Archive for November 2009

A healthy crop.

November 26, 2009

Is the world made up of rectangles?   Of course it isn’t, but our digital cameras make us look at the world as if it was, because most digital camera sensors are rectangular.  

The sensor may be in the classic 35mm film format proportions of 1×1.5, or in the somewhat squarer 4×3 proportions of most compact digital cameras.  Whichever shape they are, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to leave your images in the shape that they come out of the camera.  You can often improve them by changing their proportions.  It’s called “cropping” and simply means that you take off some of the top/bottom or the side/sides. 

In this landscape photograph of the Corbiere lighthouse on the Channel Island of Jersey, I’ve left it as it came out of the camera.  I think it’s a good image, with the waves splashing, the light reflecting from the sea, and the feel of a black and white photograph.

"Jersey seascape uncropped" by Gale Photography

"Jersey seascape 1" by Gale Photography

With the next version of the image I’ve cropped off some of the top and bottom to make it longer and thinner.  It certainly helps, by taking away some of the grey sky at the top, and the grey sea at the bottom.

"Jersey seascape 2" by Gale Photography

"Jersey seascape 2" by Gale Photography

In this final version I’ve cropped off even more of the top and bottom.  This helps you concentrate on the really interesting central parts of the image, and fits with the horizontal elements of the rocks and the waves.

"Jersey seascape 2" by Gale Photography

"Jersey seascape 3" by Gale Photography

To me this is the most successful crop, but you may prefer it uncropped, or partly cropped.  That’s one of the great things about photography; it’s down to your individual preferences.

Try cropping your images!  You can use simple programs like Google Picasa, or more complex ones like Adobe Photoshop.  Whatever program you use, it’s best to save your cropped image with a different name to the original file so you can revisit the original later if you need to, or if you want to write a blog post about cropping images!

Image enhancement by cropping is part of creative photography, and is covered in our “The  Creative Eye” course.  Check it out at www.lifestylephotos.co.uk

Space is ace.

November 19, 2009

I love filling the frame in my portrait images.  I reckon that as I’ve paid for all those pixels I might as well use them all.  However, there are times when you get a better image by leaving empty space in the frame. 

Take this studio portrait of a child for example.  I really liked the expression on his face, and the tilt of his head to the right, and thought that placing him in the left-hand side of the frame made for an interesting composition. 

"Portrait looking left" by Gale Photography

"Portrait looking left" by Gale Photography

With this environmental portrait, the child’s head is in a similar place, with a similar amount of empty space, but the different expression and close-up treatment makes for a completely different effect.  The dark area of background is balanced by the light area of his face.

"Portrait looking out" by Gale Photography

"Portrait looking out" by Gale Photography

Finally, with this outdoor portrait lit by studio flash, the relationship between the child in the foreground and the darker plants in the background was important.  I placed him well down in the frame to allow us to see past him to the mysterious background.

"Portrait looking straight out" by Gale Photography

"Portrait looking straight out" by Gale Photography

This use of off-centre composition, and creative use of space, is covered in our photographic training course “The Creative Eye”.  You can find details at www.lifestylephotos.co.uk

Always carry a camera!

November 12, 2009

One of the things we suggest to people on our photographic training courses is that they should always carry a camera.  It’s much easier nowadays, as there are some very high quality compact digital cameras around, that hardly weigh anything. 

I’m often asked what the best camera is and my answer is, “The one you have with you.”   Here’s a series of images that illustrate why you should always carry a camera…

We were out walking at Rhossili, on the Gower Peninsular near Swansea, and we saw this female wheatear on top of a drystone wall.  It was very confident and wasn’t bothered about having its portrait taken with my Panasonic Lumix Fz-50 camera.

"Female wheatear" by Gale Photography

"Female wheatear" by Gale Photography

You could even say that it had posed for me!   It was a very different story when a kestrel flew over.

birdofprey

"Kestrel" by Gale Photography

The wheatear saw the characteristic falcon wing shape and pushed itself into the drystone wall in order to hide.

"Wheatear hiding" by Gale Photography

"Wheatear hiding" by Gale Photography

Once the bird of prey had passed, the wheatear resumed its confident perching on the wall.  If I hadn’t had my camera with me then I would still have seen this all happen, but wouldn’t have been able to capture a lovely little sequence of images.

It was obviously a day for interesting flying things.  A bit further round the coast we saw this plane flying very low, and as my camera was out and ready I took a shot as it flew over us.

"C-130J" by Gale Photography

"C-130J" by Gale Photography

It was a Lockheed C130-J “Super Hercules” transport, operated by the Royal Air Force, and probably based just up the road from us at RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire. 

So, these images sum up how important it is to always carry your camera (at the ready), know how to use it, and that you should try and get a series of images, so you can put them together to tell a story.

You can learn more on one of our training courses, or Photo Treks.  Check www.lifestylephotos.co.uk for details.

I’m so shallow.

November 6, 2009

While I was becoming a more serious SLR photographer, I was obsessive about getting everything in focus.  I think this came from having used box cameras that had small maximum apertures, and compact 35mm cameras that had wide-angle lenses.  Small lens apertures and wide-angle lenses lead to what’s called a “large depth of field”.  This means that everything from the foreground to the far background is in focus.  As I improved, I realised that you can get much more creative images if you control the focus point carefully, and limit what’s in focus to a small area.  It’s called a shallow depth of field.  Here’s an example:

"The Poppy" by Gale Photography

"The Poppy" by Gale Photography

I’ve focussed on the foreground poppy, used a telephoto lens and a wide lens aperture, to throw the background wire fence out of focus.  It makes for a much more evocative image, with a relevance to Remembrance Day. 

You can also use control of the focus area to make images that are ambiguous, and open to many interpretations.

"Sequins & lights" by Gale Photography

"Sequins & lights" by Gale Photography

The warm-toned out-of-focus circles in the background mimic the patterns of the in-focus sequins in the foreground, but we’re not sure what their spatial relationship is, or even their sizes.

With portraits you need to focus on the subject’s eyes.  If you let the rest of the image go soft, it allows the viewer to really concentrate on the “windows to the soul”, and gives great communication.  Here I’ve taken it to another level by only focusing on the nearer eye, which gives even more impact to the image.

"One eye in focus" by Gale Photography

"One eye in focus" by Gale Photography

If you are inspired to try and take these sort of images, the best way is to use a telephoto lens,  or zoom your compact camera’s lens out to its maximum, and use a wide lens aperture.

Have fun!