Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘composition’

Up for Discussion – Composition

Today’s guest blog is from Stacey who has a blog called Lensaddiction.  Stacey has offered to write a post on composition and some of the basic aspects of it that help make a good image.  

Composition Basics

I get frustrated by the fancy books and websites with amazing shots from Iceland and Patagonia, waterfalls in Norway, amazing scenery in places I can never expect to go. Usually shot by professionals with several days or even weeks to spend on site so that they get lots of opportunities to get the perfect sunrise or shot.

This post is bought to you by just another photographer, with limited time and budget for gear and equipment, who is still learning every time she gets her camera out. Someone who goes to exotic locations hardly ever and if she does, has pretty much one opportunity to get the shot and has to deal with whatever the conditions are on the day.

When you boil photography down to the very key elements, composition is ultimately what makes or breaks an image. You can have the most expensive gear, know absolutely everything about all the functions and features on your camera, travel to the most exotic locations, but if your image is not well composed then its not really happening.

Back when I was getting serious about photography I researched composition, and blogged about it

What are the Rules of Composition – what I discovered

What are the Rules of Composition – what other people shared

For this post here are what I think are the four most important basic fundamentals for composition. Helpfully there are plenty of “this is the wrong way to do it” shots to share with you!

1. Everybody’s Favourite – The Rule of Thirds

To me this is the “not putting the subject in the centre” rule, which offers more latitude and for me that is the essence of this rule. A subject smack bang in the center of your image (unless it’s a symmetrical reflection shot) is static and uninteresting.

This little fellow below is to the right of center with space to his left – that is to give him space to “look’ into or ‘move forward into”This shot also shows the “fill the frame with the subject” and “keep the background neutral” compositional elements

AvonDucksED-5610
This is a wedgetail eagle in Australia which is a good rule of thirds example, the line of the feathers along the body is on one 1/3 line and the eye is at an intersection of two 1/3 lines.

BrisbaneED-5305
But here is another duckling more centered and he kinda feels a bit … stuck… or lacking in energy and potential.

AvonDucksED-5468
Another stuck in the middle shot of an Australian bush wallaby.

AZooED-5644
2. Focus on the eyes (and get a catchlight)

When taking photos of anything living, always focus on the eyes. You can see from the image below the front of the bill is out of focus, and the eyes are as well. The bit that is in focus is the front of the head, and so you feel like she is actually looking over your shoulder at something more interesting LOL.

HanmerDucksED-6140
Now this handsome Willy Wagtail has all the eye action and also the very important catchlight (that’s the bright white spot from the sun on his dark eye) which helps highlight the eye and shows the critter is engaged with you.

We don’t have the catchlight on the duck above, hence the feeling she is looking elsewhere.

AZooED-5530
A Black NZ Robin where the eye has been directly focussed on, and I waited til I had the right angle for the catchlight. The lower part of the body is out of focus, but it’s the connection with the eye that we look for.

Zealandia2013ED CE-
3. BACKGROUNDS (and Foregrounds)

Oooh this is one that I am really bad at, getting so involved in the action and completely forgetting to check and see what the background is doing.

The Robin shot above is a classic example of a terribly messy distracting background but when shooting wild creatures you just get whatever their environment it and have to make the best of it.

PuffED-9988
This is a blue Burmese kitten that a friend wanted shots of – I have used black sheets on the bed to provide a neutral background (and focussed on the eyes) also shows filling the frame with your subject.

Waipapa-9132
Clear blue skies make a great background.

Qtown2013ED-2839
But what about if you can’t control your background and its crowded action scene?

Indoor social dance shots often have messy and distracting backgrounds, using a shallow DOF helps isolate the subjects from the background. Also if it is dark, using a flash to isolate the subjects can help too.

I could go tone down the exposure of the background in post pro a bit as well.

BBFSatEd-0184
And sometimes the action is so fast and the lighting so poor that you get it completely wrong too.

BBFSatEd-0242
And sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

BBFSatEd-0284
Other options, change the angle of shooting, I had a busy background for this shot but changing the angle and using the sky and filling the frame solved that issue.

Ellerslie2012-3094
This was the other shot.

Ellerslie2012-3098
Foregrounds are just as important especially in nature photography – look how untiy and distracting the foreground is below with lots of blurry bright shots and leaves in the way – BAD!

Bluebells2011-0320
This shot is better, it uses an isolated clump as the foreground interest (though that clump in the bottom right hand corner is a bit of a distraction).

