Techniques

Composition and individual expression

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Article Excerpt:
The decisions that the photographer must make are decisions that are made on the basis of feelings and emotions. Decisions that are aimed at expressing our emotional response to a scene, our perception of the subject we desire to photograph, and our personal artistic approach. All of these represent individual choices, choices that we are usually unaware of until we find ourselves in the act of capturing a specific subject with a lens and a camera. As such, this process prevents camera designers and software engineers to program either the hardware or the software to automatically express our response to the subject. They cannot program it any more than we can program it because both of us ignore what this response will be.

So what am I getting at in this explanation? I am getting at the fact that no matter how advanced and automaticized the equipment and the software we use becomes, there cannot be a substitute for individual input and expression.

What I am also getting at is the fact that the field of endeavor where this individual input is best expressed is the field of composition. Why? First, because composition is about personal choices: very few, if any, aspects of composition can be automaticized. Second, because composition is a field of endeavor composed of multiple facets and not just a set of rules. If it was just a set of rules it would be possible, theoretically, to think that these rules may be embedded in camera or computer software and that such software may have the ability to “compose” photographs on the basis of these rules, or the ability to give us directions aimed at helping us compose images in a specific way.

~Alain Briot from his article Introduction to Composition

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To HDR or not

JJWP677 Loboc Church, Bohol Province

Capturing High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos and processing them is one of my photographic enjoyments. Shooting a scene in its normal exposure sometimes doesn’t cut it, especially if your light is on the side or back of your subject. In that case, your subject is dark and becomes just a silhouette. Using your camera’s bracketing feature (to take three different exposure shots) or shooting in RAW format allows you to create HDR images, and post processing them later. I usually go for the former or if ever I capture in RAW I convert the image first to jpeg or tiff (to minimize noise) then process. We will not do an HDR tutorial here, but I will share my viewpoint on why I do HDR on certain subjects and scenes. First let me point you to some great links:

What is HDR Photography? by Rhommel Bernardino from PictureCorrect
How to Create High Dynamic Range Photographs from wikiHow 
Photo Gallery: How to Take HDR Pictures from National Geographic

HDR allows you to present an image with all the nuances of light and the subtleties of color.
Hence HDR images are quite colorful (though this isn’t always so) with deep contrasts. When done right, you can produce images that pop right out. I am fond of HDR but only on certain subjects such as landscapes and, you guessed it right, churches. The key phrase here is “when done right.” In HDR we have the tendency to amp it up to get that “ah” and “omph” and likening it to too much salt, it spoils the broth. The standard for HDR is realism. It must look natural, but enough to bring out the details.  Note the cracks, exposed bricks and signs of age on the walls of the church pictured above, or the deep yet fading (or I should say peeling) colors of the church below. In a non-HDR image, you will just see a relatively smooth wall with a few jagged lines representing cracks. So much more are exposed – light, details and information using the HDR technique.  Here is an excerpt from Rhommel Bernardino in his article What is HDR Photography? (it’s the first link above):

With HDR technology, photographers can compile different photographs taken at variable exposures. Not only that but also this technique allows photographers create images with an excellent light detail, which is not possible in single shot taken by ordinary cameras. By using HDR cameras, photographers can capture excellent still photographs, in overexposed as well as underexposed settings. Though photographers have the freedom of adding several effects to the photographs, it is always recommended to keep the image as realistic as possible.

JJWP678Dauis-Panglao Church, Bohol Province


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The real shape is the circular image by the lens. I have to compose within that circle. Therefore, the problem of square versus rectangle does not disturb me. It is easy to compose a horizontal or vertical image within a circle.~Philippe Halsman


The canonical perspective

Say again? Yes folks, I also had the same quizzical expression when I first found out about this “canonical perspective.” This is from a certain Jenika, a magna cum laude graduate of psychology from Yale, who runs her own portrait photography business and a blog called Psychology for Photographers. In her blog article titled Have a Photo Problem? Try Canonical Perspective, she explains that this perspective is “to the side and slightly above” view.

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She points out the following:

  • We tend to recognize all sorts of objects better when they are presented to us in canonical perspective.
  • It helps make pleasing images because it goes along with how we “like” to think about objects.
  • Most of us probably photograph objects using the canonical perspective “rule,” whether we’re explicitly aware of it as a rule or not.
  • Canonical perspective neatly lines up with how the human mind likes to picture things.

Head over to the article and read in full this enlightening topic. Discovering something like this adds up to our arsenal of techniques when taking pictures. As Jenika said we may have been using the canonical perspective without us knowing it. Reviewing my image archive I found that I had lots of pictures with subjects taken “to the side and above 30-45 degrees.” Now we know what to call this kind of view.


Be not afraid to blur

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Article Excerpt:
You have been taught so strongly that blur is bad that it can be hard to accept this. However, there are times when you actually want the blur. Not only will it create a true sense of movement and action, but it will also create a very artistically appealing image. For example, think of the movement of car headlights along the highway. If you use a fast shutter speed, you will have an image of those cars. However, if you use a slower shutter speed and allow for blur, you can end up with an image full of visually appealing blur and light trails. Always keep in mind that when it comes to action digital photography, blur can be better at times. You may have to experiment with this from time to time, but it is definitely worth the work when you get that one fascinating image.

Digital photography has certainly made it so much easier to freeze action. However, it can be easy to go overboard and end up with a boring image. That means you need to use the right techniques in order to freeze the action without stopping the sense of motion.
~from the article Techniques of Freezing Action in Digital Photography


The Hogwarts effect

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That’s the thing with kids. The Harry Potter films have such influence on them that they go zipping around in brooms practicing their flying skills. Like my niece in the above photo whom I chanced upon doing her fly-bys at the garage. Well, this stop-action image is made possible with a shutter speed of 400th of a second at an opening of F/3.8. Of course, the subject should really be a high jumper. Hehe…


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The most effective photographic symbol of motion is blur.~Andreas Feininger