BrickHouse Photo School

Tips, Tricks and Reviews for Photo Hobbyists

Posts Tagged ‘Composition

Give Images Depth: Use the Foreground, Mid-ground and Background

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Although a photograph is two-dimensional, you can create a sense of depth in your photo by creatively using the foreground, mid-ground and background.

You have to think of your image as a canvass and work to make all of the layers in your canvass work to your advantage. You don’t want the layers to compete and you don’t want the viewer to lose the message you’re attempting to convey in the image. You want all of the layers to work in harmony to keep your viewer on message.

Again, like most techniques, this tip won’t work for all images. It’s up to you to play around and see what works best for each situation.

How it Works
The idea for this technique is to show depth, meaning that there is something between the background and foreground or the background and the subject. The way to do this, is it insert another item into the mid-ground.

Look at the motocross photo (Example 1) for a better idea. Motorcycle number 138 is still the subject of the photo but the motocross rider in blue helps separate the subject from the red-rock background. Thus, it provides a sense of depth.

Example 1. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Example 1. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Depth can also provide tension in the image. It can show spatial differences in subjects, thus providing a sense of tension. For example, look at the motorcycle race photo, Example 2. By capturing an image that shows the three motorcycles staggered, it creates a sense of tension. We know, just by looking at the image, there’s a race and these three competitors are very close to one another.

Example 2. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Example 2. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Trying adding some depth to your images by creatively weaving all of the layers together. It will help you make better, more visually-compelling photos.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 22, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Tilted Horizons: Maybe, Maybe Not

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Of all the techniques a photographer can use to create a sense of motion in an image, tilted horizons are one of the gray areas. Some people like them; some don’t. Some photos look good with a tilted horizon; some don’t.

Tilted horizons are created by holding the camera off-level. It’s a technique used to give a sense of motion or to throw the viewer off angle. It’s a technique that can easily backfire as some images just really don’t look good tilted no matter what you do.

Sometimes a tilted horizon really expresses a sense of motion. It's a good technique but not applicable to every shot you're going to make. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Sometimes a tilted horizon really expresses a sense of motion. It's a good technique but not applicable to every shot you're going to make. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

But don’t be afraid to try it. You never know when you’re gonna make an image that looks good.

Here’s some tips to follow when shooting a tilted horizon:

  • Don’t make the tilt look accidental. If you’re going to tilt the horizon, it has to demonstrate that you did it on purpose or else it looks like an “oops” moment.
  • Try different degrees of tilt. Move your camera different degrees between true horizontal and true vertical.
  • Make sure the angle you use compliments the directional movement you want to emphasize.
  • Don’t make the tilted image the only photo you take of the subject. The tilted horizon shot should be one of those “let’s see if this works” photos, and not “all of the eggs in one basket” photo.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 21, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Photo Tips: The Two-Minute Portrait

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The words, “smile and say cheese!” usually does not mark the beginning of a great portrait. As a beginning/novice photographer, you probably want to make portraits that “look professional” but lack the information on how to do so.
It’s simple if you follow some very basic steps. Here are some tips that will have you making great portraits in less time than you would think.

Step 1: Get the right background

If you want to highlight the subject, don’t allow the background to compete with the subject for the viewer’s attention. Busy, noisy and loud backgrounds distract from the subject unless you’re very experienced and have a great lighting setup and even then it’s a crapshoot.
Keep the background simple. Backgrounds with solid, neutral colors work best. A white wall is ideal but any solid color works.

A simple background and good natural lighting will help you make great portraits. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

A simple background and good natural lighting will help you make great portraits. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Step 2: Get Good Lighting
Unless you’re using a shoe-mounted flash or other pro-quality lighting, find a strong source of natural light. A portrait near a window where there is a good quantity of light is ideal or go outside where natural light is plentiful.
Remember, the sun should be to the side of your subject. If the subject is looking directly into the sun his/her eyes will squint and if the sun is behind the subject, you’ll get an underexposure.
The popup flash on your camera will probably ruin a good portrait with cast shadows so try to avoid using the popup flash.
If you are using a shoe-mounted flash, then try bouncing the flash instead of shooting with the flash pointed directly at the subject.

