Tag Archives: Composition

Link Roundup 08-23-2010

Okay… these are a little old, but I’m just getting back on the ball with my feed reading and link sharing. I have plenty more coming, but I didn’t want to push them all out at once.

On a side note, we’re also going to get the Flickr Challenge going again. The current challenge is “environmental portraits” — you can read the announcement here and see the current entries in the pool. I’ll be choosing the winners sometime this week.

Link Roundup 06-27-2010

Link Roundup 06-14-2010

I just realized that it’s been a few weeks since I posted some links! So here are a few that I have in my list… I’ve got more, but I don’t like posting more than 10-15 links at a time.

7 More Tips for Extremely Wide Angles

[tweetmeme]Just under one year ago, I wrote an article titled “8 Tips for Shooting Extremely Wide Angles“. I wanted to follow up with some additional tips on the subject… and of course, more great photos for your viewing pleasure.

So here are 7 more tips for shooting with extremely wide angle lenses. Some are brand new, and some are an expansion from the previous post. Either way, enjoy!

1. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR FRAMING

20
Creative Commons License photo credit: Maurizio Polese

Extremely wide angle lenses make everything look smaller. This poses a problem when looking through the viewfinder because objects inside the frame can be hard to notice. Chances are, you’ll be paying attention to the overall image and the composition, but these minor details (especially around the edges of the frame) can slip by. What you end up with is a good shot ruined by some small thing down in the corner of the frame. Sure, you can crop it or clone it out, but it’s better to pay attention when you press the shutter.

2. SHOOT A CUSHION SPACE

adelaide slipstream
Creative Commons License photo credit: mugley

Because of distortion, wide angle shots are difficult to get straight. You typically don’t have a perfectly straight line to set your tilt, so you might end up with a slightly crooked shot. This happens more often with this type of lens, so leave a small amount of space around the edge if you’re unsure of your leveling abilities. Even if you shoot straight, you might want to crop down the outer edges just a bit. Distortion increases toward the corners and it can really stretch things out.

3. GET CLOSER

Pout
Creative Commons License photo credit: orangeacid

When shooting extremely wide, you’ll need to get extremely close to your subjects if you want them to be more than a minor detail in the photo. These lenses can usually focus fairly close, so you can get within several feet and focus with no problem. Just be careful that you don’t get too close — appearances in the viewfinder can be deceiving, and you might bump your lens into your subject.

4. STEP BACK

Point The Way
Creative Commons License photo credit: kwerfeldein

Contrary to the last tip, you might want to step back from your subject. This is more well-suited for the landscape photos. Sometimes you have large foreground elements that you want to include in your composition. Just step back a few paces and the whole perspective changes — things up close get significantly smaller, while things way out there don’t change much.

5. ENSURE STRAIGHT LINES

Salton Sea Sunset
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Auer

Some wide angle lenses are better than others when it comes to distortion (you can tell by the price tag). But all wide angle lenses share the characteristic of having minimal distortion at the center of the lens. This also works for the horizontal and vertical center-lines of the lens. If you place a horizon at the top or bottom of the frame, it will probably be distorted. But place the horizon at the center of the frame and it should be almost straight. This also works for vertical lines in things like architecture.

6. DISTORT REALITY

184/365 - enjoy coca-cola
Creative Commons License photo credit: B Rosen

Sometimes you want to be a deviant and break “the rules”, right? All you have to do is ignore the last tip. Shoot straight lines near the edge of the frame and you have a whole new reality. You can also get really close to small stuff and shoot against a distant background of big stuff. Or perhaps you could take some portraits at a minimum focus distance and go for the big-nose look.

7. GET CREATIVE AND HAVE FUN

When bovines attack :-)
Creative Commons License photo credit: tricky ™

Super-wide angle lenses are fun to shoot with, but they require a bit of creative thought sometimes. Try out different combinations of subject distance, frame location, perspective, and secondary subjects. You might be surprised at the results every once in a while.

How about some other examples of extremely wide angle photography — drop a photo in the comments below, and leave a tip or two!

Link Roundup 04-15-2010

Three Ways to Control Depth of Field

My Sunshine

Depth of field (DOF) refers to the amount of a scene in the “sharp” range. Shallow DOF is typically characterized by heavily blurred backgrounds that you might see in outdoor portraits. Deep focus (opposite of shallow DOF) is typically characterized by tack sharp landscapes with no visible blur.

The most widely accepted method for controlling DOF is aperture, or f-number. This is certainly a feasible and convenient way to control DOF, but there are other factors at play. Just like exposure is controlled by three factors (ISO, shutter speed, and aperture), DOF is controlled by three main factors. Let’s take a look at these three factors and how you can use them to your advantage.

