upping my photography game … or at least trying

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So in case I haven’t mentioned it somewhere, I started teaching a photography class. My motivations were primarily selfish. I wanted to get back to thinking about photography. And I have to say I am enjoying really diving into things I haven’t thought about before. More deeply exploring concepts and ideas is something I love doing and I love that I have an excuse and motivation to actually do it.

In my explorations I came across this quote by Henri Cartier-Bresson:

If a photograph is to communicate its subject in all its intensity, the relationship of forms must be rigorously established. Photography implies the recognition of a rhythm in the world of real things. What the eye does is to find and focus on the particular subject within the mass of reality; what the camera does is simply to register upon film the decision made by the eye. – Henri Cartier-Bresson

It highlights several things to me:

  • The purpose of taking a photograph is to tell a story of a subject and you need to do everything you can to make that story happen.
  • Don’t just ‘take a snap shot’, make a picture. Be conscious and intentional when taking a photograph.
  • Photographs are created.
  • Understanding of art principles is really useful in creating these more considered images. I am currently learning more about compositional elements that I am looking forward to playing around with and sharing with you.
  • The camera is a simply a tool. The best camera you have is the one you have on you!

I suppose what I am saying in a nutshell is that I want to become more conscious when I am behind the camera. What do you think? How conscious are you when you are behind a camera?

On a second note, I am thinking of sharing some of my learning. I kind of see it as giving myself a diploma in photography and why not share that. So I thought I would share some great things I come across, photographers that inspre me and some of my experimentation. Yes? No? Let me know

let’s learn composition | framing

learning-composition-framing

Okay so it took me a while to get to the next ‘lesson’ but better late than never, right?

In the last lesson I noted

“composition helps us to highlight our subject. When rules aren’t followed the subject might have to compete for attention with other items in the frame therefore diminishing the ‘quality’ of your picture. Obviously rules are also meant to be broken but knowing the rules means you can be intentional about breaking them.”

This time around I am looking at framing. Framing is simply using something to ‘frame’ your subject and therefore draw the eye to them. This idea started long before photography in paintings where the subject(s) are often placed in windows, door frames or arches.

Lets look at some photographs as examples…

framing-silhouette-tunnel framing-doorway framing-window

There are so many opportunities for framing: windows, doorways, tunnels. But it doesn’t stop there.

framing-curtain framing-stars framing-unusual framing-trees-and-people

Also look for frames that are a little different. Go for something a bit subtle. Or go for a more unusual shape. Use people and anything that is around you. (Necklace by Lotts and Lots).

framing-with-a-frame

Sometimes you can even use a frame! (styling by Charlotte Love)

framing-could-do-better

Framing your object obviously doesn’t happen every time you take a picture. However, if there is a frame opportunity happening make sure you make the most of it. The photo above could have been better if I had shifted so that both subjects sat in the doorway.

What do you think?

Do you use framing? Share an image where you have used framing in an interesting way.

let’s learn composition | rule of thirds

learning how to compose photographs - the rule of thirds

I loved teaching my photography walk-shops when I was in London and I always felt the attendees got a real understanding for getting onto manual, but there are so many composition rules that exist that they sometimes got buried under by technical questions. With so many posts about ISO, aperture and shutter speed along with everything else (which are of course incredibly useful) I think the idea of what we are capturing sometimes loses weight. I even find myself often overthinking the technical and not getting a beautifully composed image. With this ‘series’ I don’t want to give technical blow by blow but some examples and tips.

As I mentioned a couple weeks back composition helps us to highlight our subject. When rules aren’t followed the subject might have to compete for attention with other items in the frame therefore diminishing the ‘quality’ of your picture. Obviously rules are also meant to be broken but knowing the rules means you can be intentional about breaking them.

I’ll start with the rule of thirds because that is probably the one that everyone has heard about. Put simply the rule of thirds breaks your picture up with two horizontal lines and two vertical lines and then your task is to use those lines to highlight your subject. That can mean placing your subject on an intersection point or breaking up your picture into the thirds (most often seen with landscapes)

Let’s look at some pictures…

Portraits

Rule of thirds - portraits Considering the rules of thirds - portraits rule-of-thirds-6-mycreative

When shooting portraits bear these points in mind:

  • Place the eyes on (or near) one of the lines and an intersection as possible. If you are shooting faces the eyes should be the focal point as, you know, eyes are the windows to the soul and all.
  • If the subject is placed in a segment of the frame and looking to the side they should look to the side which has more space. When the subject looks immediately off to the side it leaves the viewer anxious, wondering what they are looking at.

Objects

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For objects it is important to consider what your actual focus point is going to be. Will it be the spoon or the watermelon? Which part of the picture do you want to highlight. In the third image because it is a flat plane and therefore everything is in focus the segments are used (as in landscape).

Landscapes

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The main point to remember when using the rule of thirds for landscape is what you want to highlight or capture. What has the most interesting texture – the sky or the land? Also bear in mind if there is a specific ‘something’ in the landscape that you want to highlight.

Breaking the rules

Of course you don’t always have to follow this rule. Perhaps it is the symmetry of the image that you want to capture instead. Or place your subject in the middle or somewhere else altogether if you feel. Just be intentional about what it is you want to do.

