Since we started the project a bit early, we are going to mark the official start of summer with our first photo challenge. To kind of get us into the swing of things without too much stress, our first challenge will be Photographer's Choice. Go out and take a picture of whatever catches your eye, whether it is on your list or not.
Ah, but there is a catch. You knew there had to be one, didn't you? I couldn't let you off that easy now, could I?
So what is the catch? Just this: instead of running out into the yard and snapping a picture of the dog or the garden gnome and saying you're done, I want you to think about your picture. Really think. How can I make this a better shot? How can I make this picture more pleasing to the eye? Use your rules of composition, your depth of field, and your exposure triangle (ISO, Shutter speed, and Aperture) to take, not just a shapshot of Uncle Fred, but a portrait.
Now I know that many of you have the rules of composition down, but for those of you unfamiliar with them, I will summarize them. For further review, an in depth article can be found here.
The first rule of composition is: Get Closer. When I was in the Navy, I went to one of my schools in Orlando, Fl. While there, I briefly dated a guy I'll call Randy. One weekend, Randy and I went to Disneyworld. While walking through the Magic Kingdom, Randy said, "Sit down on that bench and I'll take your picture."
I sat down and Randy promptly turned and walked to the other side of the park. Ok, I exaggerate, but he did walk at least 50 yards away. That's yards, not feet.
"What are you going to take a picture of?" I yelled. I had to yell because he was so far away, he wouldn't have heard me otherwise. "You won't even be able to see me from that far away. Come closer."
Randy took a couple of steps closer.
"Come closer than that!" I yelled, and Randy took a few more steps towards me.
"Closer!!!" I called again.
"What do you want me to do?" Randy yelled back. "Stand on top of you to take the #@*& picture?"
I gave in and let him take the picture he wanted to take. This is the result:
It's an --eh--picture, but not really a great one. I don't know why people think they need to take pictures from 1/2 mile away, but it is one of the most common mistakes beginning photographers make. How much better this photo would have been had Randy gotten close enough. (I employed a little creative cropping to get this image--thus the poor quality.)
To get even closer to your subject, don't be afraid to turn your camera sideways:
While you are getting closer, don't forget to check your background. Is it cluttered? Is there a light pole growing out of Aunt Rosemary's head? Are there Spongebob eyes peering over the Miller Lite monster's shoulder? That actually looks kind of cool, but in a nice portrait, the only eyes you want to see are that of your subject(s).
Rule #2: The Rule Of Thirds. Divide your photo area in to thirds, both horizontally and vertically. If you have a horizontal plane in your photo, place it along one of the horizontal lines. If you have a vertical object, place it along one of the vertical lines. For a single object, place it at the intersection of two of the lines. For some reason, the lower left intersection seems to be my favorite, as in this picture of blueberries:
Now, I'm not saying you should measure and divide your photo. Just eyeball it and you'll be close enough.
Rule # 3: Diagonals. Positioning your subject diagonally across the photo is also a pleasing composition. Notice in this picture of the polar bear and the picture taker:
the diagonal line from the upper left to the lower right. (Not to blow my own horn, but this has got to be my very favorite picture I ever took.)
Rule #4: Depth of Field. If your camera has a setting in which you can change the aperture, just remember, the smaller the aperture number, the smaller the depth of field. I can get into a long, boring explanation of focal lengths and whatnot, but really that's all you need to know. Why is depth of field important. The picture of the moth I posted on my blog, how cluttered would it have looked had all the details of my front yard been in sharp focus?
Now in some cases, you may want a greater depth of field. In that case, set your aperture to a bigger number.
These are enough to get you started. If you want to read about this subject in greater detail, there are many online photography sites to help you. The Morguefile site that I linked above has some great articles. Do go and check them out.