This blog was originally written as part of a travel photography series, but has been reposted due to requests to learn more about composition.
In this post, basic rules of composition and how it can help you take better photos are demonstrated. Using personal photos the basic rules of photographic composition that are explained and shown.
The rules that will be covered are no means are by no means a strict set of laws that one should follow to the letter. It’s easily possible to break/mix/combine/ignore these laws in order to create a more striking composition. But you have to start somewhere, and you need to know the rules of good composition first before you break them.
The rules to be adressed here are:
1. The Rule Of thirds
2. Leading Lines
3. Negative Space
1. The Rule Of Thirds
-One of the most basic rules in photography, you basically take the frame that you see in your camera’s viewfinder and split into 1/3rds, and from there place your intended focal point on an intersection of the lines or on one of the lines themselves. So instead of always putting your subject front and center, try putting your horizon line below the center or your subject a little bit off center.
Examples of the Rule of Thirds:
In the last landscape photo, multiple parts of the rules of thirds are used. The horizon line was placed below the center of the image, and the focal point (the sun) was placed a little further to the right of center, in order to create a dramatic effect.
2. Lead-In Lines
-Lines created within a photo, whether they’re physically present in the photo (e.g. a road) or not, can create a compelling image, as they add more depth within and draw the viewer into the world of the photo:
3. Negative Space:
-Negative space is leaving extra space in an image to create dramatic effect. It works very well with a dramatic/blank sky or an interesting positive space such as an ocean:
-Sometimes with images when you place them in certain ways, geometric shapes and paths can be created. In the following landscape photo, a triangle was created with the top of the monument at the foreground, the bottom of the same monument and the fort in the background:
As a final test try and see what rules were used with this image:
The answer: All of them.
1. The Rule Of thirds: The road is on the bottom third of the image.
2. Leading Lines: The road is used as a leading line to force the viewer into looking deeper into the image and at the mountain.
3. Geometry: A triangle is created by using the treeline and mountain and having them collide in one point in the distance
4. Negative space: Emphasis is placed on the mountain more than the road by giving it more space in the image.
By and all means experiment and see what works with you – see what your vision is. There are other rules of composition that are out there, so experiment and see what works with you.
As it’s the start of a new year, many couples have not doubt gotten engaged and are in the process of looking for vendors. While it can be an overwhelming experience looking through, meeting with, and choosing your venders, the process doesn’t have to be the same when you look for a wedding photographer.
Having gone through the process of planning a wedding, and being a wedding photographer myself, I’ve put together a list of 4 tips for any prospective couple looking for a wedding photographer for their needs. With these tips you’ll find a photographer compatible with your style of wedding, your personality, and the whole process will be easier and more fullfilling!
1. Book early: Always try to book as far ahead as possible. There are two great reasons for this:
- Availability: Booking earlier ensures that your photographer will be available for your date. The more popular the photographer, the less likely they will be available for your date as time gets closer to your wedding day.
- Payments: You just found them – the photographer of your dreams! It’s 3 months before your wedding, and you message them asking for availability and a quote. The photographer gets back to them and now, combined with the requests of all the other vendors, the payments start to get overwhelming and too much….This situation occurs too often in my world. The prospective bride and groom didn’t get overwhelmed at the thought of the photographer’s costs cobining with the other vendors, so they cut the photographer out and focus more on other vendors.
Newsflash: After the food is eaten. The servers and staff at the reception have left the building.
the music and dj are done, and the flowers have wilted…whats left after the wedding?
Answer: Your photographer and your photographs.
Moral: The earlier you book, the more spread out your payments will be, and the easier you’ll be
able to handle request from other vendors.
2. Use Referrals/References:
Is there a photographer whose work you saw recently at your friend’s wedding? Ask your friend about them! Some photographers work on a referral system, giving discounts or freebies to past clients or new clients that have been referred from previous clients. If you have time (You should, you’re booking early right?), inquire and ask your photographer for references. Assuming they have enough experience, they should be more than willing to give you a list of clients they’ve worked with in the past
3. Read Reviews: If you’re doing your search for a wedding photographer online, search them out with reviews. You can normally do this by simpley entering their name followed by the word “reviews” in a search engine box. Different sites like Yelp, Wedding Bee, The Knot, among others will have many different places for past brides to give reviews of different vendors also.
4. Read Their Blogs: Some photographers have different viewpoints on this, but I personally feel that a photographer NEEDS to have a blog nowadays. There are two reasons for this also:
- Their personality: It shows clients whether or not the photographer is staying current with trends, what they’ve been up to, and also gives a view about the type of person their photographer is. Do they have a lot of work up? Do they not? Do they write a lot? If they show and write about photography, they may have the mind of a teacher, and just want to share their knowledge with others. What a photographer shows or doesn’t show on their blog gives you great insight into what kind of personality they are and if they may be THE photographer for you.