Bluebells2011-0291
4. CHANGE YOUR SHOOTING POSITION AND HEIGHT

I read somewhere that around 80% of all images are taken at an average height of 5’ 6”, which is fine if that’s where your subject is, but not so good if it’s a small mushroom or flower in the ground…..

Be prepared to get down in the dirt, in the water or climb a tree or a ladder to get the best vantage. This also applies for framing up your shot, don’t just rock up to a viewing platform, take the shot and then go. If its safe to do so and you have time, wander around, see if you can get a better or more interesting angle. Take into consideration what the light is doing for the image you want to create.

Fungi Cemetary-5151

Fungi Cemetary-5171
These two shots were taken lying flat out on my stomach in wet sheep shit in a cemetery – took three washes to get my jeans clean!

IMG_2048
Compare this kitten shot taken from above and these ones where I have got down to eye level with the kittens – such a different feel.

macroseal

Cognac2013ED -4242

sealkit
So there you go, Composition Basics according to Lensaddiction. I hope this may have been of some help with you on your path to photographic nirvana.

(Stacey from Lensaddiction invested in her first DSLR back in 2007. Since then she has spent far too much time outside with her camera having adventures and luckily not getting her car stuck in a bog or a stream, both of which are common in New Zealand.

To make sure that some sanity remained she took to blogging about experiences with trying to use the new camera and sharing what learnings came her way.

Remember, its supposed to be fun!)

I hope you will all thank Stacey for her post and I hope it will help you all with, or those that are unsure about composition.  Thank you Stacey.  I also hope that you will go and visit her blog, Lensaddiction.

Up for Discussion – The Golden Ratio

Today’s post is from Sarah Vercoe, I saw a post she had written on the Golden Ratio and I asked her if she would be interested in doing a post here to explain it to you.  I first heard about this at art school, though it was a little different, but the idea of the Golden Mean, and how some faces are considered more beautiful than others, and how the Golden Mean can be used to demonstrate it.  What Sarah is talking about is a little different and a lot more relevant to photography.

Composition with impact: Using the Golden Ratio in Photography

By Sarah Vercoe

Barn, Grand Teton NP

Composition is one of the most important aspects of photography, one that can make or break a photograph. A strong composition can give an ordinary subject appeal, just as poor composition can leave an otherwise appealing subject with no impact at all. The variety of composition guidelines available to photographers is seemingly endless, with some argued as being better than others. The Golden Ratio is one of those composition guidelines that is said to be just that little bit better for creating a photograph with impact.

The Golden Ratio, a ratio of 1:1.618, is said to have been ‘discovered’ by a mathematician named Leonardo Fibonacci in the 12th century A.D. when he devised a series of numbers to create a composition that is pleasing to the eye. Also known as the Golden Mean, Phi, and Divine Proportion, among others, the Golden Ratio has been used for centuries as a design principle in everything from graphic design, painting, architecture and photography. Regardless of the name attached, or where the idea of using the ratio originated, the Golden Ratio as a composition tool in photography can help us produce photographs with impact.

It is said that humans are naturally drawn to the ratio due to the perfect division of space that is pleasing to the eye, which is perfect for photography. This may be due to the fact that the ratio can be found throughout nature, in flowers, shells, plants, even the human ear is said to be shaped in a way that the Golden Ratio can be seen. Attracting viewers to a photograph through a composition that is based on nature, and naturally drawn to, seems like perfect logic. Creating a photograph that will attract viewers is something almost all photographers strive for in their work. So, how can we compose a photograph using the Golden Ratio to naturally attract viewers? There are a variety of ways in which the Golden Ratio can be applied to photography. Following are just two of the most commonly favoured compositions among photographers who are in-the-know.

The Fibonacci Spiral

The Fibonacci Spiral is formed from a series of squares based on a complex formula using Fibonacci’s numbers. This is achieved by adding together pairs of numbers to create squares, starting at 1×1, repeating 1×1, then 2×2, 3×3, 5×5, 8×8, 13×13, etc., the series of numbers can go on forever. When a point is placed strategically at the diagonal corners of each square and connected by a line, a spiral shape is formed throughout the frame itself as per the diagram below.

Fibonnaci Spiral

These points are considered points of interest in the frame and key focal points in a scene can be positioned to fall on or near them. As you will notice, the most important points of focus fall around a small rectangular area at one of the corners in the frame. This is what I like to call the ‘sweet spot’ and where I like to place the most important elements of a scene. The remaining points on the spiral can then be used as complementing focal points to incorporate other elements into the overall scene. The sweet spot acts as a starting point to lead the eye around the photograph along the spiral.

