How Taking a Step Back Adds Story to Photography

Take a Step Back-2

We all have our strengths and weaknesses, as well as ways to deal with the latter. And it is only natural for us to sort of… drift towards our strengths. Hold on to them, practice as often as we can and, by doing so, get even better at them. And so, before I inevitably talk about close-up portraits (which I am not very good at), I thought I’d first discuss much more loosely composed photography (which, though far from having mastered, I dare say I am rather better at).

My word. This is such a relief to write about.

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Negative Space in Photography

Negative Space in Composition-5

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.

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Explore the Edges

Explore the Edges-1

If we see the rule of thirds as the default, “bread and butter” sort of composition guide, I can think of at least two ways to break that rule and distance your work from it. The first one is to use, against the advice of many photographers, central composition. It is a very natural, simple way of composing an image and generally results in a very “open”, peaceful, calm photograph. You could say it is classic. As I mentioned before, it is also one we instinctively learn first. The second way is completely opposite and perhaps much less “natural” to our eyes, yet one I adore at least as much as central composition. You see, if one naturally expects to find something of importance at the very center of a frame, the very edges of it might be the last place they’d look. And that sense of unexpectedness is perhaps the best part about it.

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Improving Eye Flow by Creating Corner Exits

image flow 2

Back in the day when I was working in corporate life, I gained quite a bit of experience creating and managing advertising, usually print based. When we designed ads, it became second nature for us to constantly think about fundamental concepts like visual depth, dominating elements, and ad balance. The goal was to achieve good eye flow in our ads. Since leaving corporate life I’ve tried to apply what I learned about advertising design to my photography. This article deals with something seldom discussed on photography sites: creating corner exits in our images to improve image eye flow.

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Central Composition is Brilliant

Central Composition Image Sample-5

After my previous, slightly unorthodox article on improving your photography, here comes another one. And, as you may have guessed from the title, I am about to say some nice things about a type of composition many consider to be downright boring. Here is what I say in return: cliché. When used well, I absolutely adore central composition, there’s nothing else quite like it.

Of course, there is a strong reason why so many photographers, when giving advice to beginners, start with the phrase “don’t put your subject in the middle”. So, in order to see central composition for what it really is, perhaps we should first understand why it’s so avoided. And the reason for it is surprisingly simple.

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Improve Your Photography

Improve Your Photography-1

As with every skill, be it conscious or instinctive, your ability to choose composition for any given moment you wish to capture improves with time, practice and experience. And it’s not just composition, of course, but the sense of light, peak moment, emotion. I strongly believe our photography, from a certain point, represents us not just as artists (especially because not all photographers are inherently artists, which is in no way a bad thing), but also as personalities. Our choice of light, mood, subject and/or object, environment, color and message mirrors that which we like, do not like, how we see, how we live, how we feel. It mirrors our character, for we imprint ourselves in our work, leave a signature made not with ink or light, but with our very essence. And so it is with composition. If you are a calmer person, prefer simple, few things and like your environment tidy, it is likely these personality traits will reflect in your photography and you will seek simple, minimalistic, tidy, static, calm composition choices. If, on the other hand, you are an active, emotional person, there’s a good chance you will take a more dynamic approach to composition with more subjects and perhaps even chaotic arrangement of elements within your work.

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The Importance of Straightening The Horizon and Aligning Lines

Portrait Sample #2

One of the most common mistakes I see when reviewing images submitted by our readers, or when reviewing portfolio images during our workshops, is a rather simple case of crooked horizons or badly aligned lines. Although most photographers are very well aware of this one, for some reason many simply fail to see such problems in their images. Now it is one thing when an image is tilted intentionally to create an interesting composition, and totally different when the photographer is not paying attention to or is unaware of the surroundings and background elements that are part of their photographs. In this article, I will demonstrate examples of crooked horizons and badly aligned lines, how they can be easily fixed in post-processing software like Lightroom, and talk about the importance of lines in composition.

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Using Foreground Elements to Create Added Depth

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Often when we are creating images, especially landscapes, we can get so focused on the main subject that we forget to think about incorporating a foreground element to help add depth and drama to our scene. There are a number of different approaches we can use. In this short article I’ll be illustrating three simple and effective ways you can incorporate foreground elements into your images. The first is something that I like to call a ‘bottom band’ during my landscape seminars. [Read more…]

The Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds Applied-4

Considering the rule of thirds is perhaps the most popular (certainly the best known) way of composing an image, but only a short while ago did it dawn on me that not everyone is familiar with this composition guide. But that’s alright. After all, the first reason why we are here is to learn. What I found slightly worrisome is that we didn’t actually have an article on the rule of thirds. It is about time we rectify the problem.

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