- Their Style: Is your photographer’s style compatible with you? Some photographers Like Jose Villa, focus on countryside, intimate Napa Valley weddings. Others like Ben Chrisman, focus on destination weddings and have a more modern, photojournalistic style. By looking at a photographer’s blog, you’ll just the style and specialty photography that your photographer works with and is most familiar with.
For people that have recently gotten engaged, the process of finding vendors to help facilitate your unique event can be overwhelming at the least. With these 4 tips coming from my own experience as a Wedding Photographer and as a past groom myself, your search for an amazing wedding photographer compatible with your needs and wants will be easier and more fullfilling
Question: Are there any other tips you would recommend to other future brides and grooms?
This post doesn’t apply specifically to photography, but rather, it’s a systematic way to LEARN ANY SKILL (photography included) by sectioning it into bite size chunks that you can process and consequently learn.
It was only after reading and learning from Tim Ferriss that I realized I had been using this system in some way/shape/form all along. The majority of the learning principles I’ve placed here come from his books, but have been modified into a format that works for me, so your mileage may vary.
All in all there are 6 Steps you need in order to LEARN & MASTER ANYTHING:
- The Pareto Principle a.k.a. 80/20 Rule
- Parkinson’s Rule
- The “DiSSS” Acronym
- The “CaFE” Acronym
- Failure Points
- Margin of Safety
Credit goes to vinni123
1. The Pareto Princple a.k.a. 80/20 rule: For many events, roughly 80% of the outcomes come from 20% of the causes.
- Applying the 80/20 rule to learning: What 20% of the building blocks that you need to learn will result in learning 80% of the skill for you?
Credit to garinkilpatrick.com
2. Parkinson’s Law: The longer the deadline you have to do something, the more work you will find yourself doing to complete it – whether the work is necessary or not. Conversely, the shorter the deadline, the less work can be done to finish the task.
- Applying Parkinson’s Law to learning: Give yourself a short deadline; it will make you focus on only the most important, essential things to learn.
3. “DiSSS” Acronym: The “DiSSS” Acronym consists of 4 steps you need to to manipulate the data that you will learn. It will also require you to use the previously mentioned 80/20 rule.
Deconstruct: Take apart the skill you wish to learn into its individual pieces.
- Applying Deconstruct to learning: Take apart the skill and see what it consists of. How many individual steps do you need to learn your skill?
Select: This is where the 80/20 rule will come in handy. Which 20% of the parts you can learn will provide you with 80% of the outcome?
- Applying Select to learning: Choose your individual parts and information carefully to maximize your returns.
Sequence: After choosing your skills to learn, what order will you learn them?
- Applying Sequence to learning: You’ll need to figure out what order to sequence your basic building blocks to create a solid understanding of the skill you will ultimately learn.
Stakes: This applies Parkinson’s Law. Give yourself a deadline by which time you need to have learned your skill.
- Applying Stakes to learning: By giving yourself a short deadline (preferably one that is short enough to make you push yourself), it helps enforce that you must choose the most important parts of the skill to learn.
4. “CaFE” Acronym: The “CaFE” Acronym applies more to the physical part of learning the skill, it consists of three rules that you’ll follow after you finish Deconstruction, Selection, Sequencing, and applying Stakes to the skills you need to learn:
Compression: With all the Deconstructed information you Selected, can you compress it further into 4 pieces of paper? If so, how about only 3 sheets? 2? 1?
- Applying Compression to learning: Get rid of the unnecessary, and you will distill the skill down to the essence that you need.
Frequency: How often can you set time aside to learn and study the information?
- Applying Frequency to learning: Schedule out your learning sessions specifically so that you will have a set time of day to mentally prepare yourself to learn.
Encoding: How do you plan on learning this? Taking notes? Writing? Memorization? Imaging? Acronyms?
- Applying Encoding to learning: Use the various forms of specifically learning information – writing, memorization, flash cards, imaging, acronyms etc. Apply what works best for you.
5. Failure Points: Where do people get stuck or fall off when trying to learn the skill you’re interested in?
- Applying Failure points to learning: Where can you see others who are trying to learn your skill failing? If you know where others are likely to fail, and where you’re likely to fail, it’s possible then to take preventative measures.
6. Margin Of Safety: What lessons are there if you don’t learn the skill? Where can you find a point to improve upon should you fail?
