Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Simple Photography - Chapter 1 - Keep it SIMPLE

Today I start a series of posts that I call “Simple Photography”. My goal, over the course of the upcoming chapters, is to provide you with some golden nuggets that will increase your likelihood of capturing the shot you want.

There are so many things to discuss, as art can take on an infinite number of forms, and to simply say, “take your pictures like this” really doesn’t work. Why, because setting, subjects, processing, equipment and purpose can be unique to each picture. Therefore, in this first segment rather than discuss the technical aspects of photography or overwhelm you with a course on optics, I think it’s more important to discuss the basics of a photo opportunity. Yes, that’s right, the photo opportunity, not the photo itself. The reason to focus on the opportunity and not the photo is that like with most processes, shooting a photo is 80% preparation and 20% action.

So let’s begin by planting a seed. I believe that with every photo opportunity there are 6 key factors to consider. They are as follows:

Subject: Is your subject easy to portray or are their challenges? (bodily features, obstruction, noise).
I found this fellow at a sea park in Hawaii. He was was a great subject who didn't mind posing for this shot. The challenge was handling the surrounding glare and finding the right moment where the other sea lions in the pen wouldn't distract from the picture. This photo was shot with an old Sony Mavica, one of the original digital cameras which took pictures at less that 1 megapixal.

Intent: What is the intent or desired message that you want your photo to express? (joy, sadness,
solitude, violence, power, etc.).

Yeah that me throwing a punch at Marty McSorley (rememeber him from the NHL). Here I'm trying to portray that I'm in control and ready to give Marty a knuckle sandwich. Luckily he wasn't buying it!

Motion: Is motion a feature of the photo or is it a hindrance; Is it passive or active?

In this shot expression of motion was important. Use of angles help capture the motion as the subject (our son Caleb) falls off the wake. Arm position and facial expression are also factors that illustrate the stresses that Caleb is under.

Post-Processing: If the photo is not ideal, what can you do in post processing to make it so or if the photo is good, can you make it even better.

Use of cropping cut out the unsightly buildings that were in the foreground. Adding a sepia tone adds to the mystery of the picture.
Lighting: Is the lighting at the desired level and contrast? Does the existing light cause undesirable glare, shadows or subject features (baggy eyes, double chins, discoloration).
Shooting sea life can cause extreme challenges due to subdued lighting and bending. If you are shooting through glass you must also be careful when using a flash as you don't want the reflection of the flash to ruin your shot.

Environment: Is this a controlled shot, a candid or just happenstance? Do you need to think ahead or do you have the luxury of taking your time and concentrating on the fine details of your photo?
Taking shots of our Wheaton Terrier, Teagan is never easy as she is a very active dog. Here as she blasts through the deep snow, I only had seconds to react. Luckily I knew this would be the case before I attempted the shot.

Okay, it’s time for your first pop-quiz. Can you guess what I call this approach to taking pictures? If you guessed SIMPLE, you may not be smarter than a 5th grader, but you are on the road to taking better photos.

So let’s just keep it SIMPLE for this chapter and send you off with a little homework. Until the next chapter, each time you get ready to take a picture, ask yourself if your photo opportunity is SIMPLE.

Next time we’ll discuss how the 6 components of the SIMPLE approach interrelate, then we’ll start putting this approach to the test. Until then, happy shooting!

1 comment:

  1. Seriously great tips, Jerry. I'm hooked on the blog! I'm lookin' forward to learning lots from ya (and trying not to make a pest of myself in the process :-)