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.
The concept of personal style is a fundamental topic in all art, not just photography. Everyone has their own way of seeing the world, and everything that people create is based upon this underlying uniqueness. In terms of photography, though, even mentioning personal style can seem strange — since our work is inherently based upon the real world, is it even possible to have a unique style? This question is especially relevant for fields like landscape and wildlife photography, which often rely 100% on the scene that nature presents to you, rather than any elements you add yourself. How can you insert your own personality into an image that mirrors the way the world actually looked at one point in time? It’s a complex question. Things get even trickier if you look into all the features that must be copied perfectly in order to produce a convincing forgery (or a benign imitation) of another photographer’s personal style — and, even further, the implications of analyzing and imitating your own personal style. In this article, we will explore the topic of personal style and how you can find it in your photography.
A few weeks ago, I visited Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera in Barcelona Spain, which in 1984 was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. It was the last civil work designed by renowned architect Antoni Gaudi, who was the best-known practitioner of Catalan Modernism. When visiting La Pedrera, I walked onto the stepped roof called “the garden of warriors”; called so because of the chimneys which appear to protect the sky lights, and discovered to my disappointment that due to the size of the crowd and the presence of a fence, I wouldn’t be able to photograph the entire architecture of the roof in a single shot.
Among the many articles I have read here, at Photography Life, the most controversial are the ones that especially call my attention. Despite being against the polemics, I am in favor of sincere dialogue, because through dialogue we can grow internally too. In my opinion, there are several steps that one can take in order to make better pictures. Therefore, I invite you all to carry out a reflection on the subject.
You know the drill. You pick up a magazine or browse a website and flip through the photos. Most you look at for less than a second, but a select few grab your attention and demand a longer look. What’s different about these select photos? What makes some photos great and others mediocre?
Have you ever wondered why you are instantly drawn to some photographs, but not to others? Or why some of your images lack that wow factor that you see in other’s. It may be related to how you compose your pictures. How a photograph is composed has a huge impact on how long we look at it. The longer our brain is allowed to wander through an image, the more likely we are to like it. Photographs that are not composed well do not have staying power, and are quickly discarded by our brain. In this article I want to discuss four very basic compositional tips. I won’t be talking about the “rule of thirds” or “leading lines”, but rather four pointers you should consider before you take a picture. These tips will save you a lot of post processing time, and will allow you to create much stronger images.
Less philosophy and more actual photography this time, leading the eye into a scene is one of the tenets of composition (at least for me) and there is a multitude of ways in which this can happen. An image of something or somewhere can be a more rewarding experience for the viewer if they are led into, through or across it, spending longer to absorb and take in the scene. Advanced photographers will (I hope) forgive the simplicity of this article; I am no kind of expert on composition but I thought I would share some ideas.
I have never liked the phrase “rules of composition.” To me, it seems too formal, suggesting that such a complex topic as composition can be boiled down to a few quick tips. So, in a blatant attempt to out-do John Sherman’s provocative “Is Nikon’s New 500mm FL Too Sharp?” title, I have aimed this article at the heart of photography school’s most basic lesson in composition: the rule of thirds.
Balance is one of the least-discussed principles of good composition, but it is perhaps the most important. Photographers, consciously or not, make an important decision for every image: should the composition be balanced or imbalanced? To some degree, every photograph in existence has elements of both balance and imbalance, which makes this topic crucial for photographers looking to improve the strength of their images at the most fundamental level.
You already know a great deal about the composition choices that I make. You know my thoughts on what matters most in photography, the rule of thirds, central composition and element placement at the edges of the frame. Whichever preference is yours, I certainly hope you’ve learned something from reading those articles. Now, I am about to share something else with you, and here is where we start: regardless of where I place the important elements in my photography, whenever I have the chance I always, always surround, enhance, bathe them in negative space.