TALKING IMAGES 63 – THOUGHTS FOR THOSE NEW TO PHOTOGRAPHY 9: FIVE THINGS TO DO WHEN TAKING A PICTURE

 

 

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Some years ago, I put out some posts specifically aimed at those just getting interested in photography, just starting out.  I tried to think of things that might be useful to them – and not just in terms of technique, but also in ways of thinking about photography, attitudes, questions that might arise, etc.  I most certainly do not know all there is to know about photography, but I’d like to try something similar again and – as always – I’m happy to take questions >>> with the caveat that, as already mentioned, my knowledge is not exhaustive.

But always remember, these are only my views and opinions: others may well think differently, and equally validly..

EARLIER POSTS IN THIS SERIES

POST 1: The Main Mantra: there are no rights or wrongs in photography, only individual photographers’ differing opinions.

POST 2: Raw capture versus jpeg capture – it depends upon what you have planned for the photos you are taking.

POST 3: Learning to explain why you like/dislike an image: putting your thoughts into words can help you to understand your own, personal, visual preferences >>> and so help you create images that you like.

POST 4: Don’t clutter up your pictures >>> use the camera’s viewfinder/screen (and cropping too) to remove unwanted/irrelevant material from images to make them simpler, more effective and more direct >>> less can be more, simple can be beautiful!

POST 5: All that really matters is the final photographic image that you produce: details of the equipment used, the types and amounts of cropping and post-capture processing are irrelevant – if your final image looks good, it is good!

POST 6: Most photographers copyright their images and jealously guard them but, for me, Life is simply too short for all of this bother; and it is rare for digital images to be irretrievably stolen, as for example a film negative might be.

POST 7: Which is best for you – film photography, digital photography, or both?  And why?

POST 8: How does the size of the digital sensor in your camera affect the kinds of pictures that you can take with your camera?  This post considers the size of the sensor, the size of the camera body needed to house it, and the profound effects that sensor size has on depths of field/focus.

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FIVE THINGS TO DO WHEN TAKING A PICTURE

There are of course many things to think about when taking a photo >>> and when taking a grab shot, with no time at all to do anything but press the shutter release, they all go out the window!!!  But, if you do have the time/opportunity to think about them, here are five simple things to do when taking any picture:

1: take a series of pictures, not just one.  It has been my experience, time and time again, that my best picture of something is very rarely my first picture >>> so if there’s something in front of me that looks good, I take a whole series of pictures using various formats, viewpoints, spot meter readings, etc.  I think I’m probably learning how to “see” the subject as I’m photographing it.

Arguments for adopting this approach are (a) that you might not see this subject again, this might be your only chance to photograph it; and (b) that you can later consider all the shots at your leisure, and then delete those that are less satisfactory – digital photography makes this sorting/editing easy, efficient and cost-free.  But err on the side of caution: if you’re at all unsure about deleting an image, keep it, at least for now.

2: always check the periphery of the frame.  Immediately prior to taking a photo, get into the CONSTANT habit of quickly running your eye around the edges of the frame, to ensure that there is nothing unwanted there.  We’ve all seen portraits with telegraph poles sprouting out of the subjects’ heads, and idyllic landscapes with a pile of litter (or worse!) in one corner.

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3: always check the background of the image.  Some pictures require front to back sharpness, and for these you have everything sharply in view in the frame, so that you can run your eyes over the frame and see what’s there.

But other pictures have a subject, often in the foreground, that needs to be isolated, if only a little, from the backdrop.  If attempting this second sort of image, always pay great attention to the background, and especially so if it is non-uniform and/or has much light falling on it.  Shoot at larger apertures to reduce depth of field, and always use the camera’s depth of field preview button to get an estimate of how intrusive the background is going to be.  And ALWAYS REMEMBER that the effect that you see when using the depth of field button is probably going to be less than the effect that you will see on the finished picture (cameras taking their viewfinder/screen image directly from the sensor eg mirrorless cameras apparently suffer less from this defect, i.e. they give a truer indication of depth of focus).

The simple fact remains >>> an intrusive background can totally wreck a picture.

4: exclude anything extraneous from the frame.  I’ve already covered this point in POST 4 but I want to reiterate it here as its so important.  The point I’m hammering at is Simplicity of Message.  Less is more has long been a basic creed of mine.  Because simple is beautiful – and its in the famous KISS command, which urges all of us photographers to “Keep it simple, Stupid!”. 

The more there is to look at in a photo, the more confused the eyes become, they don’t know where to look, they don’t know what the photo is trying to say.  “Picturesque” subjects often have loads and loads of detail >>> look to create images that only contain things relating to the image’s subject >>> don’t try to cram everything in! >>> unless “everything” is the message you’re trying to get across.

5: unless you have consciously decided NOT to, try to get the horizon horizontal and verticals (eg buildings, street lights) vertical!  I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but the number of seascapes that I’ve seen which have horizons at a slant is far, far beyond count.  Many cameras now have leveling aids visible in the viewfinder, and there are further tools in post-processing software.  In situations where being sure of horizontals and verticals is difficult, its often useful to leave a “unused” area in the frame around what you want to be the actual image, so that you can use software to correct the horizontals/verticals without eating into the edges of the image you are trying to create.  If you frame your image tightly, then later adjusting of the orientation may cause some of your image to disappear.

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9 comments

  1. I agree with principle #1 but I should follow it myself a little more. I do adjust framing for extraneous “stuff” but there again, I’m not always as careful as I could be. With #3 I don’t know if mirrorless cameras are really very good at showing you what you’re going to get in terms of DOF. With small apertures anyway, I don’t see sharpness all the way through until I take the picture and review it. And of course, it’s awfully small! 😉 #4 is a lesson I work on all the time, because I know I have a desire to include everything – there is something about the totality of an experience that I cherish. But that never translates in photography so I keep reminding myself to pare it down. All good advice Adrian!

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  2. All excellent advice and I would add to it, especially for wildlife photographers… just when you think you have waited long enough or are too tired to take any more photos, wait just 5 mins more, The numbers of times when I have been photographing hares that my best shot is my last ! .

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