My daughter continues to enjoy taking
photographs (as well as the usual selfies). For her, with me rather handy,
this means very personal one on one tuition. It also means that I can see
immediately what has to be done to improve her skills.
One catch-cry of mine has been “fill
the frame” and finally she is starting to understand what is meant by this.
The shots which precipitated this were a gammon steak and egg. The first
shot showed the table, coffee cups and serviettes. Input by the photographer
– nil. After admonishment to fill the frame, the second shot was much
better, but there were still extraneous items along with the gammon plate.
The third shot concentrated on the gammon plate and very little else, and
daughter could see immediately that she had taken a photograph with some
impact. It had a “hero” and that was the gammon steak and egg.
For impact, she finally got there. The
“hero” was the gammon almost filling the frame, leaving nothing to distract
from the reason for the shot.
The next item she was shown was that
her hero deserved more than one shot. By moving the platter with the gammon,
she could keep it filling the frame, but getting different views, and
different light and shadows from the cafe window.
All good photographs follow the rules
of good composition. The best known one of these is the Rule of Thirds,
where you position the subject of the photo (that’s the hero) at the
intersection of one third from the top or bottom of the viewfinder and one
third in from the right or left side of the viewfinder. Look where the egg
By just placing your subject off-center
immediately drags your shot out of the “ordinary” basket. The technocrats
called it the “Rule of Thirds”, but even just try putting the subjects
off-center. While still on the Rule of Thirds, don’t have the horizon slap
bang in the center of the picture either. Put it one third from the top or
one third from the bottom. As a rough rule of thumb, if the sky is
interesting put more of it in the picture, but if it is featureless blue or
grey include less of it. Simple!
With some cameras where you can make a
grid pattern on the viewing screen from the menu, such as on the DMC FZ
series Lumix, it makes it even easier to position the subject. With the
vertical lines, you will soon see if you have the subject vertical, and for
horizontal subjects incorporating the horizon, you can also make sure it is
level. This composition is something you can do in the camera as you take
the shot. It does mean that you look critically through the viewfinder and
position the subject correctly.
Now, that is not the only item you
should think about with your photographs, though it is obviously a good
start! The next item is cropping, where you get rid of non-important items
from the final photo. These are items which do not add anything to the
photograph you have in your mind’s eye. This can be extraneous details, such
as a rubbish bin, which never does anything for landscapes. Or it may be
that the hero is too small – because you didn’t walk several meters closer!
While post-production cropping to fill
the frame can be done, it is better to do it in the camera beforehand. You
can do this with post-production ‘edit suites’ or even a good Photoshop
style program, where you actually do just the same as we used to with two
L-shaped pieces of card, but with electronics. Call up your photo on the
computer screen and with the cropping tools you can move them around until
you feel you have the correct (most pleasing) crop. And fill the frame.
So this week the messages were simple.
Remember to fill the frame to give your photos more impact, so walk in
closer. Remember to position the subject at the intersection of thirds, and
learn how to visualize the crop for dramatic effect and try to do this in
the camera viewfinder. That will improve your shots immeasurably.
I have seen five year old children
wanting to take a “selfie”. Here they are, barely out of nappies and taking
shots of themselves. By the time they are teenagers, they are applying
make-up using the smartphone. By the time they are dying, who will be the
first to shoot themselves in their coffin with their last breath?
Unfortunately, the advent of the
smartphone has not done much for the art of photography. Having a phone that
can take and store pictures has not developed any latent artistic abilities
in the holder of said electronic equipment as far as I can see.
Even the briefest perusal of the social
media will show that the presumed artistic talent goes as far as taking a
“selfie” (how I dislike that word) and then follow that up with a picture of
what he or she ate. Personally I couldn’t care less what you ate, unless it
was some culinary tour de force.
As far as how to take a better “selfie”
is concerned, about all I can give you is to try and keep your arm out of
the picture. The arm holding the camera being closer to the camera is
exaggerated in size, so a “selfie” stick is much better. And if you are not
happy with the result, don’t take the same one again and again. The
additional shots will look as bad as the first one. Move your body, move
from where you were standing, and try and get better lighting. Turn the
flash off, if you can, is a very good idea as you will get shadow to add
So even though I very rarely see good
photographs in the social media, it is possible to get better images. Just
try next time, rather than banging off 27 shots all the same, and all boring
If you must show the world just what
you had for your last supper I will give you some pointers to make it look
as if this was a great plateful and not some collection of ingredients
thrown onto a plate and tinged with green.
Let’s deal with the green potatoes
first. Fluorescent lighting is the culprit. To the naked eye the lighting in
the kitchen seems fine, but to the electronic receptors, the white balance
is not correct, and hence the green.
To correct this is very easy and
infinitely better pictures. Use natural light to photograph food. Take the
dishes outside, around 4.30 p.m. is best, and with the light coming across
the food, take the shot. The colors will be natural and there will be some
light and shadow to give depth to the photograph.
If you are going to add a bottle of
wine to the shot, or make the wine a feature, you have just picked one of
the most difficult items to successfully capture. To be able to photograph
wine is one reason why food photographers can command such high fees.
Have you ever tried photographing
champagne to put in your FB photos? Have you then noticed that there’s never
enough bubbles to make it look sparkling. Fortunately, the champagne (or
Prosecco or Methode Champenoise) can be coaxed into producing as many
bubbles as you might want. All you have to do is drop some sugar into the
glass. Only a few crystals are enough to give the almost flat glass of
champers that “just opened” fizz look to it.
While still on wines, if you try and
shoot a bottle of red wine, it will come out thick dark maroon or even
black. Amateurs who have tried photographing red wines will be nodding their
heads in agreement. So what does the pro shooter do? Well he has a couple of
courses of action. First is to dilute the red wine by about 50 percent and
secondly place a silver foil reflector on the back of the bottle. You can
light it from the front and the silver foil reflects the light back into the
So what happens to the half bottle of
red that was removed to dilute the wine? The photographer has it with