Step 3: Get Vertical
Horizontally aligned portraits don’t really allow you to utilize your frame the best. Shoot vertical instead so you get more up-and-down room. Even better, shoot the portrait both horizontally and vertically and see for yourself which photo looks better.

Step 4: Get the Right Emotion
Portrait subjects don’t always have to smile. Believe it or not, that’s a tough habit to break for some photographers. Don’t get me wrong, smiling is OK but try to make it less forced. A nice, natural smile will outshine a “Say Cheese!” photo anytime.

Step 5: Get Close
Try to fill the frame with your subject. Try getting close and then work you way back.

Don't be afraid to get close to your subject. Try different distances for different looks. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Don't be afraid to get close to your subject. Try different distances for different looks. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Bonus Tip:
Don’t forget to try the images in both color AND black and white. B&W will help really well if you want to focus more on the subject than the color of clothing or background colors. Plus, B&W gives an image a nice, “classy” feel.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 20, 2009 at 3:15 am

Expressing Personality Isn’t Just for ‘People Photos’

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If you have a pet, you know how expressive they can be and you know that each one has a unique personality.
Why not express your pet’s personality in a photograph?
You don’t have to have an elaborate set up nor do you need any specialized equipment. All you need is a little time to follow your pet around and a little patience to wait for the right moment.

Newton, our 7 month old Schnoodle, is extremely curious so I thought an image of his nose would help express his curiosity. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Newton, our 7 month old Schnoodle, is extremely curious so I thought an image of his nose would help express his curiosity. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

How To Do It
First, figure out what your pet’s personality is. Is he lazy? Playful? Curious? Well, find a way to illustrate the emotion in a photograph.
The key to a good pet photo is patience. Give him time to settle in and get used to the camera. As soon as your pet is tired of you, he’ll go back to being himself and that’s when you’ll get your best shots.

Remember, compose the shot. Look for interesting ways to illustrate the message about your pet’s personality. Also, try to keep your background simple and use the largest aperture value you have available in order to keep the background from competing with the subject. Also, the largest aperture value will allow you to use the fastest shutter speed available for the aperture setting. This will help reduce blurred images as animals are prone to quick movements.

With a little time and patience, you should get some images that really showcases your four-legged friend’s true colors.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 20, 2009 at 12:20 am

Photo Ideas: Photo Opportunities Around the House

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I’ve heard it many, many times from students and it’s generally said with a slight whine, “There’s NOTHING to photograph!”

There’s always SOMETHING to photograph. Even if you photographed every single item in your home, there’s always a different way to do it.

That’s what makes photography fun and interesting. There’s almost always something new to shoot and almost always a new way to shoot the same subject differently.

Hey, you’ve already made a fairly decent financial investment in your camera so don’t let the money go to waste. Plus, with digital photography, it doesn’t cost a dime to take photos, review them or edit them. You never know, you might nail a shot that would make a nice print.

Here are a few ideas for those times you just can’t think of anything to photograph:

Take a walk around the kitchen and look for different subjects. Here, packages of coffee made an interesting composition. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Take a walk around the kitchen and look for different subjects. Here, packages of coffee made an interesting composition. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

  • The Kitchen: If your house is anything like mine, the kitchen is the epicenter of activity. It’s not just where food is prepared and eaten, it’s the place to sit and talk, think, argue, and reconcile. It’s also the site for epic games of Rook but that’s for another time. The kitchen is also overflowing with color. Fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, pots, pans, cans, bowls … the list could go on forever. Spend some time looking around the kitchen and see if you can’t come up with a few photo subjects.
  • The Garage: The garage is another place full of photographic subjects waiting to be photographed. Hand tools, garden tools, even old bottles make for interesting subjects.
  • Curio Cabinets: If you have a macro lens, the curio cabinet can be a treasure trove of ideas. Make portraits out of figurines, dolls or any other collectable you might have.
  • Follow the Pets: Become a photojournalist and document your pets’ day. Spend some time following them around and document what they do.
I spent about 10 minutes looking around outside for something to photograph and found this faucet valve. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

