it comes to framing, I gots slim pickins. I used the toys to help eliminate the clutter around the girls face, and draw more attention to her:

Point of View/Perspective

Always consider your perspective. What are you trying to convey in your image? Are you trying to show the world through a child's eyes? Don't even think about setting the exposure before getting on your hands and knees! Going for that National Geographic shot of the world's most dangerous predatory animal? Be prepared to be a predator yourself. Perspective also has something to do with......how do I say this......not taking tourist snapshots? Documenting moments is important, but usually doesn't make for a great photograph unless it has personal meaning to someone involved. Back in the day, that's why everyone dreaded being invited over to the Smith's for cookies and a slideshow projected onto their wall of their recent road trip to the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memoribilia. If you're going for a work of art, don't just take pictures of beautiful things. Actively look around you to see what you can make beautiful with your creativity. Look up, look down at the ground, find the scene within a scene. This is a hard thing to teach verbally, so maybe some pictures will illustrate better (the picture/illustration pun was unintended, unless you ask my wife, she would tell you I just can't help it).

This picture was taken on the walkway outside of my apartment in Texas. A scene I walked by and ignored everyday, until this day.

Here's a nice picture. You could leave and be happy with it.......

....but look at the picture you could miss by walking away. The barbed wire in the fence, who woulda thunk?


Unfortunately for most photographers, at least the ones who don't have thousands of dollars to spend on different types of cameras, we're stuck viewing the world through a rectangle. Our viewfinder limits us to how we can compose our pictures, right? Everything has to be rectangular.......thanks to digital, shooting in different aspect ratios (we'll talk about aspect ratios later) is too easy not to be taken advantage of. When you're composing a shot and it just doesn't seem to be working well, think to yourself, how would this look if it were a square image? What about a long panoramic? Even better, go out there and purposefully look for images that fit these ratios. It just takes a couple moments in whatever image editing software you have. Lo and behold, some examples:

Eh, it's okay.

What do you think? Better?

Bottom line, try to look at things you see everyday, and think, how could this make a great photograph? If you try to do this, chances are that some of the most common, everyday things will become your favorite subjects.....

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Composition-An Introduction

Since this is my very first instructional post, I thought I'd start at the very beginning, since it's a very good place to start. Every photograph begins with the way that the photographer composes the image. To some, composition may seem insignificant, especially if they're struggling with other technical aspects of photography, like exposure, or white balance. To these, and to all, I suggest that composition is the making or breaking point of a good image. It's what elevates a snapshot to a photograph, a family album print, to a work of fine art. With this in mind, let's get started.

One quick note about composition. In my mind, there are two aspects to composition: the science, and the art. The science can be understood logically and is the portion of composition I will endeavor to elaborate on, whereas the art of composition comes naturally to some, but for most great photographers, comes with lots of practice, and plenty of error.

The Rules...I mean, The Guidelines

The Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is the simplest of compositional guidelines. As you're looking through your viewfinder, or at your LCD screen, picture a tic-tac-toe board overlayed across the scene you are viewing. (Some cameras will display this in the viewfinder or LCD screen. If your camera does this, I HIGHLY recommend turning it on. It's most likely referred to as "grid lines" in your cameras settings.)

As you are deciding how to compose your subject, try to line important elements up at the intersecting points of the horizontal and vertical lines. If not at the intersecting points, than along the lines is still preferred. It's preached that aligning the elements of your image according to these lines creates more tension, interest, and energy than centering your image would. Here's a real example of the rule of thirds in action:

Notice the fence line in the bottom of the frame is lined up with the lower horizontal line, the shed is lined up with the vertical line on the right, and the tops of the mountains are close to the horizontal line at the top. This is also a good example of how even though there is a horizontal line running straight through the center of the image splitting the top and bottom halves, all of the other elements of the image are off-center and lined up with the grid lines. Remember, these rules are really more guidelines, than rules.

Leading Lines

Leading lines are another element of composition that pleases the eye. The idea here is that the eye of the viewer will follow certain paths and naturally lead them to certain parts of the image, giving greater emphasis to certain parts of an image. They can also be used to guide a viewer's eye through the image, not leading to an exact part of the image, but helping create the effect of fluidity and motion though the photography. The lines can be leading in any direction, and don't necessarily have to be touching the object which they are supposed to put emphasis on, nor do they have to be "lines". They can be objects lined up in a row for instance, or even curved lines. The best way I know how to describe this is with examples (you can click on each picture to see a larger version of it):

The lines on the brick lead you to the subjects face, and eyes

This one's pretty obvious how the lines lead you, and where.

This image is an example of curved lines, and straight lines working together to lead you through the image. The floor obviously isn't a very important part of this image, but the lines help take you down through the image giving it some mobility.

The road in this image acts as a guide to lead you to the runner, and through to create a path for the eye to follow to the mountains.

Just remember to practice in order to master these concepts. You might even want to go out shooting and assign yourself the task to focus on just one aspect at a time. I'll continue to talk about some other aspects of composition in my next post.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Be Patient

If you're visiting this site and there's nothing here but this post, thanks, and please check back shortly. This blog was created late at night, and I was too tired to do my first real post once I got the layout setup the way I wanted. Come back soon!