Through the Looking Glass, Part 2

by Penni L Smith on February 23, 2013

Last week, we explored how taking just a few seconds to really look at the image before we snap a photo will improve the end results. We can avoid distracting or interfering backgrounds, for one thing. We can also compose a more pleasing and effective shot.

Remember, the camera sees and records everything. Your eye sees selectively, noticing the subject and disregarding the rest. You have to actually take a moment to view the image as the camera will.

Along with fulling checking out the background, composing the shot well and examining the lighting will help you get the very best results into the image.

Fill the Frame

As much as possible, get close to your subject. Fill the photo with the object you are trying to capture.

Penni, distantI sometimes ask people to take a photo of me, and I will end up with something like this first image on the left. I have to tell them to fill the Penni, closeframe to get what I really want, which is more like the second on the right.

One of my father’s favorite things to do was to plant a family member in front of some building or natural feature. Unless you were looking for scale, it was a terrible arrangement. The people were too small to really see, and they detracted from the other feature. Concentrate on your subject and fill the frame.

boys-in-oceanSometimes, however, extra background does serve a purpose. In this photo I took of two boys playing in the ocean, it’s effective to have water taking up more of the image. It emphasizes the size and force of the ocean, and makes their play more interesting.

Whatever you choose to do, do it on purpose. Remember, take multiple shots.

Turn the Camera

This should be one of the most basic and natural concepts, yet people often don’t think about it. When you have a vertical subject, take a vertical photograph (they call the layouts “portrait” penni-and-tygraand “landscape” for a reason). Here’s another photo I requested, but I wasn’t after an expanse of plants. The image was much better once the photographer turned the camera and filled the frame.

Check the Subject Location

This is one of my favorite photos of me and my beloved dog Wonder. My only regret is that there is so much tree above my head, and so much of our bodies unseen. Moving the camera down would have improved the photo a lot. Still, this was a penni-and-wonderspecial moment, so if taking the extra second or two to better compose the shot results in losing it, better to take it.

The Benefits of Editing

Unlike the issues with the background that we discussed last week, these issues with composition can be easily addressed afterward. Even the most basic photo editing software allows you to crop the photo, slicing out the excess background or even turning a landscape image into a portrait cut.

So why worry about composition when it can be so easily fixed? Well, when you crop, you are losing part of the image. To get back to similar dimensions as the original, you have to enlarge it. This can expose flaws, produce grain, or show off a lack of resolution. With the high megapixels of today’s cameras, this is less of an issue than it once was. Still, the better the photograph you start with, the better one you will have after editing.

Take a moment. Check your background for distractions and protrusions. Check your composition. And take a great photo. Better yet, take many.

NOTE: No, I don’t think I’m a spectacular subject, but I never seem to think about getting permission from other people in my photos before I start writing.

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