What is Composition in Photography?

With the first article in our new Mastering Composition series, it is only fitting that we start off by discussing the very definition of our main topic. In this article for beginner photographers, I will outline the general meaning of the term “composition” in art. I will also briefly discuss the goal of composition, define what a good composition is and why it is such an important part of any work of art. At the end of the article I will provide you with a simple question that is also a hint on what is to come in future articles.

What is Composition in Photography

1) General Definition of the Term

The term “composition” applies not only to visual arts, but to music, dance, literature and virtually any other kind of art. In certain contexts, such as writing, this term may not be as widely used, but is just as valid nonetheless. In general, the term “composition” has two distinctive, yet related meanings.

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Lightroom Lens Corrections Explained

Since Lightroom version 3, Adobe has been providing a Lens Corrections sub-module within the Develop Module to correct various optical issues commonly seen on all lenses. It is a very powerful and complex tool that can be applied to one or many photographs with a couple of quick steps, potentially saving many hours of post-processing time. In this article, I will explain what the Lens Corrections sub-module is, how it works and how you can effectively use it to correct optical issues in your photographs. I will also show you a method of adding a lens profile manually, if you have unsupported lenses in your arsenal.

1) What is Lens Corrections in Lightroom?

Lens Corrections is a tool within Lightroom’s Develop Module (hence I often refer to it as a “sub-module”) that allows fixing such lens problems as distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting and perspective correction “non-destructively”, without leaving Lightroom. The beauty of the Lens Corrections feature in Lightroom, is that just like any other setting, lens corrections can be copied from one image to another, applied to hundreds of images at once, or can be set up as an import template, automatically applying corrections to images during the image import process. Keep in mind that lens correction is not a simple fix that applies to any lens – corrections are lens-specific. Since each lens model is designed with a unique optical formula, lens corrections must also be uniquely customized for each model. For example, one could not take a lens correction from the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G and apply it to the Sigma 35mm f/1.4G just because they share the same focal length and maximum aperture. Adobe staff spends time working with a number of different lenses and they continuously add support to new and existing lenses when new versions of Lightroom are released.

How does Lens Corrections affect images? Take a look at the following image sample:

Move mouse over to see before and after Lens Correction

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Wildlife Photography Tips: Ask Questions First, Shoot Later

You have heard it said, “Shoot first, ask questions later” but when it comes to wildlife photography, if you will ask questions first, you will get to shoot more later.  This quick tip for the beginning wildlife photographer encourages you to ask questions. While you might go to a park to find wildlife, some photo ops might be in your own backyard, literally, and if not your own backyard, maybe in your friend’s or neighbor’s backyard.

Grackle in Crabapple Blossoms

Some time ago, I was busy frequenting a local park looking for a bobcat that was being seen.  I made at least 20 visits and spent considerable time there looking for that bobcat.  I found tracks and evidence of its kills but I never found the cat.  On one particular day I had been out to the park for about 4 hours hiking and looking, all to no avail.  I got home and my wife asked, “Did you see the pictures of the mountain lion that so and so posted on their Facebook page?”  I asked where she had seen the mountain lion and it turned out that it was in her back yard.  When I heard this, I was a bit frustrated, as I had been within a few minutes of their home when I was looking for the bobcat and had I known that there was a lion there, I would have made a trip over there to try and see it.   By this time however, I knew that realistically, it was long gone.

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Photographing Cemeteries and Exploring Their Beauty

Photographers are always looking for something new to invigorate their photography. Sometimes visiting the same old haunts or taking the same types of photographs can get stale. When I mention that I love visiting historic cemeteries, I get quite a few strange looks. Some consider it a bit morbid. Others, uncomfortable with the subject of death, can’t seem to fathom going to a cemetery unless they have no choice! Suffice to say that the notion of visiting a cemetery is not usually at the top of people’s “Things I Would Most LikeTo Do This Weekend” lists!

1) Why Cemeteries?

It may be that having a cemetery just beyond my backyard fence or being within a 5 minute walk of another for much of my youth caused me to think of and look at cemeteries a bit differently than most. I never considered them spooky, haunting, or intimidating in any way. To the contrary, I was always fascinated by the older gravestones and more elaborate sculptures. I found cemeteries to be peaceful and calming – quite the opposite from how many are portrayed in television and films.

. St. Mary's Cemetery

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Introduction to Street Portrait Photography

In my opinion, street photography is a significant craft, geared towards preserving human history and history of any given society. It helps us preserve once-in-a-lifetime moments and capture truly authentic imagery. As many of us start getting weary and tired by the polished, glossy magazine looks we encounter daily, random portraits photographed in streets preserve that originality a lot of us crave, once again reminding us of real subjects and objects around us. Street portraiture is a big chunk of street photography and documentary. Today, I want to concentrate on giving you some tips on street portraiture. I should also warn you that the pointers I give today may work better for female photographers, rather than for boys with cameras :)

Street Portraits (11)

1) Brush up on your people skills

Photographing people close-up is a little different than photographing street architecture or doing documentary style street photography. While the main reasoning behind street photography itself is to get away from posed, artificial and repetitive, photographing random people provides a great opportunity to work with the raw beauty. But it is a challenging task for many of us – those people on the streets are not your paying clients, they do not know who you are and most of them do not wish to be photographed at all!