Challenge time!

Take a look at some pictures that you have pinned and see if you can see how the rule of thirds has been used. Examine some of your own pictures and see if you naturally capture some images this way already, you might be surprised.

Then take some pictures to practise the rule. Take photos of a person, an object and a landscape using the rule of thirds.

If you would like share a link to the images (wherever they may be – flickr, instagram, your blog, google+ etc). I will choose a handful to provide feeback over on my Facebook page.

I’d love to know if you find this type of post helpful and if you would like to see more.

what is the subject?

what is the subject

I find myself mindlessly scrolling through people’s blog posts and looking at their pictures, catching a line or two of text if the pictures look interesting. I don’t think that is going to change to be honest but I thought it was a good metaphor for how we even look at pictures sometimes and therefore how we take pictures.

Point, click, done.

Without trying to sound pompous, taking pictures on film (with only 24-36 frames) really makes you slow down and think before you shoot. What is the subject? What do I want to highlight? I don’t always get it right but I get a good ratio of decent to throw away pictures on a roll of film. But when I shoot on digital that ratio widens. I don’t focus on the subject all the time. Clutter gets in and I ignore the rules of composition. Now sometimes the rules need to be broken but a vast history of art exists which show us the rules work. They lead the eye, grab our attention, create an atmosphere.

I thought I might share some tips on composition over the next while if people are interested (so let me know if you are interested by commenting).

But today’s post is just to remind you to start thinking about the subject. Sometimes it is obvious. A person or a group of people, a vase of flowers. Sometimes it is less obvious. Sometimes you zoom in on the flowers – now which one is the subject, the one tilting it’s head. Or what about when you are shooting a landscape. Sometimes it is the castle on the hill but maybe it is just a beautiful scene. Even then a picture becomes more interesting and people look more intently when something captures the eye. A lone tree, a bench or a person in the distance. Even when the subject is a ‘scene’, being aware of what you want to highlight helps you to frame the picture, consider focal point and use compositional rules to lead the eye.

By being conscious of choosing your subject you can instantly start taking better photos.

If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy these tips for composing better images and an exercise in light.

buildings of trieste and other hashtags

buildings of trieste

Don’t you love when you come across a hashtag on Instagram that no-one else is using. It works as a great ‘filing system’. I have started ‘filing’ my images into several categories and #buildingsoftrieste is one I started to tag all my photos of the buildings I capture in Trieste. There sure is some fancy architecture around here and it is great when I want to brag to friends or family who haven’t visited yet to show them the beautiful city I live in.

I also tag my food pictures with #mycreativeeats. I love food and this is a great repository for mini-recipes (you know the kind that are just ingredients thrown together and not really recipes at all). I also just started #mypancakeclub which I would love people to share their own pancake inspiration to. Just a unique topping or addition to the mix. I love pancakes!

Moving on from my own ‘creations’. I love #notmynonni (nonni being grandparents in Italian) from @notmynonni. Italy’s elderly make up a large chunk of the population and they are such brilliant characters.

I’ve found participating in hashtag challenges (is that what you would call them) or just tagging pictures are a great way of coming across new (to me) Instagrammers (particularly in my new part of the world) and a friendly way to grow my Instagram following. Though I suggest when hashtagging don’t go overkill!

So tell me how do you use hashtags and what are some of your favourites? And also how irritating is it that you can’t click on tags on the Instagram website?!

practising your composition awareness

So, as I mentioned, I went away on our familymoon and totally forgot to take a charger for my dslr and thus was stuck with a useless bunch of extra weight for our holiday! I did however pack my film camera about which I was incredibly happy about. In retrospect it is a very interesting exercise to be limited by a film camera to practise photography, particularly the composition aspect.

I thought I would share some analysis of a few of the photos I took. If you are interested in working on your own composition you can pick up a point and shoot disposable camera for a few pounds and developing can be done at Snappy Snaps.

Image One

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This is just basically all off. The point of focus I was aiming for is the family group on the bench. The framing doesn’t really draw your attention to them at all, however, and the background is distracting. Plus there are lots of elements on the edges that clutter the picture.

I could potentially have moved around and had them straight on with the less distracting and more atmospheric church, but street photography with a non-automatic focusing camera has some difficulties. Alternatively moving a bit closer might have helped (my camera has a prime lens so moving rather than zooming is the option).

Image Two

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Looking back on the images in retrospect I sometimes wonder what I was ‘thinking’ in taking the image. I think in this image I was trying to photograph the bicycle with flowers balanced with the old man smoking. However, the bike on the edge and the person with the shopping totally limit the viewers ability to focus on this balance.

Getting lower might have helped to get rid of the sign above the gentleman’s head too. And maybe a few steps to the left would have helped get the right ‘balance’.

Image Three

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Can you see a pattern emerging here in where I go wrong? Cropping in camera is a handy skill. If I had ‘zoomed’ in and just got the lady and the dog I would have been happy with the picture. Half chopped off bodies are distracting!

Also, I am terrible at getting straight photos!

Okay so now I need to go out and practise some more…

Did you find this useful? Would you like to see some more ‘dissection’ posts?