Posts Tagged ‘frame’
Notice the percentage of actual human being in the photograph above. Let’s say it’s 20%. Then notice the percentage of the photograph that’s the part of the human beings we care about the most— their faces. Let’s say it’s 5%—and that’s being generous. I think the problem started when the decision was made to include the feet in the picture.
I am certainly not saying that you should never photograph feet. There are some wonderful foot photographs out there. (In fact, my good friend and photographer, Rich Frishman, did a legendary series of self portraits that were nothing but his feet. He called them “Footagraphs”. Absolutely fantastic.)
What I am saying is that if you are shooting a group shot, there needs to be a darn good reason for including the feet. More often then not, including the feet in group shots does damage to the photograph.
I realize this is just another way of saying getting close to your subjects. But I want red warning lights going off in your brain and in your viewfinder if you see feet and shoes and we may as well include the lower halves of legs for that matter. If they don’t add anything, eliminate them. I have seen very few close-up photographs of four people and wondered what their shoes and socks looked like.
Remember, when you shoot your Christmas card photo you are doing your viewers a big favor when you show them what everyone looks like this year.
I know I’m a little obsessed about cars in photos—I’m not crazy about them. They seem to date pictures and they’re covered with shiny parts that distract the eye. I’ve always felt that if a car is in the picture it needs to have a reason to be there. Traffic is not the prettiest thing in the world.
It’s not always that simple, of course. Sometimes it just can’t be helped. Is there a way to turn traffic into a visual plus? I think the answer is that occasionally there is.
Blurred cars can add life and a feeling of energy to a picture that needs it. To do it you’re probably going to need a tripod. (The more I write these Photo Tips the more I think I should just tell of you to get a decent tripod, but I digress.) If you have a tripod you can turn the cars I’m not in love with into artsy blurs of color and motion.
Your shutter speed choice depends on how fast the cars are going and if they’re moving across the frame or appear to be coming toward the viewer or moving away from the viewer. But generally, traffic looks good at a fifteenth or and eighth of a second. Experimentation is required for sure.
Also, special thanks to Tracy Fox Meyer for letting me use her very smart family portrait. She turned what could have been an obvious distraction into something fun and eye-catching for all the right reasons. Very nice work.
Good photographic composition is difficult enough to do, much less teach, but there is one very simple Golden Rule for arranging the elements in the frame.
Don’t Put Your Subject in the Middle.
Even if you have no natural ability for designing a pleasant or interesting looking picture, if you avoid the middle of the frame you’re off to a fine start. Accidental alignments and serendipity will happen and you will feel daring and innovative. You may actually look like you know what you’re doing.
Not so if you just plop it all smack dab in the center every time. The center of your viewfinder is a bit like a photographic Bermuda Triangle where potentially good and worthy images go to sink. Everything is trapped when it’s in the center. It can’t breathe. It has no place to go. It’s confining. I could go on and on, but I’m getting anxious just writing about it.
There’s this thing called The Rule of Thirds. It’s sort of a Betty Crocker Cookbook Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe approach to composition. It’s not inspired, but it’s pretty darn good. Basically, it’s a fancy way of saying “Do anything but put your subject in the middle.” The Rule suggests that you put your subject one-third the way in from the right or the left or from the top or from the bottom. They could have called it The Rule of Anywhere But in the Middle but that’s a little wordy. They could have called it The Rule of Just Play Around but that’s a little non-specific. There’s a mathematical elegance to dividing your picture into thirds and trying to use that formula to move people emotionally. One thing we know for sure—you will not move them if you always put your subject in the middle.
I know a bunch of you out there want to tell me you saw this picture in the Museum of Modern Art and it’s really famous and the subject was in the middle. I know, I know, I saw that picture, too.
Here’s the deal. You have to know the rules to break the rules. And believe me, I want you to break the rules. But I want you to know why you’re breaking them.
You break the rules when it makes sense—you need a reason. You use the rules when you don’t know what else to do. Don’t Put Your Subject in the Middle is solid ground. It’s a safety net. Try it, learn from it, and fly away, my children—away from the center of the frame.
This has to be the granddaddy of all photo tips. It just has to be; the people who take it to heart are instantly better photographers. Getting closer with your camera has a very serious success rate.
I figure it was sometime in the middle of the nineteenth-century. Photography was in its infancy. Somebody, who had mastered the new art, told a younger, aspiring photographer that their most popular pictures were the ones when they got closer to the subject. People like faces; get close and then get closer. And so the greatest photo tip of them all was born.
For many of you out there, when you look through the camera, filling the frame with a human face feels rude, like an invasion of privacy. The last time you were this close to someone, a kiss ensued. Its intimate, for sure, and that’s why it works. It’s the ace card in any motion picture. They slowly build to a dramatic close-up. You can’t help but hitching your emotions to that train. You’re human. It’s a normal reaction. Close-ups are wonderful. Like I said, they happen right before a kiss.
There are two way to get closer to your subject with a camera. You can simply walk closer to your whatever it is you’re photographing. Or you can zoom in optically with your camera. When I get closer to my subjects I usually find myself doing a bit of both. I step closer. I zoom in. Maybe I walk closer. Maybe I zoom out a bit. I play around. Every situation is different. The purpose is always the same, however. Fill the frame with whatever it is you love.
I say love, but that’s simplifying things a bit, isn’t. We don’t exactly love everything we photograph. But love is a great place to start.
Here’s my assignment to you. Shoot two pictures of someone you love. First, stand back and show everything you see. The lamps, the cars, the TV, the whatever else is a horrible distraction from whatever it is you want us to look at. Then get in close and then get in closer. Get closer than you’ve ever been to someone with a camera. Look at the two photographs. If this does not drive home the power of a close-up you need to repeat this process repeatedly.
If you ever feel guilty about converting too many of your pictures to BW consider that the two photographers many people would name as the greatest photographers ever shot exclusively in BW—Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson. You’re in good company.
For me, converting Melanie’s brother and his son to BW was a slam dunk.There just isn’t much to be gained by showing the viewer what color everything was. And by converting it—for me, at least—BW takes it to the next level. It just feels iconic. What a great father/son photo.
That boy is framed perfectly on the left and the pay off of his hand on the right gives me goosebumps; I’m easy, I have three sons.
Being outside around green trees can produce some murky color that can be difficult to deal with—not impossible, by any means—but not quite dead on. And skin colors can get a little funky in the summertime, too. Sun burns and heat can make people red or pink and who needs it?
And a note to the dads: When your son puts his arm around your shoulder, don’t move a muscle—just absorb it and cherish it. It’s impossible for me to imagine that Melanie’s brother doesn’t have a little lump in his throat here. He must be saying something to himself like, “Oh, I hope she’s getting this.”
They are both so lucky to have this photograph and to have Melanie for a sister and an aunt.