Category Archives: Composition

Quality not quantity

In this day of digital cameras and the cheapness of memory cards, it is easy just to “burn” through hundreds of pics and hope for the best. This is initially how I used to shoot and i was often disappointed with the results. I would get a few good shots but it was more “miss” than “hit”. Then I read an article by a pro digital photographer (whose name escapes me) who said that when he shoots, he imagines that he is shooting on film. The reason he does this is that he wants to get a higher crop of great images that he can use. This got me thinking and I made a conscious effort to be more deliberate about how I approached creating an image. It took a lot more concentration and certainly took a bit more time, but the results have been amazing. It has revolutionised my photography…my images are sharper (because I am a LOT more specific about WHAT I am focusing on) my images are better composed (I make an active effort to compose properly in camera and check the image on the screen afterwards, if I am not happy, recompose) My images are more dramatic, more colourful (because I am making sure my exposure is right the FIRST time) and overall my photography is much better. So try it, imagine that you only have 36 shots in you camera and NO PHOTOSHOP to fix a bad image. Photoshop should only be used to make a good image, superb. So, here are my tips to make some quick improvements to your images, they worked for me…

  • Exposure – make sure you exposure is correct. Use a grey card, use a light meter and learn to use your built in meter in your camera. By doing this, you will be sure that your exposure is correct and this is a very key part of getting things right
  • Composition – we all know about the rule of thirds, we all know about the golden mean (if you dont know, I am going to put some ideas down on these at a later stage) These are good rules and can really make a difference to an image, but you also need to know when to “break” these rules or when not to use them.
  • Focus – this is critical, you need to make sure that your subject matter is in crisp, sharp focus. Enough about this cannot be said. There is nothing worse than realising after you have taken the photo, that the camera was focused on the tree behind the bride and not the bride herself, trust me, it happens
  • Interesting subject matter – This goes without saying, your subejct matter must be compelling, if its not, then present the mundane subject in a new way (MORE about this too at a later stage)
  • Quality – this will be the combination of all of the above areas, if you get this right, your images will take on a whole new level of quality

Try this, I can tell you that it works, if all of these elements start working together, your images will be changed forever, remember less IS more, quality is the real differentiator.

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Follow the rules..sometimes!

If you have been taking photos for some time, you will have heard of the various rules that are out there about how to take a good pic. Things like leading lines, rule of thirds etc… In many cases, these rules are a good foundation and the have a lot of value to help you to get you images looking good, but you have to know WHEN and HOW to break them. For example, take the rule of thirds, you know the one…you divide you image up into thirds and as far as possible, put your centre of interest on one of the lines as they interesect (called a powerpoint  – nothing to do with Microsoft) But when can you break this rule, well, if your COI (centre of Interest or Subject) is so compelling that it doesnt matter where you put it. Pieter Hugo is a South African photographer who breaks these rules with great aplomb, but his subject matter is so incredible, you can’t help but look at his images. They create a sense of unease, the colours are muted and darkened, but the images are incredible. Take a look at the pics in this post, tell me what you think, Should Pieter have followed a more traditional composition, or does this work…I Hyena Manthink it does!

Albino

What makes a photo Great?

Well, you can go into detail about the “rule of thirds” (more about this another time) you can talk about the lighting, the colour, the tone, the expression and guess what. All of these would be correct. What makes a photo great is the combination of all of the above techniques and more. A great photo is about what speaks to you personally. Great photos will show emotion, will exude some sort of passion, will cause you to think, will make you laugh, or even cry. A defining image is not simply about a topic or a person, its about what it says about those things. You will know when a photo is great…its the one that speaks to you without verbally saying a thing…

African Sky