The simplest question in photography is also the most complex: What makes a good photo? It isn’t enough to say that a good photo comes from its lighting, composition, subject, and so on; this question has a deeper answer. Good images – as different as they may be from one another – all stem from the same roots: The photographer has a strong goal for the photo, then expresses that goal in the most effective possible way.
At the end of the day, there’s only one reason why people like good photos. It’s a simple concept, really, but it also forms the foundation for all of photography. Emotion. For a photo to succeed, it has to resonate with your viewer. That could happen for a number of reasons, ranging from your subject to your composition. But the strongest tool to capture emotion is far more fundamental than that — it is, quite simply, your light.
Composition is critical. If you want to take powerful photos, it’s one of the most important parts of photography. Still, a lot of photographers start out only hearing about the rule of thirds, and they never go more in depth on how to compose better photos. The good news is that you can learn more about composition — and you should. It’s a deep topic, and there’s no way to cover everything in just one article, but I’ll do my best to hit the biggest points here.
How is it that two photographers can visit the same landscape at the same time, but one of them manages to take a better photo? It’s not about equipment, or camera settings, or sharpness. Instead, it’s all about composition. Composition is how you arrange the elements of your photograph to guide a viewer’s eye. How do you pick a good composition for your landscape photos? There are two elements that matter more than anything else: simplicity and visual weight. In this article, I’ll share some tips for using them correctly.
When my wife and I are out and about on a photography tour I like to let my mind wander and keep my eyes ‘fresh’ so I don’t get too locked in on one particular type of image composition. We recently spent a couple of weeks in Nova Scotia doing some field work for an eBook project. Since the emphasis of that endeavour is landscape, seascape and shoreline photography we did focus the majority of our time on those subjects. As a result, visits to Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg, and many small, seaside communities were on our itinerary. Many of the images captured were fairly complex scenes as could be expected. This article shares a couple of dozen photographs that highlight some of the simplicity, patterns and details in Nova Scotia that we experienced and included in some images.
Composition, in general, can seem like a fuzzy concept to many photographers. Trying to frame an image in a way that “works” is not something that is intuitive, even for people who have been taking pictures for years. And, unlike other aspects of photography — focusing, selecting a sharp aperture, exposing properly — composition has no correct answer. The best you can do is to create something that looks good to you, or looks good to your intended audience. Still, there are some composition tips that can help make this abstract topic a little more concrete. One of my favorites is to give your subjects their own personal, breathing space in your photos, so that they aren’t cut off or bunched up against anything else in the image.
As people look at photos on smaller and smaller screens, there has been a growing trend towards taking photos that are more and more minimalist. Especially on platforms like Instagram, minimalism is exploding; it’s everywhere, and it has been for a while now. There are some pros and cons of minimalism, and I have mixed feelings about how common this trend has become, but there’s no denying its popularity. In this article, I’ll cover some of the main reasons you’d want to capture minimalist photos, along with some tips for using this style of photography as effectively as possible.
A path to the discovery of self. We’ve all seen it. Photographs pour fourth like a never-ending stream as wave after wave of photographers visit the same tired spots trying to put down their mark. Every photo seems to literally vibrate with dramatic lines, amped color, and skies ablaze with crimson light. Enough already!
In the first of a series of follow-up articles to The Quality of Light, I have posted this article to share a series of photographs (along with the thought processes behind them) that I hope will accentuate the interplay of light, directionality, shadows, and mood in landscape photography. As previously discussed, the directionality of light is a powerful factor in defining the quality of shadows, the contrast, textures, and three-dimensionality of a scene, as well as the mood and emotion that the photograph will convey. In particular, unidirectional light qualities (e.g., side lighting and backlighting) serve this purpose well in landscape photography.
People frequently ask me what exactly is fine art photography? Before I answer, I usually take a big breath and brace myself to answer the question in the time it takes to ride a few floors in an elevator as they usually expect a quick answer. And, despite my apprehension to answering their question, I have come to realize that most good answers are the ones that are simple and direct. Hence, I begin by clarifying that fine art photography does indeed have objective criteria despite falling in the subjective and vast realm of art.