Photography is the experience of making love to the moment, savouring it, caressing it with the lens, a moment of pleasant awareness.
Every photography admits that they have messed up a photo opportunity by fumbling, over reacting, and maybe attempting to manipulate the moment, when they should have been interacting with the moment.
The more we understand what we are looking at, the better the outcome.
Experiment with your position and angle
Regardless of your style and subject, you need to move your feet and find out what a difference it makes when you adjust the angle of a shot. Beginner photographers struggle with the idea of how to frame a shot.
The more you develop the habit of adjusting your angle and position, the more likely you are to build up an instinct for where you should be standing to take a good shot.
In photography instincts are extremely useful.
Learn to understand the light
The combinations of shadows and light will help you see the object more clearly, and it will offer ideas about how to set up your composition.
When you study the light around your subject, you’ll naturally create ideas for a good composition. When that happens the focal point will become more obvious.
You’ll see how to frame the shot. The frame in a shot is the area of the composition that you want to draw attention to.
Many beginners tend to believe that they must find a physical frame. Like a doorway or window, and have the subject stand within that pattern. This works, but it’s not what we really mean when we’re talking about framing a shot.
There’s a lot of psychology involved in what we find attractive, and what causes us to become fascinated by a certain area in a photograph.
Framing a shot is about how you treat a particular area in the shot, so it attracts more attention.
Out on the street, when you do street photography, there’s a lot of street furniture, and it does make the perfect set up for finding physical objects to frame faces and groups of people.
Look at the portrait below.
The focal point is on the face. It’s a portrait, so the face is the obvious point of interest. But how to frame it?
The photographer has wisely decided that the hands should be included in the lighting. This helps the viewer to do what viewers do, build a whole image in the mind, and decide for themselves which parts of the image are important to look at.
We fill in the spaces that we can’t see.
When we see people in the darkness, and catch a glimpse of their faces and their hands, we feel certain that they must possess legs and feet, and are probably wearing dark clothes.
The portrait above has been toned down, the suit is unimportant, but we catch a glimpse of it in places. The face is framed by a neutral shadowy background that has been pushed into boque — unfocussed. This frames the face.
Colours and Clothing
You can see that he is wearing a tie. What colour is it? How do you know that it’s red? The tie is mostly in shadow, and the colours have been dampened. There is hardly a point of local colour. Not a primary colour in sight, yet we know it’s safe to say it’s a red tie.
Colours can be toned down, balanced, put into deep shadows, and we will draw on our knowledge which colour we are looking at.
We learned about colours when we were children. But the vocabulary that we were given to describe colours was limited. When you say it’s Tan coloured, I might say that it’s English Red.
Many people say orange when they are describing red. Colours are complex, and important enough for a photographer to study — it’ll improve your way of looking, tenfold.
This idea helps us to balance colours so that we avoid stark and garish flashes of primary colours dominating; the face is more important than the tie.
Thinking about colour this way helps us to choose how to frame a shot.
It’s just one aspect of all the tools that photography can use to create photos that are worth keeping.
Composition and Framing Ideas
If the focal point framed is small but dominant, then it will become the obvious point of interest for the viewer. It dominates because of its position in the composition and creates balance for the viewer’s eye.
When we look at a horizontal image, we have preconceived ideas about roughly where the main point of interest should be, so our eyes start searching for it.
A compositional frame creates a border, so the content is stronger on the eye, and decides where the viewer should look, and sometimes, in which order.
A combination of real people, movements, and natural elements of interest, combine with the graphical elements of lines and shapes that attract the eye. It’s complex, and with tons of practise we become more and more adept at creating great photos that people love to look at.
The centre of an image is the most predictable area for a framed point of interest. When the framed point is not there, the intrigued viewer and searches further along the lines of composition.
The centre is a boring area of the photo because it is predictable as the first place to look.
This is where the use of either the rule of thirds comes in handy to line up a pleasing composition, or the Golden Section that most artists use.
You can experiment with placing your focal point just off centre, slightly higher, tilted and raised slightly off centre. Each adjustment makes an enormous difference.
It goes back to simple rule of thumb to learn to shift your feet, shift left or right, and you might see the best shot of your life.
Squat low and get a completely new perspective and centre point.
As you begin to experiment with various ideas of composition and framing a shot, you’ll notice that it has something to do with second nature. It develops into an instinct. Your own feelings are more important than technical ideas prescribed by calculations of the rule of thirds and compositional rules.
Human beings carry hundreds of thousands of years of conditioning within their psyches. Colours and shapes are meaningful to us because they would help us to discern between poisonous plants, and edible plants. Shapes in the night, deep in the shadows intrigue us, frighten us, spook us into thinking it might be a predator.
If you go out into the wilds with your camera, a lot of these deep seated psychological tools wake up and help you to take better photos.
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