STEP 1: SHOOT USING AND VIOLATING THE “RULE OF THIRDS”
By popular usage, the “rule of thirds” must be the most commonly followed rule of photography—and the most often broken one. The idea of the “rule of thirds” is to divide your LCD monitor or viewfinder into nine areas like those found in a tic-tac-toe grid, regardless of the orientation of the photo. You then use these nine lines to help position important elements in your photo, as shown in the photo of a Maine crab shack in Figure 7.3 (CP 7.3). When shooting a scene with a horizon, try shooting with the horizon line lined up with one of the grid lines. The implication is that locating the focal point on one of these intersections is better than placing it in the center of the photograph. Figure 7.4 shows the same subject composed with the focal point in the center and at one of the intersections.Which one do you like best? When it feels right to follow this rule, do so; otherwise, break it!
STEP 2: COMPOSE SHOTS WITH AN EMPHASIS ON LINES, SHAPES, AND PATTERNS
A well-composed photo can hold your interest exclusively due to the lines, shapes, or patterns shown, not because of the subject or scene itself. A detail of an oval ceiling in a museum is shown in Figure 7.5. This is a good example of the beauty of simple curves in an architectural detail that was designed by an architect intent on creating a pleasing detail. In contrast, Figure 7.6 shows a very repetitive, symmetrical “cropped” view of the front of an old Ford truck. As you looked at it, did you first try to determine what it was? Then, did you begin comparing one side with the other to see whether the symmetry was perfect? If so, the photo caught your interest and that is good.
STEP 3: SHOOT TO “FRAME” YOUR SUBJECT
When possible, look at ways to “frame” your subject. You may be able to back up a few feet and have the branches of a nearby tree frame a landscape. If you shoot players in a sporting event, look for ways to frame the subject with spectators or other players. These extra people help to place the viewer in the scene. In the photo shown in Figure 7.7 (CP 7.7), the viewer gets the feeling of looking through the front window of one old truck to see others. Being able to have a view inside one truck helps you to imagine what the other old trucks are like, thus giving the viewer much more information than if you were to just shoot a photo of the outsides of the trucks.
STEP 4: SHOOT TO CAPTURE OBJECTS OR BACKGROUNDS
Shoot to capture objects and backgrounds—what is the point of that you may wonder? If you already use an image editor like Adobe Photoshop Elements, Adobe Photoshop 7, Paint Shop Pro, or one of the many other image editors, you already know the answer. An image editor allows you to combine parts of one image with another image. Many times you will find an absolutely outstanding sunset or sunrise, but you ren’t where you can shoot something interesting to go with the beautiful sky. At other times, you will find a great scene with a horrible sky.Maybe the sky is nothing but deep blue sky without clouds, or maybe it is the dreaded “bright white” sky that not only offers little to the scene, but makes shooting difficult as well. Using an image editor, you can take a good sky and combine it with a good scene with a bad sky! So, when you get a chance, shoot just for the objects or skies, knowing that you can use them in another photo later. Figure 7.8 shows a photo of a sky that was later used as the background for a new image created with an old farmhouse. When you take photos just for the objects or to be used as a background, think carefully how you should take those photos so that they will work with other photos. For example, the sky in Figure 7.8 was rich in color, yet fairly dark. Such a dark photo might be too dark to combine with many other photos, so four extra shots were taken with successively increased exposure to lighten the sky..
STEP 5: SHOOT TO TIGHTLY CROP THE SUBJECT
The natural inclination is to shoot an entire subject. If the subject is a clown, the most obvious shot is of the entire clown, or the top half of the clown. Consider tightly cropping your subject as shown in the photo in Figure 7.9. Likewise, when taking a photo of a banjo player, also consider a tightly cropped shot of just his hand and part of the banjo, as shown in Figure 7.10. Sometimes, seeing less is actually more!
STEP 6: SHOOT WITH DIFFERENT CAMERA ORIENTATIONS
Much to my surprise, I rarely find beginning photographers turning their cameras 90 degrees to shoot in “portrait” mode, where the long side of a photo is vertical. You have many good reasons to shoot this way when it is appropriate. Many subjects or scenes are “vertical” ones, and so you should shoot them vertically—just as some subjects are more horizontal in nature and should be shot horizontally. Besides shooting in vertical or portrait mode, you can also tilt your camera at any other angle, too. Figure 7.11 shows a photo of a ’56 Ford Thunderbird in front of a fancy home. I liked the idea of trying to shoot vertically, but I did not want the car to get too small relative to the whole picture, so I shot vertically and tilted the camera so the entire car still fit in the photo.
STEP 7: SHOOT USING DIFFERENT VANTAGE POINTS
The majority of the time that you view the world, it is from a point approximately five and a half feet up from the ground (depending on your height.) This view is considered to be the normal view—it’s most common and familiar—and hence, it can be the most boring vantage point. When you shoot, consider using a different vantage point so that you shoot with a less common perspective. Try lying down on your side (to shoot from a worm’s eye view) and shoot up at the subject. Or, find a way to shoot down on your subject (from a bird’s eye view). The photosshown in Figure 7.12 (CP 7.12) and Figure 7.13 show how much a simple change in vantage points can alter the perspective.Which one do you like most?
STEP 8: SHOOT AND DEVELOP YOUR OWN COMPOSITION IDEAS
If you completed the previous seven steps, you may have already begun to formulate your own set of ideas for composing photos. Your ideas may be based upon quality of light, the distance to the subject, the amount of distortion of the subject, the angle of view, depth-of-field, or any one of ten million other ideas. The more ideas you have and the more you shoot, the more you’re likely to develop a “style” of your own and to get good photographs—photographs that are not likely to be termed “cliché photos.” Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this technique and found it to be a useful one. The more you learn to previsualize each photo, the better your photos will be.