This version of the Golden Ratio is perhaps the most favoured composition in photography. I like to think this is due to the way the spiral leads the viewer around multiple complementing points in the frame, causing them to linger on the photograph.

Robson Square, Vancouver

The Phi Grid

The Phi Grid is formed when the Golden Ratio is applied so that the frame is divided into sections that are 1:1.618:1 as per the diagram below. The intersecting lines of the grid are concentrated in the centre of the frame resulting in more weight being given to the four outer corners of the frame. Placing key focal points at the intersecting lines of the Phi Grid, the Golden Ratio’s sweet spots, will allow for maximum impact in the photograph. This is due largely to the fact that the intersecting lines are at that point that is considered the perfect division of space in the frame.

Phi Grid

Another way that composing a photograph using the Phi Grid can be beneficial is to use it as a guide for the placement of a horizon line. By using the Phi Grid as a guide for where to place the horizon line will allow the horizon line to be less apparent and offer a good separation of space. You might notice that the Phi Grid looks quite similar to the Rule of Thirds. Although no one knows for sure, and there are a variety of fables that address the history of the Rule of Thirds, one suggestion is that the Rule of Thirds was devised as a simpler version of Golden Ratio.

Sunrise Kailua, Hawaii

The Golden Ratio in my own work

The Golden Ratio is often my go-to guideline when composing a photograph, particularly the Fibonacci Spiral. When I compose for the Golden Ratio I will envision a rectangle in the corner of the frame that places my main subject near the sweet spot. When I can utilise the Fibonacci Spiral I will also look for complementing points of interest that I can try to incorporate in the scene along the other points of interest. This is the reason I prefer to use the Fibonacci Spiral. I am of the belief that incorporating complementary points of interest to the main focal point where possible will draw the viewer in and lead them around the photograph.

As with everything in photography there are no fixed rules and composition choices are unique to both the scene you are photographing and the photographer. The Golden Ratio is a good technique to keep in your mind as a guideline when considering the composition options for a scene, and you may just end up with a photograph that has that little bit more impact.

Following are a series of photographs where I have applied the Golden Ratio in my own work. See if you can pick out which of the Golden Ratio compositions I have used as a guide.

Eagle, Alaska

Granville Island, Vancouver

Lower Falls, Yellowstone NP

Mountain view, Alaska

Surf Festival, Noosa

Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Science World, Vancouver

A big thank you to Leanne for allowing me to discuss the Golden Ratio in today’s Up for Discussion.

Please feel free to reach out to me at sarahvercoeimages@gmail.com if you have any questions about the Golden Ratio. You can view more of my landscape and travel photography on my blog Sarah Vercoe Images www.sarahvercoeimages.wordpress.com.

I would also like to thank Sarah for taking the time to write this for us.  Please take a look at her blog, she has some amazing work there.  

Up for Discussion – Post Production on Images

Last week I received an email from Better Photography Magazine and it had an article in with the title Should A Landscape Photography Competition Be Art?.  I was intrigued.  It was also about a new competition and one that I recently entered.  It is a good read and it got me thinking about this whole problem we seem to have with the digital age and manipulating photos.  scabattoirs0035

Let’s start in the days of film.  When you went out and did a shoot with a roll of film, you would come home and develop the negative.  There was no difference here, the film determined how the film or negative was processed.  Once the negative was ready to be printed, you would get your enlarger and do a proof sheet.  Lay all the negatives on a piece of paper, put a clear piece of glass over the top and expose the negs.  Then you would look through the negatives and decide which image you would want to print.  Before you print it, you would put it in the enlarger and do a series of tests, times, to work out what the right time for the image would be, the correct exposure, so to speak.  Then you would decide which filter to use to give you the contrast you wanted.  The print would then be made.

scindustrial-0031You have the print in your hand and you think, well the sky is too blown out, I better do some dodging there, this is where you would use your hand or a paddle or something and hold it over the area, but move it quickly as well so you didn’t get sharp edges.  This was also how you burned in a area that wasn’t dark enough.

While I was doing my photography course, we spent the year in the dark room and we were taught so many different ways to do things in there.  I don’t know, but isn’t it all silosclouds-0152manipulating the image to get something special.

The people who were envied in the days of film, were those that had darkrooms.  However, today in the world of digital, people who manipulate their images are called cheaters.  I don’t quite understand how it is okay if I do my images in the darkroom and manipulate them it is okay, but if I do that in Photoshop then I aren’t being true to the image.

