Rule of Thirds: Does It Really Work?

Perhaps you read our composition tips for landscape photography and realized something interesting: It never mentions the rule of thirds. If you aren’t familiar with this technique, you’re rare — the rule of thirds is, by far, the most common rule of composition you’ll find in photography. But does it actually work? Can it really improve your images? The truth is more complex than you may think.

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What is Landscape Photography?

The most fundamental part of taking good landscape photos is knowing what landscape photography is in the first place. I’m not talking about dictionary definitions here, either — what matters is how it works in practice. So, what is landscape photography, and why is it so amazing?

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The Quality of Light

In a follow-up to a previous article, “A Study in Vision, Light, and Shadows”, I decided to share my thoughts and experiences on my most inspiring topic in photography – light. For simplicity, I decided to write about light in a narrow context from the perspective and experience of a landscape photographer, since outdoors scenes are what I gravitate to. Much of the analysis and discussion that follows is equally applicable to other genres of photography, such as portraits, macro, still-life,…

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The Question of “Good Enough” Image Quality

One of the largest debates in the world of photography is split into two main camps. On one side are people who strive to take photos with the highest technical level of image quality — in everything from their equipment to their camera settings — for most of their photos. The other side of the debate says that photographs are more about the subject and emotion of the scene, and the image quality is only a minor factor. Neither side is…

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Why Good Photographers Take Bad Photos

Have you ever seen a spectacular image and been flabbergasted when you saw that the photographer was an amateur – and they used their phone? Or looked at the website of a pro only to be disappointed by a slew of boring photos? Maybe you know someone who knows everything about photography has has perfect technique, yet still takes lacklustre images. Counterintuitively, being good at photography does not guarantee good photos.

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A Rainbow and a Waterfall at Sunrise: The Making of a Photograph

After a week in Ireland, I have seen some incredible sights. This is a beautiful country, and the people are incredibly warm and welcoming. Although most days here have been rainy, I’ve tried to make the most of foggy landscapes and simply enjoy my time in such a unique place. However, the weather has made it difficult to take colorful sunrise and sunset photos, which is a bit unfortunate — it is no secret that golden hour is a wonderful time to take pictures. Still, there has been…

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Introducing Composition in Photography

Few topics in photography are as important – and as personal – as the composition that you choose. Composition has the power to convey exactly what you want to say with a photograph, guiding a viewer’s eye seamlessly across the frame. It has been called, with good reason, the strongest way of seeing. This article revisits some previous Photography Life articles on composition, covering the most important elements and discussing how they relate to one another.

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Dissecting My Favorite Photos from 2015 – Part III

In the previous two parts (I & II), I describe the careful planning involved in creating those images. Sometimes, however, with some luck, elements and light come together in several ways, (often unexpectedly), and create lasting, memorable moments. During those moments, it helps to stick to the basics, follow the light, and let your heart do the work. This third installment describes the amazing two hours I had at Sandy Stream Pond in Baxter State Park. I created 3 of…

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A Study in Vision, Light and Shadows

Three years ago, when I made my first photo tour through the magnificent landscapes of Iceland, I fondly recall an interesting dinner discussion with my fellow photographers. We had just returned to our guest house from a memorable photo shoot. As we shared good wine, food, and laughs, the discussion pleasantly turned to photography. After the seemingly prosaic and obligatory discussion of camera gear, we got around to more interesting topics such as light, travel destinations, and our individual exploits.…

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Dissecting My Favorite Photos from 2015 – Part I

Every January, I spend couple of days reviewing the photos I made the past year. My first step is to narrow those down to about 45 – 50 favorite images and then eventually to top 12 (the latter reduction often aided by a Facebook poll). I find this exercise rewarding and a very effective way of improving my photography skills. I thought of sharing these final 10 – 12 photos from 2015 with the Photography Life community including the preparation…

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Is The Orton Effect Taking Over Landscape Photography?

Have you heard of the Orton Effect? This post-processing technique has been around since the 1980s, if not earlier, but the trend has exploded tremendously in the past few years. If you haven’t heard of it, you aren’t alone – it only recently began to gain mainstream popularity. And yet, in some ways, the Orton Effect is swallowing the modern world of landscape photography. This is barely an exaggeration; after seeing the Orton Effect in practice, you should be able to spot…

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The Importance of Simplicity in Photography

At the heart of photography is the idea that you are conveying a message to your viewers. Perhaps you want to show the beauty of a waterfall or the drama of an incredible sunrise. Or, you may hope to depict the dark intensity of a jagged mountain peak. A photograph with a clear message can be as effective as possible; its composition, colors, subject matter, and lighting all add to the impression that you are trying to convey. And, more than any other element of composition, the…

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Looking For The Moment

I’ve written before about making the familiar unfamiliar with a view to creating a more original image or a different take on something. An important element of making an image more interesting than a mere capture can be to reveal a story or intrigue within it. In a world awash with random snaps and selfies it can be a challenge to find images that hold our attention.

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Framing Subjects with Natural Elements

You have probably already read some great articles at Photography Life regarding framing of your subjects and all the rules that are applicable while doing so (if you have not, check out the section on composition in the photography tips for beginners page). This time around, I want to draw your attention to framing subjects with natural elements to create compelling images. For me personally, photographing is like narrating a story, so I often find it important to incorporate the…

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Dissecting a Photograph: The Split Rock

While photographing famous landmarks and photo spots is usually a safe way to obtain a beautiful photograph, being able to scout and find own subject to photograph is a skill that many of us have to acquire at some point. Identifying good light, finding the right angle for proper framing and composition, pre-visualizing the end result and using the right tool for the job in order to create a unique and compelling image takes years of practice in the field.…

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Additional Questions on Ethics in Photography

The questions are as old as the technical advancements that made the mass reproduction of photographs possible in the first place: What are the role and scope of photography? What is it capable of, where do its limits lie? Which contents are acceptable, how does a photographer need to behave with his or her subjects? The relationship between photographers and the people they capture with their cameras has been discussed on numerous occasions, mainly in the context of war or…

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The Importance of Ethics in Photography

When the world saw the very first photographs, the idea of being able to capture the world as we see it took off rapidly. In a relatively short period of time, film photography evolved from black and white to color photography. From there, it made motion pictures possible, allowing us to see the world from our couches at home. When the first digital camera was invented, little did the inventors know that it would later revolutionize the world of photography…

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Visualization and Film Photography: Part V

In the final installment to this series, I have chosen to discuss one of my favorite topics in photography: close-ups. My goals with this article are to provide a basic understanding of light and exposure when photographing a subject at high magnification; to present a rationale for exposure density loss during magnification; and to provide guidance on how to correct for this exposure density loss.

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Read These Books and Become a Better Photographer

Better technique and appropriate gear can help you take better photos, but that will only take you so far. To reach the next level in this pursuit you need to become a student of photography. A student of photography is somebody who dives into the pool of photo history, soaks in the images of the masters, and seeks out the best work and wisdom of his or her contemporaries. A good student realizes that observing the work of others is crucial…

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