[tweetmeme]The examples shown below were taken on a 1.5x crop factor dSLR and the stated focal lengths are actual focal lengths of the lens rather than a full-frame equivalent.

F-NUMBER

The f-number is probably the most widely known and used method of controlling DOF. Most intermediate/advanced cameras have “aperture priority” which allows you you set the f-number. If you’ve toyed with this mode on your camera, you probably found that lower numbers result in a narrow depth of field (blurry background), while higher numbers result in a wide depth of field (everything in focus).

F-NUMBER ⇓ == DOF ⇓

F-NUMBER ⇑ == DOF ⇑

cropped version:

TRY THIS: With a “normal lens” (40-80mm range), find a subject about 5-10 feet away from you and make sure there’s some background object(s) in view behind it. Use your aperture priority and set the lowest f-number you can, and take a shot focused on the main subject. Now stay in the same spot and use the same focal length, but set the highest f-number you can (without bringing your shutter speed too low), and take another shot focused on the main subject. When you compare the two, the main subject should be in focus for both, but you’ll see a difference in the background blur or the amount of focus on objects in the near distance.

SUBJECT DISTANCE

Another way to control depth of field is to change your distance from the subject in focus. If you’ve ever shot macro, you know that the DOF is extremely narrow for 1:1 magnification. This is because you’re so close the subject. On the other hand, if you’ve shot landscapes you’ll know that it doesn’t take much stopping down of the aperture to get everything in the distance nice and sharp. This is because you’re so far from the subject.

DISTANCE ⇓ == DOF ⇓

DISTANCE ⇑ == DOF ⇑

cropped version:

TRY THIS: With a “normal lens” (40-80mm range), set your aperture to a value around f/4 or f/8. Again, find a subject that has some background element in view. Now get as close as your autofocus will allow you and take a shot. Keep the same focal length and the same f-number, but back up about 5-10 feet. Focus on the subject again and take a second shot. When you compare the two, you should see a difference in the depth of field by the amount of background blur.

FOCAL LENGTH

The last factor in your control for DOF is the focal length of the lens you decide to use. Telephoto lenses have a shallow depth of field as compared to their wide angle counterparts. Anybody out there have a sub-20mm lens? It’s pretty hard to get background blur, right? Any super-telephoto shooters out there? Just the opposite.

FOCAL LENGTH ⇓ == DOF ⇑

FOCAL LENGTH ⇑ == DOF ⇓

cropped version:

TRY THIS: Use a zoom lens that reaches from wide angle to telephoto (something like an 18-200, 28-135, etc.) or use two lenses (wide angle and telephoto). Again, find a subject that has some background element in view. Position yourself approximately 5-10 feet from the subject and set your aperture in the low-mid range (f/4-8, but make sure to find something that can be used for both lenses). Take the first shot with the wide angle lens or at the shorter focal length of the zoom lens. Now, hold your position and your f-number, and switch to the telephoto or use the longer focal length of the zoom lens and take the same shot with focus on the same subject. You should see a wider depth of field with the shorter focal length.

PUTTING IT INTO PERSPECTIVE

All this technical stuff is fine and dandy, but how does it translate to real world photography? The answer depends on what you’re shooting with and what you’re shooting at.

If you have a compact camera with no manual controls and you want a shallow DOF (say, for portraits)… zoom in all the way, get as close to your subject as possible (still preserving a decent composition), and take the shot. Also, less light will force the camera to use a smaller f-number and decrease the DOF. If you want a wide DOF (say, for landscapes)… zoom out all the way, get far away from your subject, and take the shot. Also, more light will force the camera to use a higher f-number and increase the DOF.

On the other hand, if you have a dSLR with manual controls and you want a shallow DOF… use aperture priority, set your f-number low (f/2.8-), get close to your subject, and/or use longer lenses. If you want a wide DOF… set your f-number high (f/16+), step back from your subject, and/or use wide lenses.

If you want to do some theoretical calculations on this topic, check out this handy Depth of Field Calculator. You just choose your camera, focal length, f-number, and subject distance. The calculator outputs your DOF, hyperfocal distance, and circle of confusion.

Links from around the web:

Back to Basics – Depth Of Field
Aperture: How It Affects Your Photography & Why You Should Care
Photography 101.5 – Aperture
HowTo: Use The Depth-Of-Field Preview On Your Camera

ANY OTHER TIPS?

How do you prefer to control your DOF? Any SLR shooters out there have a set of numbers that work well for narrow and wide DOF? How about some good examples of DOF in either extreme? We’d love to see ‘em!

