Have you ever seen something that looks so out of place that it catches your eye? Well catch it with your lens too, because contextual positioning of subjects in interesting or unusual/unexpected areas creates visual interest. This is what I refer to as controlling the context of your subject. So many times I’ve heard people tell me “but how can I change the surroundings?” The answer lies not in changing the surroundings of subjects you want to shoot, butin reversing that idea: find unusual subjects in your given surroundings. Say you are on a photo walk and in a city area. Well, try and find subject matter that contradicts the sense of city. Read more
I was reading a book recently called “Beyond the Obvious” by Phil McKinney (great book by the way) that challenges people to think about concepts and questions, and then encourages people to look beyond the knee-jerk reactions and responses. This same mentality exists in the world of photography. We see a scene, a portrait, or something that catches our eye and our instinct is to capture that “something”.
McKinney illustrates his point in asking the reader to answer the question:
“What is half of 13?”
He then goes on to show that there are many responses to this. The canned answer is always 6.5, and that’s what came to my mind too. But in going “beyond the obvious”, he shows that if you think about it from the perspective of say, a deck of cards, and 13 cards in a suit. Since the ten, jack, queen and king all are values of 10, then really, half of thirteen in that scenario is 5.5, not 6.5. You could also say that half of thirteen is really “thir” with “teen” being the second half! By illustrating that you can divide either numerically or semantically, entirely different perspectives, thoughts, and answers can be right at the same time! Once I got on the mental plane of looking at things differently, my own result was that half of 13 could also be 1 or 3 – applying the semantic concept to the number…
That is such a great concept, and one I’ve always tried to help people understand here in many different ways. The “half of thirteen” way is probably one one the most succinct I’ve ever seen though. Let’s take that concept now and apply it to photography. Go get your camera! Right now…seriously! Go get your camera, and pick some random object in your room, office, or where ever you happen do be. I don’t care if it’s your SLR, P&S, or camera phone.
Now what? Take 13 pictures of that object. Make each one different! Change the angle, change the light, change the object itself. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do 13 different things. I can guarantee you that at least one of those photos will be something new, unique, and even compelling. Now, take the most compelling one, and post it here.
To get you started on the right mentality, if you’re not already, here’s my own set of thirteen:
The shots above come from the “Wreck of the Peter Iredale” – on the coast of Astoria, Oregon. Now, granted, the setting sun, and the unique nature of the composition made my 13 shots a little easier, but there’s now reason you can’t do the same. Take a speaker and shoot it from as many angles as you can. Run out of angles? Try a different tack and change the lighting! What happens if you pop an on-camera flash? Try throwing your hand up to act as a barn door of sorts. There’s no end to potential…it just takes thinking outside the box!
Guest Post by Joe Farace
One of the best things about photographing architecture is that your subject doesn’t move around but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be moving around to find the best possible angle. In fact, there are only two main considerations when photographing any kind of a building: The time of day and the camera placement. I think it was Ansel Adams who once said :the difference between a good picture and a bad one is knowing where to place the camera.” Sometimes you don’t have a chance to scout a building before photographing it but if you do it will be obvious that either shooting in the morning or afternoon will produce the best results.
Tip #1: To produce the minimum amount of noise in an image, I prefer to use relatively low ISO settings to minimize noise. To me that means using the lowest “standard” setting your digital SLR is capable of producing for the given lighting conditions. That does not include any expanded or extended settings that are possible to using the camera’s custom function, which can in many instances increase noise. For night architecture shooting increased shutter speeds increase noise, so it becomes a balancing act between ISO and shutter speed. You find the perfect intersection of the two by shooting some tests before shooting it “for real”.
Tip #2: Try to keep the buildings’ lines as straight as possible. I divide my time shooting architecture equally between hand holding and tripod mounted exposures but when tripod-mounted I find a double level bubble accessory, one for horizontal alignment and another for vertical, slipped onto the camera’s hot shoe make its easy to keep all my lines straight.
Tip #3: Try to avoid Keystoning. If you’re photographing a tall (more than three stories high) building, don’t shoot too near its base. This will make the base of the building look too large compared to the top. Find a higher advantage point and if possible bring your own ladder to make your picture. But I realize that it’s not always possible. You can correct it in Photoshop using Edit > Transform > Perspective and that can save some images but it’s no substitute for a PC (Perspective Control) or TS (Tilt-Shift) lens.
Tip #4: Apply standard compositional rules. The ubiquitous Rule of Thirds states that an image can be divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. Aligning elements in a photograph with these four points creates more than simply centering that element. I treat these kinds of “rules” as suggestions so let your eye be the final judge of what looks best.
Tip #5: Ignore some rules. The human eye sees parts of a photograph in the following order: sharpness, brightness, and warmth. The first thing the eye notices is the sharpest part of the photograph, next it gravitates to the brightest part of the image, then finally to the warmest. By placing your subject in accordance with these rules you get to control how people look at your photographs.
Some people call placing the subject of your photograph in dead center the “bull’s eye” syndrome and in many cases applying the rule of thirds to your photograph will produce a better looking photograph than might otherwise be the case but I didn’t think that rule is cast in concrete and other rules that govern how the human eye looks at elements within a photograph bear equal weight.
Visit Joe Farace at his blog “Saving the World, One Pixel at a Time“ (www.joefaraceblogs.com)