I spent about 10 minutes looking around outside for something to photograph and found this faucet valve. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Here’s another tip: If you don’t want to focus on color, try black and white. B&W photos will also help you focus more on texture and less on color. And remember, compose  your images in order to communicate your message.

There are always things to photograph come rain or shine, outdoors or in. It’s up to you to get creative.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 18, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Photo Lesson 1: Understanding Composition Part 1: Pre-Visualization

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Of all the topics to begin with, I think a lesson in composition will be our best starting point because it encompasses most – if not all – the other photographic topics we’ll discuss.

So, let’s start with a definition for composition. For our purposes, composition has a threefold meaning: 1. The arrangement of subject and background; 2. The interaction of the subject with the background; and 3. The method of photographically capturing the subject, background and the interactions between them.

As you can tell from the definition, composition is a fairly big deal when it comes to making images.

For the most part, the average person who uses a camera doesn’t really consider composition. These are snapshot takers who use a camera for events: birthdays, holidays, family reunions, etc.

But if you’re here, you probably want to go beyond the snapshots and start making images that have a purpose.

This site is intended for amateurs who want to start making better images, advanced hobbyists who need a refresher and for students who want to further study photography as an academic discipline. With that audience in mind, let’s begin.

Start With Pre-Visualization
As with most things, the first step is often the most important and I can think of no other way to begin than with pre-visualization.

Photography is an art, a science and a form of communication. As a form of communication it is important to determine the message you want to convey through a photograph.

Do you want a portrait that conveys an emotion? If so, what emotion? Do you want a landscape that shows depth or one that shows vastness? Do you want a sports photo that shows action or one that shows the emotion of the game?

Once you figure out WHAT message you want to convey, then it’s all a matter of composing it.

Experiment 1: Guess the Emotion

Pre-visualizing the image helps you determine how you're going to compose it. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Pre-visualizing the image helps you determine how you're going to compose it. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

What emotion was I attempting to convey in this photograph? Some people will say sadness, loneliness, or that she is anticipating an event. Well, all would be right. This photograph didn’t start out as a posed photo. I saw my friend Vero sitting on the ground and I thought that it would make a nice image.
Then I saw her expression. She was, as usual, in a relaxed, contemplative mood so I wanted to express her emotion photographically.

This is where composition begins. You conceive the idea and then you decide how to capture it.

What’s Next?
In the next lesson, we’ll discuss the next step in composition: Tool selection. Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 18, 2009 at 1:52 am

Valentine’s Day Flowers are a Double Treat

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If you were lucky enough to receive flowers for Valentine’s Day you’re in luck because you have a ready-to-go subject to photograph.

Flowers are the perfect photographic subject. Unlike people, the don’t whine, fidget about and you can move them just about anywhere you want.

Fresh out of ideas? Try these:

  • Close-ups: If you have a macro lens, flowers are a create subject to explore. Get close and exam individual petals or the stamens. Experiment with different aperture settings to see what look you like best.

    Experiment with different aperture values when using a macro lens to see what effect you like best. (Photo credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

    Experiment with different aperture values when using a macro lens to see what effect you like best. (Photo credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

  • Portraits: Put the flowers in the hands of a child or your loved one. Try photographs where the flowers are the subject and not just a prop.
  • Still Life: Photograph the arrangement as a whole or set up a whole prop where the flowers are the subject. Design the set around the flowers. Look for different colors to compliment the shoot. Wanna go bold? Shoot the flowers in black and white and study the texture.

Don’t let those flowers go to waste! Use them to explore color, texture and light. Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 17, 2009 at 9:30 pm