Also — any questions on this stuff? I might be jumping over a few concepts, so let me know if anything doesn’t make sense.

Using Curves to Enhance Composition

[tweetmeme]We’ve been on a roll lately talking about post-processing curves: video tutorials, linear adjustments, and nonlinear adjustments. I have one more in the works, but I wanted to take a little break from all that technical software stuff.

I also wanted to stay on topic with the theme of “curves”, so here’s a slightly different take on it. Curves are also a key component of composition. In this article, you’ll find eleven tips for using curves in composition along with sample photos.

1. LEAD TO A COMMON FOCAL POINT

Leading lines are a basic compositional technique, and curves can be used in place of straight lines. Try using natural curves to force the eye of the viewer to a common focal point. In the image below, the main draw is toward the intersection of the curves.

Entering Hyperspace
Creative Commons License photo credit: Éole

2. RADIAL CURVES AND SPIRALS

Curves can take on many shapes and forms, including circles and spirals. These forms also force a natural point of focus to their center. This particular photo also uses straight lines aimed directly at the center for a stronger effect.

Argento Spiralis
Creative Commons License photo credit: ramyo

3. CURVE REPETITION

Repeating curves tend to make a stronger compositional impact than a single curve. Bonus points if you can get an odd number of them like 3 or 5 — odds tend to be more attractive than evens. This photo shows triple repeating curves with nearly identical shape. The simple color scheme also helps to not distract from the composition.

Green curves
Creative Commons License photo credit: tanakawho

4. HUMAN FORM CURVES

We’re basically nothing but curves. If you have the opportunity to photograph people in a revealing manner, be sure to look for the natural flowing curves. In this photo, the soft curve is accentuated by the lighting, and the placement of the hand interrupts it to provide some amount of tension in an otherwise relaxing shape.

Curves
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ozyman

5. CURVES AND LINES

I mentioned this in tip #2, but I’ll mention it again. Combining curves and lines can be a powerful compositional technique. The intersections can create compelling patterns, while the lines and curves provide pathways for the eye to travel. In this photo, there are far more straight lines than curves, but the curved sections draw the eye because they stand out from the rest of the pattern.

Working Late
Creative Commons License photo credit: Thomas Hawk

6. SEPARATION OF FOREGROUND

A plain foreground or background can be good in some instances, but other instances will benefit from a subtle break. Curves can provide that soft break in an otherwise flat foreground or background. In this photo, you can see that the foreground curves provide areas of higher contrast to break up the low contrast midtones of the snow.

snow curve
Creative Commons License photo credit: extranoise

7. CONVERTING 3D TO 2D

Obviously, the typical camera will capture any scene in 2D. But 3D curves and spirals can change their shape and appearance when flattened. This photo shows spirals and loops of smoke being converted into repeating sinusoidal curves on a 2D plane.

Fading Flower
Creative Commons License photo credit: Dude Crush

8. INTERSECTING CURVES

Intersecting curves can create a sense of depth and give some extra notion of the 3D layout of the scene. Notice that this image exhibits several levels of intersections — roof structure, shadows, and straight lines. Also notice that the radial curves draw your attention to their center while the sweeping curves and band of sunlight draw your attention to the same location.

swerve
Creative Commons License photo credit: Jasmic

9. HUMOR BREAK

This one popped up when I was searching for “curve” photos… I couldn’t resist putting it in here. Rock on.

Rocking the Curve
Creative Commons License photo credit: Marvin Kuo

10. CURVES AND CONTRAST

When you have multiple curves or repeating curves, play on the contrast between them to create a pattern of stripes. This high contrast helps to define the curves as a strong point in the composition. In this photo, you can see the very strong contrast between the steps as they sweep along the buildings.

Curves & Curves
Creative Commons License photo credit: Pieter Musterd

11. MULTI-LEVEL CURVES

Curves can be presented within the composition at may levels. Small curves, big curves, lazy curves, tight curves, loopy curves, etc. Finding a scene with more than one type of curve can present your viewer with an interesting piece to digest. In this photo, you can see the big curves separating sand from sky, curves separating the foreground, and lots of little curves providing texture.

Diminishing Lines
Creative Commons License photo credit: Appy29 (very busy away)

12. FRAMING WITH CURVES

Natural frames are also a good way to help your composition, so look for any curves that can provide a stronger focus for your subject. Here, you can see that the curve of the bench draws your attention toward the may laying on it and away from the lower left corner.

benched
Creative Commons License photo credit: paul goyette

How else can you use curves to enhance your composition? And be sure to share your own example photos in the comments below!