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How to Deal With Harsh, Midday Lighting

As photographers, light is something we are constantly concerned about. We need some sort of light source coming in, but from where and how much is always the question. A soft sun glow during the early hours of the morning or right before sunset is ideal, but often times wedding ceremonies or a client’s schedule does not allow for those prime shooting times. Light can take a normally plain image and transform it into a powerful and exciting picture, but what happens when you are dealing with harsh midday, overhead lighting? Luckily, there are a couple ways of dealing with this problem while still achieving beautiful pictures that both you and your clients will be happy with.

1) Shade – Even Lighting

The best way to avoid distracting facial shadows from midday lighting is to bring your subjects into a shaded area. That shade can be provided by a large tree, a building or really anything that is casting a big enough shadow to fit your subject. What we want to do is create even lighting where no direct sun is hitting the face or body, allowing the subject to be evenly lit. Make sure you are not using patchy shade where spots of light are coming through. This will cause uneven lighting and your subject will have spots of light hitting their face and body.

How to deal with harsh lighting

2) Backs to the Sun – Back Lit

If no shade is available, position your subjects with their backs to the sun. Doing this will block most of the direct light and cause their faces to be evenly shaded. This is called back lighting. This is sometimes easier to do with one subject because you can position them perfectly to make sure no sunspots are making their way onto the face. With two or more individuals it can be more of a challenge. Keeping their faces closer together can help eliminate some of the light spots coming through or you can use the taller subject to block the sun off of the shorter person. Make sure to expose for the subjects’ faces or they will be too dark to see any detail. Something to note is that the background will be overexposed when metering for the face in a situation like this.

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Introduction to Image Cropping

If you took workshops and coursework on photography, chances are you’ve heard every mentor talk about understanding composition and learning to crop within the camera. Doing so will yield greatly composed photos and will limit your time in post production. But from time to time, you will come back with badly cropped photos which might have distracting elements in the background and the composition may not look spot on. If you are photographing portraits, even the slightest distraction may draw the viewer’s attention to something else than what you originally intended the viewer to concentrate on. At times like these, instead of deleting the photo, I want to give it another chance. Memories are precious and I do not mind cropping the photo to preserve what is important. Cropping images in post production will give you another chance to re-frame your shots and there are a number of different ways you can do this to achieve desirable results.

Creative Cropping (15)

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How to Photograph Family Portraits

Of all things photography I love photographing family portraits. For me, family portraiture is generally more flexible than any other type of photography, and it gives me lots of opportunities to express my creativity. If you are thinking about getting into family portraiture or perhaps someone asked you to photograph their family, you might not know where to start and how to plan it all out. In this article, I will talk about photographing family portraits and provide some tips on simple things you can do to come back with photos that the family will treasure for years to come.

Family Portraits

1) Communication

It goes without saying that communication is key in people photography. From the day you receive the first e-mail from the client, make sure that you stay continuously engaged. Respond to inquiries promptly and keep your clients informed at all times, especially on any potential schedule changes. Portrait sessions are not weddings and there is always a chance that your client might forget when and where the photo shoot is supposed to take place. Therefore, put some reminders in your calendar to notify your client several days in advance about the upcoming session. I typically remind my clients about a week in advance via email, phone or Facebook first, then send another reminder the day before the session. If my client does not respond, I call them and make sure that they get my message. Effective communication is important for a busy pro, because the schedule can get packed very quickly. Rescheduling a missed photo shoot can get costly, especially if you have that one weekend day planned for a family outing.

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Time Saving Tips for Wedding Photographers

Summertime for wedding photographers in the northern hemisphere can be quite hectic! Since the beginning of May I have been shooting 3-5 portraits sessions and 1-2 weddings per week – that means before I have little time to process, edit, and complete a session/wedding before I am already onto the next one. It goes without saying that good time management is crucial for not falling behind. In this article, I will share a few time savings tips for busy photographers like me.

1 Laura Murray Wedding Photography Tips

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Hiring a Second Shooter for Wedding Photography

Many photographers prefer to have second shooters to help them out during events, especially big weddings. Hiring or becoming a second photographer to work along with you on a job might be very complicated, tricky and sometimes downright nightmarish. You hire a photographer to come and help you out during one of the biggest weddings of your season, and the photographer shows up late, completely unprepared, with empty batteries, no flash and a completely different camera system. If you wish to avoid such situations, read this post up and make yourself thoroughly prepared. It sure is a hard job to let someone else represent your business. But when you are ready, you can make the experience both pleasant and even memorable for all parties involved.

Hiring a second shooter (7)

1) The difference between a second shooter and an assistant

First things first, without diving into semantics too deep, I want to clarify the difference between a second shooter and an assistant. A second shooter is a photographer that is called/asked/hired to work alongside the main photographer for a particular event. An assistant, on the other hand, is not necessarily a photographer – it could be anyone that is hired to assist the main photographer in carrying his/her gear and perform simple tasks like holding lights, reflectors, etc. While second shooters can also perform assistant roles (if agreed upon earlier), keep in mind that they could be skilled professionals, just like you. Assistants, on the other hand, can be interns or student photographers, who are hired to assist and who are there to learn. Regardless of who you choose to work with, a binding contract with clearly stated duties and dues should be put together and signed in advance.

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