It seems only now in the world of digital that people think you can take images with a camera and they won’t need anything done to them.  It was never the case in film, not that I was ever aware of.  If you were capable of that you were considered a very skilled and masterful photographer, certainly not a cheater.

scslaughterhouse0020Of course, nothing compares to being able to see a shot in camera and take it.  I think being able to capture something in the camera first is the most important step.  If you have that first, then what follows will only add to that.

I do believe that some people over manipulate their images.  They have learned many tricks and it becomes more important to show those than getting a great image.  I often see images that I think are fantastic, but they have overdone the post production work.  I certainly have to put myself there, and have done it many times in the past, but I do hope that I am doing a much better job these days.

Perhaps the real skill is learning when to do things and when not too.  Being able to judge the image as the image and not some post production piece of digital art.  I also hate that term, but that could be me.  For me, the post production is the part I could possibly love just as much as actually taking the photo.  I have my images, that I have been out to take, and now I want to see where else I can take it.

Do you manipulate your photos?  Why do you you?  Do you think it is wrong to do it? What do you think makes a good image?  Do you love doing post production work?walhalla0096

These posts are a great way to share knowledge, so please contribute.

I will approve them, as long as they are nice and not nasty in any way.

Feel free to respond or reply to other comments.  It would be good to generate some discussion. I do like it when you start talking amongst yourselves.  

If you have a topic that you would like discussed, or a problem you need help with then please send me an email and we will see if we can do a post about it.

All the images in the post are all images taken with black and white film and developed by me, except for one.  I did have a darkroom for awhile.  I will put them in a gallery for you now.

Rules, Rules, Rules

scfalls-0002bw1My latest post on Photographers.com.au is now up, I hope you will go and check it out.  It is about the rules that we follow or don’t follow about composition.

Please take a look, here is the link to the post

Rules, Rules, Rules  and it would be great if you could let me know on that blog what you think.

Can I just add, that all the photos in the post are from my film days.  One taken in my first couple of months of getting a SLR camera.

Same Scene Different Composition – Part 2

Just over a week ago I did an image of the tower from the Manchester Unity Building and called it Part 1, I knew when I did it that I would want to try doing it again.  Stretching Up - 2nd VersionI like this version a lot better than the other one.  I did a lot more to draw out the details in the image using the blur feature and masking.  I also redid the sky.  I didn’t go all the way back to the start, but rather chose an earlier state.

I am not totally happy with this composition.  I like it in the portrait mode, though I really want to go back now and take more photos.  I think I know what I want to get now.  I feel as though I understand the building so much more now.  I know I was invited to come and take photos, but there is a point where I don’t want to wear out my welcome.  I hope they will let me come back to do the tower again.

Since I was pretty happy with how I processed the image this time, I thought it might be good to see what would happen if I used Silver Efex on it.

Stretching Up - Silver EfexTaking the colour out of it, well I thought it would ruin the image, but I don’t think it has at all.  I like how you just focus on the details and the textures in the fascade of the building.  The detail is so intricate, when I am working on it, I enlarge it a lot so I can work closer, and I get lost in the intricacies of the craftmanship.  It really is a stunning building.

Stretching Up - Color EfexThis time I used Color Efex.  It took me a while to find something that I thought would work.  I quite like the washed out look of this.  I like what it has done to the fascade.

I have left the flag pole at the top, I know some thought it was something else, but I tried it without and I didn’t like it.  I like the illusion that the tower continues up.  It seemed flat without it.

I should send some links to the Kia, the man who invited me to photograph the building and let him see some of the images I have done of it.  It has been a wonderful experience.

Compacting the Market

Last week I said I was going to the Daylesford Market, well, I got the days wrong, so we ended up going back to the market at St Andrews.  I decided that instead of taking my DSLR again I would try my daughters Nikon Coolpix L120 which she got for her birthday last year.

Recently I have heard from some people that think that because they use a compact camera they don’t need to worry about how their images look.  I was sorry to hear this.  I know that a compact camera has limitations, and there isn’t a lot you can do with it, but you can compose your images.   Learning about composition is very important to anyone who wants to take images, even those using a compact camera, or the camera on their phone.  I am not going to go into the rules of composition and things like that, but I hope if you have a CC (compact camera) you will compose your images thoughtfully.

Don’t you love this stall, the woman at the back did have someone else sitting beside her knitting as well, but she went to help a customer.  Controlling the light was a little difficult with CC, you can see how the hat in the foreground on the right is totally blown out and would seem to be glowing.  The camera did seem to have a lot of trouble with the full tonal range, the lights to the darks.