13 Alternative Flower Photography Tips

Flowers are so cliche when it comes to photography… but that doesn’t stop most of us from shooting them! Heck, some photographers even specialize in flower photography and they do a darn good job of it. If you’re getting bored with your current bag-o-tricks for photographing flowers, scan through these tips and get inspired to try something different.

1. DITCH THE COLOR

Flower photos are generally full of vibrant colors, but that’s not the only way to do it. Black and white flower photos can bring much needed attention to details and textures that would otherwise be masked by the blinding colors.

let's craft the only thing we know into surprise
Creative Commons License photo credit: linh.ngân

2. USE AS A FOREGROUND

The flowers don’t always need to be the center of attention. Use them as a foreground or background to lay down some color for your main subject. Bonus points for using complimentary colors in your composition.

Blessed
Creative Commons License photo credit: creativesam

3. LOOK INDOORS

Flowers are inside too! Not every flower photo needs to be 100% “natural” — try your hand at some still life.

3 sisters
Creative Commons License photo credit: mamako7070

4. DOUBLE EXPOSE

Flowers can make for pretty cool double exposures. Experiment with combinations of up-close and far-off shots of the same flowers.

Diana+
Creative Commons License photo credit: Maco@Sky Walker

5. GO ABSTRACT

Flowers have great curves — so use that to your advantage. A good macro setup will allow you to capture abstract images of the colors, curves, and textures.

monstera deliciosa flower
Creative Commons License photo credit: nothing

6. REFLECT WITH WATER

Reflection can be a powerful composition technique, and flower photography is no exception.

Balboa Pond Lily part deux.
Creative Commons License photo credit: peasap

7. FOCUS ON SYMMETRY

Reflections are a type of symmetry, but flowers often exhibit another type of symmetry: radial. Use the radial symmetry of most flowers to create a strong composition.

Gazania
Creative Commons License photo credit: josef.stuefer

8. PAINT YOUR OWN FLOWER

Light painting is another interesting style of photography, so why not mix it up with flower photography?

Night Flower
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Auer

9. CATCH A BUG

That’s right, catch a bug in your frame. Those little insects can often add a lot to your image by catching the eye of the viewer. Anything unexpected will generate interest.

ladybug on gerbera
Creative Commons License photo credit: Vanessa Pike-Russell

10. BE A SMURF

Sometimes you have to get a little dirty to get the shot. Macro photographers will often wear grungy clothes for nature outings (or bring a blanket/tarp) because they know they’ll be laying on the ground at some point. Get down there and see how the world looks from the perspective of your feet.

Under the Tulips
Creative Commons License photo credit: ♥siebe ©

11. FIND URBAN FLOWERS

Flowers grow in cities too! Next time you’re in an urban environment, keep your eyes peeled for flowers growing naturally or even landscaped flowers.

urban life
Creative Commons License photo credit: Pedro Moura Pinheiro

12. DO THE DEWDROP TRICK

Most of us have seen these types of photos with the flower inside the dewdrop. Still, it’s a pretty cool trick and you can do it with more than just flowers.

Day 45/365 : All the world in a little droplet
Creative Commons License photo credit: ~jjjohn~

13. USE AS A PROP

If you’re doing people shots or portrait photography, try adding flowers as a secondary subject or background.

Boy taking a rest. (DGM)
Creative Commons License photo credit: Simon Pais-Thomas

Do you have any flower photography tips or examples? If so, leave them in the comments below!

Center Your Subject for Action Shots

Porsche Battle

We hear a lot about things such as the rule of thirds and not centering your subject for better composition. But there are times when you should actually center your subject to ensure that you get the shot. Action shots are typically a one chance situation. This can include sports, racing, performances, etc.

The problem with these action scenarios is that the main subject is usually moving quite fast and you only have one opportunity to capture a given moment. Spend too much time thinking about composition rules will ultimately result in missed shots. Here are a few reasons why you should think about centering your subject (and some tips for action shots):

  • It’s easier for your AF camera to focus on the subject when centered — nothing worse than a sharp background and blurry subject. The caveat to this is if you have your camera set to spot focus somewhere other than the center.
  • Most manual focus screens have additional feedback at the center of the frame — use it!
  • Center your subject and you won’t miss a shot due to over-thinking the composition.
  • Leave a bit of extra room around the main subject so that you can crop for better composition later.
  • Use continuous AF to track the action — especially when the subject is moving toward or away from you.
  • Get the dang shot!

What do you guys think? Good advice? Bad advice? What would you add to this?

Link Roundup 09-27-2008