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Photography Tips

Beyond the Technical

Photography is both a science and an art, let’s face it there are thousands of technical books and photography tips floating around in book stores and online, so I have decided to mainly concentrate on the artistic side of photography.

I have to say, I am absolutely staggered just how many photography magazines only cover the technical side, of course it sells magazines, cameras, camera equipment and so on but not to mention or give any credence to the artistic of side photography is disappointing, after all it is the artistic side that fundamentally sets aside an average image from a great one.

Having mastered the technical skills of a camera there are three qualities in a photographer that sets apart a reasonable photograph from a great photograph. The first is the imagination / vision and the second is artistic talent and the third patience.

So often a perfect technical image simply lacks any feeling, artistic thought or depth, it’s about seeing with our own eyes, using our emotions, the camera simply replicates the mood in the field, but we chose to take and compose that mood or feeling.

Reflections - Rydal Water - The Lake District - Cumbria

Reflections – Rydal Water – The Lake District

Serenity - Stover - Devon

Serenity – Stover – Devon

Composition is everything

Composition is composed through the eye using the mind; it would also be true to say, ones imagination can conjure up all sort of ideas, to add to a composition from waiting for the right weather, season or natural occurs to suit an idea in a location. You can add people or props; perhaps wait for different animals to come into a scene, including composing the people / animals and not least spending hours waiting for the right type of light, atmosphere too add feeling and depth to an image.

So many people either forget or simply don’t bother to compose a photographic image, a good composition draws you into an image and often sub consciously attracts an individual. 

1)The general rule of thirds, this is often used by artists as it is pleasing to the human eye, a river coming into an image on one of the thirds, a pathway, the horizon sitting on a third, the list is endless. Not everything has to sit on a third, perhaps one or two points and as always rules can be broken, such as a beautiful horse taking center stage.

2) Another idea could be to compose a shot that naturally has a dark foreground going into light; this naturally draws the human eye into the image or a shaft of light that takes center stage.

3) Leading lines are always a good way of pulling the eye towards the center, a road sat on a third, river or even a tree off center.

4) In my view less is generally better than more, simplicity and elegance makes a wonderful statement to most photographs.

Shape & Form

Shape and form undoubtedly has a massive effect in photography, from the simple horizontal or vertical line to curves and areas of colour which create shape in themselves, volume.

It really is worth spending some time simply looking at different leafs, landscapes, colours, flowers, buildings and road structures or anything that suits and then composing a shot incorporating some of the ideas from above and below in this section.

Every object has some form of texture, from stones, bark to man-made buildings, how does the light work with these objects, a different time of the day will create a different light and feeling.

I am a great believer that less is more, keep the clutter down, add simple patterns, attractive colour or subtle colours, minimal shapes, keep it uncluttered by using mists, rain or focusing.

 Technical ideas that add artistic value

1)      Just as a painter may have an object in the foreground in sharp focus with all that’s behind blurred or simply given a sense of, so can photographs, try focusing on an object in the foreground, adjust the camera to a poor depth of field, set the autofocus lock, re-compose the shot, putting the background out of focus.

2)      Abstracts or impressions can give a beautiful sense of something; purposely put the lens slight out of focus, try using this technique on different, colours, shapes and patterns. Nothing beats practice.

3)      Long exposures can also give surreal images, although they are rather over used these days.

4)      Panning is a well used method and it works very well, with wild life and any moving object from a car to trains. Simply point and move the camera at the same speed as the object you are following, keep the shutter speed fairly low in order to create a blurred background whilst the object remains in reasonable focus. Experimentation undoubtedly will lead to a few images that are pleasing to the eye, and the effects can then be replicated.

 The Developing Process

With the advent of digital processing such as Photoshop or Capture One, it has certainly made some of the technical issues in the camera less important but I still say if you get it correct in the camera, then all the additional processing becomes easier, (if part of an image is burnt out or badly under exposed it cannot be brought back) a quality image taken in the field always speaks for itself, with little enhancement required.

The amount of additional tweaks and adjustments now available in photographic processing are endless, I suppose in many ways this allows for an individual to further add their own stamp to their work.

There is a natural tendency for beginners to crank up the colour and contrast but as time and experience goes by, you soon realise it’s not about instant gratification or bright sickly photographs but more about a subtle image with depth and feeling or an emotional provoking image, a good image will draw you back, time and time again.

Printing & Papers

If you are really serious about doing your own printing and selecting your own papers, please read on:

1)      Always correctly colour manage your monitor, you can use either a Spider or any similar device. This ensures the colours on your screen are correct and any further processing in Photoshop will be true to your final print.

2)      Set up your printer / Photoshop so it also is correctly colour managed, generally Photoshop or photography processing software controls the printer. It is a good idea to get someone with the skills and knowledge in this area to help.

3)      When the above is being set up, ensure the papers selected in Photoshop are the same as the papers you will be using. Including the ICC profile of that paper. Every photographic paper has a unique profile, which ensures the correct amount of ink is laid to that paper.

4)      It may sound surprising but the type of paper also has an effect on the final print colours, blacks and feeling. For instant, a colder blue / white paper has a colder feel to the final image, where a warmer paper with give a softer warmer feel, it is worth experimenting to find a paper that suits, including matt, pearl or gloss papers.