Yes the endless discussion on image composition.
There are rules that can be followed regarding photo composition that you can strictly follow to achieve a great result.
There are rules of composition that you can gleefully break and achieve a great result.
A key factor in composition aside from rule following or rule breaking is the context of the shot itself.
Ask yourself or better yet try for yourself, following and breaking the rules in a particular context and see for yourself what works and what doesn’t.
This entire subject could really fill a book and could reasonably extend into a discussion on the meaning of life but… let’s just stick to photography.
As photographers we generally try find something interesting first, then take a shot right?
Thinking like that leaves you at a disadvantage because you are relying on external things to be interesting for you.
In other words you are waiting for something external to you to do all the work and provide you with the interest.
Change your viewpoint, go out and “be interested” in your surroundings and FIND something interesting to photograph or FIND something interesting about life to photograph.
By injecting interest into your life and environment you will not only begin to find endless opportunities photographically speaking but you may also notice your life gets better.
A good photographer is not going to just wander around waiting for something to interest him or her.
A good photographer will be actively seeking out things in which he or she can get interested in and find that special shot.
It is very easy when you get caught up in the moment of creation to start ordering people around like cattle to get them to comply with your “grand vision!”
Yes, a degree of control is always necessary when photographing people, especially when there is more than one to cope with!
However for the most part maintaining the concept that the end result is for them or others and not you, will always yield better results.
An extreme example of this would be underwater photography but it applies to just about anything.
If you are a poor swimmer or have an irrational fear of all things marine then there is no way you are going to be able to see, let alone take a good shot if you are flapping about in the water in a perpetual state of drowning.
Good wedding or event photographers always scout the the venues they will be covering to get the lay of the land and work out some possible angles for good shots.
Outdoor photographers or wildlife photographers are unlikely to get anything decent if their full attention is on avoiding deadly quicksand, falling off a nearby cliff or being attacked by killer bees.
Extreme wildlife photographers, in other words people trying to photograph kids parties, should be especially mindful of this point and should specifically watch for sudden introductions of sugar into the party mix.
This introduction of sugar will always result in 30 minutes of extremely dangerous behavior on the part of your quarry followed by a descent into highly charged emotion.
Get your shots in as they are going up and after the 30 minute mark make a run for the door.
(I know, I sound like your mother.)
Actually if I WAS your mother I would also advise clean underwear but that’s a subject for another blog.
If you are scouting the neighborhood for that elusive shot or hacking through the jungle for a different but still elusive shot, you need to be comfortable.
The ability to focus your attention outwardly on your environment for extended periods of time is the key to observing and capturing great shots.
This activity is never helped by a pair of feet sending constant messages demanding some kind of attention.
There is a lot to be said for learning photography in the digital age and one of the great advantages is that it costs nothing to take a bunch of extra shots.
In the days of film you would have been restricted in your output based upon your budget.
Film and processing costs quite literally forced photographers to get good fast, go broke or give up.
These days its a different story. Shooting a multitude of extra shots may very well get you the shot exactly how you want it but doing it mindlessly will teach you nothing.
So by all means take advantage of the freedom offered by digital photography but at the same time note what you are doing and note the different outcomes you are achieving as you do them to improve your skills.
Start your photographic adventures by shooting people you are familiar with, places you know well and things you are passionate about.
Persist with this process until your work begins the reflect your natural affinity for the people and things you love.
A pro can literally make an image of paint drying seem appealing… but that’s because they are pro’s!
Eventually you will become more technically and artistically proficient at representing things you like in way that makes them interesting to others.
The final step is bringing it all together so that you can take a shot of something you are not that interested in personally but… CAN make it interesting to others.
You never know when something is going to happen so have a camera with you at all times.
Success at really getting good at photography is the idea of creating within your own mindset the viewpoint of always “being on.”
By that I mean always being aware of the world around you and opportunities within it for getting that great shot.
Of course sharpening your observation and “seeing” your environment as a photo is all rather pointless if you don’t have a camera with you!
When photographing men in formal surroundings tell them what to do with their hands and no I don’t just mean keep them to themselves!
Most guys can deal reasonably well with how to act or behave in a formal setting such as a wedding, party or even corporate event.
Of course there will always be exceptions and that’s why wedding planners have “that table” way up the back of the room!
What most men have great difficulty with is posing formally for photographs within those types of settings.
As the photographer in situations such as those you hardly have time to spend hours working with them to get a pose that conveys some sort of natural ease.
In the absence of clear directions a sort of nervous hysteria will begin to set in resulting in them either striking some kind of silly pose or worse still, reverting to Neanderthal behavior and scratching their nether regions.
The quickest way to get good shots is to at least tell them where you want them to place their hands.
Generally speaking if you can get their hands handled for them, the rest will fall into place.
Shoot Often and Keep Shooting.
Cartier Bresson was the king of candid photography.
He would sometimes scout a location for days before he even took a shot.
You may not have the time or inclination to do that but what you can do is look around to observe your environment and thanks to digital cameras, take a mountain of shots.
Persist, you will strike gold eventually.