Simple | Timeless

January 21, 2010

Simple | Timeless

Filed under: Photo Technique, Weddings — simpletimeless @ 5:05 pm

I want my images to be timeless. I want my images to be just as strong in 20, 50 or 150 years as they are today. The fundamentals I follow today are the same that great painters followed hundreds of years before the first photographs. This is especially true for my wedding clients. Your wedding photos will be viewed for generations to come, you want beautiful images that tell your story and capture all of your beauty. A fashion, advertising or editorial shoot might be viewed for 1-3 years, a wedding album should last at least 100 years. What looks “cool” or unique today might look pretty silly and archaic 20 years down the road, and sometimes just a few years later. Many photographers today are after the fads and styles of the now and they forget what is most important, telling their clients story and capturing the beauty they see. Creativity is no excuse for forgetting your primary function, be creative, see differently but do not forget the priority. Creativity should be in service of the job it should serve a function. This does not mean I do not take some risks and try some radical things- I do, but I only take those shots after I have captured the moment beautifully. I want to tell the story first, then I can take some risks.

Let me give a couple of examples:
Right now many photographers are overdoing actions in Photoshop. Actions are preset edits that designers have created for quick image editing. Some actions are great and can subtly give an image a boost. As actions become more commonplace designers and photographers keep looking to push the envelope and generate more radical looks. These radical looks might pop out because they are different but overdoing them makes for a lot of dated images.

Another trend now is wide-angle. Traditionally wide angles are not used very much when photographing people. Wide angle lenses stretch out space and can even distort the face and its’ features, they can be very unflattering. Telephoto or longer lenses compress space and give a more flattering rendition of the face. They also throw the background out of focus giving a pleasing separation between subject and background. I also think that we want to see things close up the expressions and emotions are best seen up close. Wide angles might make for some cool effects and give a sense of space but they should be used sparingly.

Be creative, see things differently, take risks- but don’t forget your first job telling the story with beautiful, simple, and timeless images!

January 20, 2010

12 Steps to better photographs.

Filed under: Photo Technique, Weddings — simpletimeless @ 7:51 pm

1. Forget about the camera. This is mostly for the guys- we tend to obsess over the technology. Any camera (including your cell phone) is capable of taking a great picture. Forget about the gear and use your eyes and feet to find the best photo.

2. Slow down. 10 great photos are much better than 1000 bad ones. Think about the photo you are taking. What story do you want to tell? Try closing one eye to see the world in 2D.

3. Move. Most people take photos standing straight and never bother to change their perspective. Get low, get higher, tilt the camera, jump, do whatever it takes to find a fresh angle on the shot. I suggest shooting an image and then changing the perspective radically and shooting again.

4. Watch your background. We tend to focus on the subject of our photo and sometimes forget about what is behind it. Generally the simpler the background- the better. Try getting a high angle to use the grass as a simple backdrop or go really low and use the blue sky. Look for solid color walls or textures. Watch out for distracting backgrounds that take away from your image.

5. Simplify. Don’t try to fit everything in the photo, this leads to a chaotic image without any focus. Find one thing you want to shoot and eliminate the rest. Powerful images are usually simple ones.

6. Smile. We want our subjects to be relaxed and happy. The easiest way to make your subject relaxed and happy is to be relaxed and happy. Smiles are contagious.

7. Zoom in for people. People look better when the lens is longer so zoom in. A long lens compresses lines in the face making everyone a little younger. When you zoom in the depth of field (area of sharp focus) narrows making your subject pop off the background.

8. Zoom out, move in. Wide angle is generally not flattering for people, if you do use it try to keep them out of the edges where the lens distortion is most noticeable. A wide angle lens can give a dramatic point of view especially when you move in close to the subject. Experiment with the perspectives of your lens and learn how the perspective changes the way a subject appears.

9. Try Manual. The automatic modes on your camera are generally pretty good most of the time, especially in bright light. However by using the cameras manual function you can sometimes get more creative controlled results. You can also try using the auto exposure adjustment dial.

One quick example: You are inside at a party with low lighting. Try going to iso800 exposure time 1/30th and f2.8 or f4.o. Make sure the flash is on. The camera in automatic will likely pick a fast exposure time and the ambient light in the room would be lost. You can use slower exposure times to capture some of the atmosphere and rely on the flash to correctly expose your subject. Try even slower times for more of the same effect. If you have a newer DSLR push the iso to 1600 to let in even more ambient light.

10. Lines & Composition. Look for lines that lead into your subject, the eye will follow lines in an image, try to control the lines and have them lead into your image.

11. Off Center. You do not need to always center your subject, in fact most of the time the subject should not be dead center. Try placing subjects in the thirds on either side. (artists call this a rule of thirds) If your subject is looking or moving somewhere give them some room in that direction by placing 2/3rds of the image in front. When framing a close up of the face it is the chin not the forehead that gives the face shape, so feel free to crop in close leaving the top of the head out to get really close-up.

12. Light. Good light makes good photos. All the expensive gear in the world is meaningless without good light. Try shooting landscapes in the early morning right as the sun comes up or the late afternoon as it sets. People look better at these times as well. If you do have to shoot in the middle of the day use flash to fill in shadows and look for shade or spots where the light is redirected from the sides. Pay attention to the light.

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