- Applying Margins of Safety to learning: Try to set up your learning process so that if there is a failure to learn the skill, there is minimum cost to you. Also try to learn a lesson in the failure, so that you can maximize what you do learn.
Using the previously mentioned 6 techniques and applying them judiciously and faithfully, it becomes possible to learn anything. By using the 80/20 rule in conjunction with Parkinson’s Law to choose and quickly find the most relevant information to learn, “DiSSS”-ing the information into learnable pieces, and then “CaFE”-ing the information to learn, any skill set or knowledge will be that much easier to acquire and master.
Question: Are there other learning techniques that you specifically use?
With the speed at which technology is has advanced in the last decade, it’s become easier for people to forego dedicated cameras for photographing friends, family and events and rely instead on their cell phones to get the job done.
1. Clean your lens
This may seem quite obvious, but whatever you had in your pockets before you put your phone in there stands a good chance of covering up your lens. If you have a case that covers up your lens, clean the case up also. Smudges from fingerprints can ruin any photo.
2. Observe Camera Phone Etiquette
Another one that seems obvious, but with how connected people’s lives are to cell phones, the lines between what is appropriate and and what is not have blurred. Please take discretion into consideration before you photograph anything.
3. Know Your Phone Settings
Most phones can and will automate your settings if you give them a chance. For example, all cell phones will use the highest ISO possible in dark settings – which raises the problem of grain appearing in your images. If your phone allows manual control of this, change your ISO to the lowest allowable setting so as to prevent the appearance of this static/grain. Conversely, on a bright sunny day or in broad daylight, set your ISO to the lowest settng to prevent the appearance of any grain in your images.
Always make sure that you use the highest resolution in all settings so as to maximize all the details and accuracy in your images. This also makes for the best data to be copied over and transferred when you inevitably upgrade and change your phone model.
Avoid digital zoom at all costs. Digital zoom only enlarges the pixels that the camera has, meaning that for each percent that you zoom in with digital zoom, you lose a certain percentage in detail that you cannot gain back. Instead, take the image, and then crop it in an editor – you’ll have maxed out the resolution and pixels of your camera correctly then.
All cell phones have a delay from button press to shutter release that can make you miss that perfect moment. You can minimize this lag by holding down and NOT releasing that shutter button until you’re ready to photograph your moment.
4. Know Your Light
I had previously written a post about knowing, identifying and utilizing the light wherever you are. Along with those aforementioned techniques, there are a few other lighting theories and techniques you can utilize.
This one I feel may be more subjective, but as a professional photographer, I’m not a fan of direct-on flash like what is normally found on cell phones, as it washes out the skin tones and colors of a person’s face. Try to turn that off whenever possible and only use it when necessary.
For professional photographers, the “Magic Hour” refers to the very beginning of the day when the sun is rising (one hour before to half an hour after the sun rises), and the very end of the day (1 hour before to half an hour after the sun sets). The light at that moment is just right for taking beautiful photographs. It applies to professional photographers, why not make use of it for cell phones also?
Credit goes to Yinghai
If you want your images nice and clear, always find a way to stabilize your images when the light is low. Your cell phone will naturally default to a slower shutter speed when light is at a lower level (i.e. in a restaurant or at sunset). However any movement you have with your hands while photographing at slower shutter speeds will result in motion blur, ruining a potentially great picture. Having something simple like a mini tripod or beanbag will do wonders for your images. A simple search on Amazon.com found one for less than $10.00 with great ratings:
Case Star Tripod
5. Experiment, Experiment, Experiment
I cannot say this enough. Read that headline again. Some of the best discoveries I ever made in my photography career were when I first started experimenting. By experimenting and trying out new settings, you will learn the nuances and abilities of your phone, stretching you and your phone’s creative abilities to their limits.
Not sure what a Panorama is? Want to know what Macro mode does?
Try it out.
Some settings in phones are universally applicable. They may need to be accessed in different menus, but the results will be fairly predictable, knowing this allows you to adjust and work with your phone (and your future phones) more effectively.
Try shooting in Black and White. It’s a surprisingly fun experience! Black and White photography has a slightly different set of rules to it. Tones that didn’t quite seem right in color now stand out more and pop. High contrast lighting scenes – traditionally not favored in color photography – adapt quite well with a black and white treatment. Textures and tones also play significant roles in Black and White photography. Experimenting with Black and White photography and becoming familiar with contrasts, textures and tones will immediately affect the way you view any scene, indirectly improving your skills at color photography also.
Credit goes to Xavi Talleda
Question: Is there more you would like to learn about cell phone cameras that I can help with?