Have you ever heard someone say that a telephoto lens “compresses” the background or “flattens” an image? What exactly does this mean? The perceived distance between your subject and the rest of the scene is dependent on two things: where you stand relative to your subject to take the photo and the focal length of the lens you choose. In this short article, I want to discuss this type of perspective distortion, and how to use it to compose exciting photographs.
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.
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 surrounding elements of the scene along with my subjects. While you can certainly take fantastic photos isolating your subjects with creamy bokeh, I believe that decorating your shots with creative framing will help you add some substance and a pleasant visual appeal to enhance the story.
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. This is the area that many of us, including myself, struggle with the most. Despite the difficulties and the challenges, it is important to keep on advancing the “photographer’s eye”. Sometimes we look at a beautiful image and really like it, but have a hard time understanding exactly what in particular attracts us to it. Is it the beautiful light, the composition or the subject itself? An untrained eye often sees certain elements of an image, while neglecting to see other, equally important elements that make an image successful. Being able to see and visualize all the minute details in order to properly execute a photograph is something we all need to continuously work on, because those details really do matter. Personally, I find great help in “dissecting” a solid photograph, to try to understand what kind of thought process and work went into making it. During this process, I pay close attention to everything from light, framing, composition, colors, subject, area of focus and other details, so that I can apply that knowledge in the field. In this article, I would like to present a landscape image that I recently captured in Joshua Tree National Park and go through the process of unveiling everything that went into making this image.
Please note that the below article is compiled from some of the chapters from our upcoming eBook “Creative Landscape Photography” that Spencer Cox and I are currently working on. This will be our first eBook, specifically written on the subjects of Light, Vision and Composition when photographing landscapes.
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.
In this 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 close range, the rationale for exposure loss during magnification, and guidance on how to correct for this exposure loss. To illustrate these principles, I will share my own empiric observations, review the pertinent calculations that govern magnification and exposure loss compensation, and discuss select photographs that I have made at close range. Hopefully, this article will help beginning and advanced photographers grasp the physics of light at close range and take command and control of magnification and exposure compensation. Although I crafted this article from the framework of a photographer using traditional close-up and macro equipment (i.e., bellows, extension tubes), the use of an external light meter (i.e., non-TTL metering), and continuous lighting (e.g., natural light, lamps), the tenets and technical considerations for close-up exposure compensation are still relevant to those photographers who prefer automation, TTL metering, and electronic flash. Finally, I will wrap up the discussion by sharing some thoughts on the use of film as a tool for learning the visualization process.
Since the early days of film, panoramic photography has been synonymous with landscape and architectural images, and sometimes with other genres like street and wildlife photography. By combining two horizontal frames of film, typically 120 medium format, some film cameras actually shot panorama photographs by design. Most of these cameras emerged in the latter half of the twentieth century, bringing the panoramic format to the public eye. The panorama had existed long before this time, of course, but its popularity has only grown — and with good reason. Panoramas are fun and dramatic, and their subtleties are just as important in today’s mostly-digital age as they were during the heyday of film. In this article, I will discuss some of the important but less-common benefits of taking panorama images, as well as sharing a set of my photographs from Iceland in the classic 6×17 aspect ratio. If you are new to panoramas, you might enjoy reading our general panorama tutorial first.
In this fourth installment to this series, I have selected a series of photographs that I made with long exposures on three film stocks to share in the context of a discussion of film reciprocity departure and the use of filters in color film photography. Although I had originally intended to include a discussion of exposure corrections for close-ups in Part IV, in the interest of brevity I decided to defer this topic to a final Part V to this series. Of note, reciprocity departure and filtration in color film photography are complex and interesting topics. This article is not meant to be a comprehensive treatment of both topics, but rather an introduction that I may expand upon in future articles.
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.
Famous scenes — landscapes, wildlife, buildings — are famous for a reason: they are spectacular, and often easy to access. You have seen these photographs, undoubtedly: a sepia-toned photograph of the Eiffel Tower, perhaps, or a dusty herd of wildebeest in the sun. Glacier Point at sunset, and Mesa Arch at sunrise. These are some of the most incredible sights on the planet, and it is no wonder that photographers flock to them; in many cases, photographers are the very reason that these sights are on the map in the first place. I have nothing against photographers who focus on these beautiful scenes, and I wholeheartedly admire those who photograph them well. Indeed, as photographers, we too often get caught in the idea of taking unique photographs at a famous location, when the most beautiful scene may be the one staring us in the face.