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.
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.
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.
Hello, my name is Rick Keller. I am an amateur photographer who lives in San Diego, CA, one of many readers of Photography Life, and an occasional participant in its forums. Recently, after having participated in the Photography Life Photo Critique forum and Weekly Critique Section, Nasim Mansurov graciously and enthusiastically extended me an invitation to write a guest article for Photography Life to share more of my film work and discuss the tools and methodology that I use. I wholeheartedly accepted the invitation. As I pondered this task, it was immediately apparent that I could write such an article in a variety of ways, each of which might lead to a discussion of additional subtopics in both general photography and film photography. As I contemplated a specific topic to discuss, I felt that it would be more meaningful and productive to write an article that is both interesting and educational as opposed to a prosaic description of a few photographs and the choices of tools. As tempting as it is to delve straight into a detailed description of his/her work in photography, I concluded that I could not in good conscious write a pure show-and-tell article on my film exploits without first describing my general approach to photography – an approach that is grounded in classic teachings, shapes my contemplative process, guides why and how I choose my compositions, and ultimately determines the subsequent process of making the print. Then, and only then, would I feel comfortable writing a dedicated article on my film work. Thus, after much deliberation, this is how I decided to proceed with this invitation. In this essay, I will briefly discuss the history of a fundamental, yet still under-emphasized, concept in photography along with an integral (and underrated) tool that epitomizes this concept. Subsequently, in a follow-up article, I plan to share an essay that chronicles one of my of most cherished photographs and which I believe illustrates the emotional and creative process of visualization. And in a third follow-up article, I will share a select group of photographs that I have made on film and briefly describe the technical process involved and the ancillary services that I use for development, scanning, printing, as well as introduce other subtopics for a future discussion.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.