Saturday, February 07, 2009

Photography 101 - Lesson 1

People often ask me, "SkyePuppy, how do you get such great pictures?" My answer is, "I don't show you the bad ones." But that's not the whole story.

Way back before I had kids, I took a photography class that changed the way I look at the photographable world. I'll be sharing some of the lessons I learned in class (and in other photography workshops) over the next however-long-it-takes. Today is Lesson 1:

Get closer to your subject.

Since Charlie the brown pelican is fresh in my mind, I'll use him as my example.

This is not a great photo. In my mind, this is a snapshot. Yes, I got a picture of the pelican and his buddies, but I also got a picture of other people and stuff I don't care about.

Do I want to see that much of the garbage can? No. Do I need to see the lamppost? No. Do I want those guys in my pelican picture? No. These questions bring us to the Bonus Lesson:

Pay attention to what's in the background before you take the picture.

My eye was on the pelican. Not knowing that he's a fixture there, I was afraid he might fly away, so I took the picture without composing it much, just to be sure I got it.

The problem with the human brain vs. the camera is that our brains can ignore the extraneous stuff and just see the subject. Unfortunately, the camera sees (and photographs) everything. So before you take the shot, glance around the viewfinder and see what else you're getting in your picture. If you don't like the trash sitting on the grass in the foreground of your picture, you can move to the side (or throw the trash away) or adjust your picture so it's better.

Back to Lesson 1. Here's a closer shot of a pelican (the pelican on the railing, not the pelican on the garbage can).

See how much better this looks than the first one? This is why getting closer to your subject is the first lesson.

If you like artsy shots or you just want to be different, you can get even closer.

This is a cropped (in Photoshop) version of the railing pelican, seen here in the original version:

Notice that this is a lousy photo. I got the edge of a door--with the deadbolt showing--on the right side of the picture, my horizon line is tilted, and I chopped off the poor bird's feet. But I was able to take a bad picture and make it better by cropping it. And cropping is an after-the-fact method of getting closer to the subject.

Now, go out and practice. If something is worth taking its picture, it's worth getting closer.

More lessons to come when I think you're ready...


Malott said...

This is great. I'm going to enjoy this.

I had a Cannon Camera back in the 80's... And I was always excited when I took my film to the store, and always disappointed at the results.

This series should be helpful.

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I'm ready for lesson 2 now.

Bekah said...

awww God bless you Skyepuppy. I'm ready to learn!! :)

Christina said...

I'm with Chris and Bekah...

Bring on lesson #2!

I need this. I promise to be a good little student. I'm ready to learn.

SkyePuppy said...

Thanks, Blogger Buddies! I wasn't sure this was a good idea. I feel better now.

I'm going to give you time to practice Lesson 1 before I go on to Lesson 2.

janice said...

Hey, wait for me! I want to learn too!