This is like an aisle down the market, or that could be up the market.  I thought it was a good image to show you the setting.  It really is like a bush market.  It really adds to the ambience of the place.

Taking this image, I put the camera down below waist height, it was good not having to get down myself.  I could see the image in the back of the camera.  I could probably do the same on my DSLR, but I have never bothered to work it out, I do like looking through the viewfinder.  I think also, if you are looking through the viewfinder then you are less likely to miss things that might be on the edge.  However, I did enjoy just pointing the camera and taking photos.

Again, you can see the camera had trouble with the very white sky and the foreground.  I think this is just something you have to live with.  I am sure in photoshop you could do things to fix it, I didn’t really try, I wanted to be able to show you.

This is something I find quite amazing, there are quite a few places where you find tools, second hand I believe.  This image was done quickly, the camera was taken out and I pointed it and then I clicked.  Haha, get it, point and click.

Again the flooding of the white down into the image is happening again.  I think it was one of those things where the day was overcast, but it was very bright.  The camera really had it’s work cut out for it.

This man had lots of tools around this tree.  He held onto that saw on the right and he did seem a bit scary, but I am sure he was very nice.  He had some interesting tools.

I did try and fix the sky in this and make it less intrusive, but I didn’t have a lot of luck.

This is my daughter Klara getting a Henna Tattoo.  She has been wanting one for a long time and was so happy that Nomadic Tara was there doing her henna tattoos, so Klara sat down for one.  You can see the design she picked there in the left corner, sorry I don’t know what the design is.  We had a lovely time talking to her and seeing where she goes.  She was a very lovely woman, as are most people at the market.

This image is probably the best out of the ones I took.  I didn’t take many, but it was so different doing photos with a compact camera, certainly very challenging.  I tried to remember to compose each image and take each one with thought.  I hope you can tell that.

It was a lot of fun playing with a camera like this, really takes you back to basics, which is a good place to go from time to time.  One of things I love about the phones these days is the cameras in them.  I have a Samsung Galaxy S3 and I like playing with the camera in it.  I have a few apps as well, Instagram, HDR etc, though a new one I got, Paper Camera, which I purchased for 25cents is turning out to be a lot of fun.  Photography should be fun, but serious sometimes as well.

I heard from Canon today and the cameras are arriving tomorrow, which will be great, just in time for the weekend.  I have also heard from Crumpler so that is good news as well.  Lots happening which is great.  I was also approached by someone last night about some software, but I have to check it out first.

Awards

My Travels and Photography has nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger Award

http://exxtracts.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/two-blogger-awards/#comment-460

So thank you very much, it is really appreciated.

Some Expensive Real Estate

When I woke up this morning, I had planned on going to Mostsalvat to take photos.  Montsalvat is an artists colony in Eltham.  They have some beautiful buildings and it is an amazing place.  I wanted to go in the morning, but then I realised I had to be somewhere at 12, so there was no time to go.  I had to think about where else to go and there was one place I’ve been meaning to get to for years and late afternoon was the perfect time of day for it.

On Brighton Beach are a number of these boxes.  They are a famous landmark in Melbourne.  It is amazing that I haven’t photographed them before.  They appear in many publications about Melbourne and by the number of people there taking photos, I would say it is a very popular place to go and take photos.

I took all the images with 5 bracketed shots and they are all HDR’s with various degrees of post editing.  Again, I’ve used Photomatix for the HDR’s and Photoshop CS5 for the post editing.  I decided that HDR’s would be a good option due to the cloudy sky and the brightness of the boxes.

I really wanted to capture the boxes straight on with the clouds behind them.  I like the contrast between the clouds and the colourful boxes.

The boxes have a very long history in Melbourne and there is a website that gives lots of information about them.  If you are interested click here.  They are all privately owned and when they come up for sale, they seem to sell for around $200,000.  They are an expensive piece of real estate.  They have no amenities, you can’t live in them.  You have to pay rates, apparently they are around $500 a year.  Not bad for a wooden box that just sits on the beach.

There are a lot of them, no idea how many exactly.  They all have numbers and they are all painted in very different ways.  They are certainly very colourful.

I took my daughters with me and I think I really need to start going on my own.  One of them didn’t bring a jacket, even though I said she should, so she was cold and wanted to go.  I should have know it would happen.  I get worried about going places on my own, so I should start to get over that and just go.

I was hoping to show one of the photos I took with Instagram, I sent it to facebook, but it has disappeared into cyberspace somewhere.  If I ever find what happened to it, I will post it.  So enjoy the beach boxes.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 28,400 other followers