Digital Storytelling

Becoming A Better Photographer

I would like to start off by saying one of the things I really dislike about the modern photography fad with phones is how you can shoot the thing off and take like a hundred shots in less than a minute. Then they go through and pick the best shot and delete the rest.

That’s not how you do photography.

I will acquiesce and admit a phone can be a useful substitute for a camera. However, I am always willing to challenge someone for not knowing the basics of photography (if not the history) and calling themselves a photographer of any kind. I know it sounds harsh, but I think you learn a healthy respect and admiration for photographers when learning how to use a camera the old fashioned way. I don’t necessarily mean learning how to do film. I’m talking about knowing what each of those settings in a camera does (shutter speed, aperture, light meters, white balance, etc.) and putting them to use. I say this because your phone does all that stuff for you, and to be honest, I think my phone doesn’t do half as good a job as I can with a camera in my hands.

This is why I am happy to discuss the methods and theme prevalent in photography.

Selection

As was stated in one of this week’s readings, don’t use your camera “like a rapid fire machine gun.” If you take the time to pre-compose your shots you can make some really creative images. This is a rule of thumb for anyone using film, since you are limited in the number of shots you can take. Plus, you only get one real chance at that shot. Being picky when it comes to photography is not a bad thing. It’s actually a smart and stylistic choice, giving you time to set up shots and choose which angle you think is best.

This is image is an example of typography. This is an assortment of thirty different CDs I own. Each of the photographs containing the CDs were done in a controlled environment. I had studio lights set up to illuminate each of them in the same way. The background is a black cloth, meant to create uniformity. I was also careful to place the CDs in the exact same position each time. The result is a selection of CDs in a grid format, demonstrating variety, choice, genres, artwork, and more meant to represent myself. Each of these shots was taken only once before being compiled into this final image in Photoshop.

Contrast

Contrast provides difference in photography. The most common differences are achieved by changes in the tones or colors that compose the image. I mainly do black and white photography, which often presents this difference in light and dark tones, however I have done some digital photography with very colorful contrast.

This is a photo I took in early 2018 while on a whale watching trip off the coast of Virginia Beach. While we didn’t see any whales on that trip, I got some amazing shots of the ocean horizon and of the people around me. Notice how the blues in the woman’s outfit and the orange in the child’s jacket contrast with one another, while the rest of the image is mostly white. This image is eye catching because is contains that difference that provides contrast in an image.


Perspective

As a photographer you won’t always be able to line up the perfect shot right away. Sometimes you have to find different point of view. I’ve taken shots looking down, looking up, laying down on the ground, on my knees, holding the camera in one hand, and much more! You should always try to take photos from a different view of the world. Make things big, or make them small. Make something seem far away, or very high up! And make use of natural lines to draw the viewer’s eye.

This is an image I took while hiking the High Bridge Trail outside of Farmville, VA. The high bridge is an appropriate descriptor, because the bridge is very high in the air, with railings that were taller than me, and I stand at 5’4. It was possible to stand on a nearby ledge to take pictures over the top of the rail, but I was also afraid of dropping my camera over 100 feet into the river below. So, I had another idea. There was a gap at the bottom of the rail just big enough to fit my camera lens through, so I laid down on my stomach and took some shots of the horizon.

Depth

Depth of field is one of the basics of photography. Essentially, depth of field is the distance between the nearest and the farthest objects that are in acceptably sharp focus in an image. So that effect you get when the subject is in focus but the background is blurry? Depth of field! The depth of field of an image has many factors, including focal length, distance to subject, the size of the circle of confusion, and aperture.

This photograph was taken while on a camping trip with my photojournalism class in 2018. The foreground is out of focus, yet the background is perfectly in focus. I took this image by mistake while trying to reconfigure my camera settings, but never got rid of it because it represents a classic example of depth of field. The opposite is also possible, getting the two figures in focus while having the background blurred. I rather like this image though, since it’s the opposite of what you would normally expect.


Balance

Balance in photography isn’t always about lining up a shot perfectly or making things uniform. In fact, that is the exact opposite of what you want to do! The information page related to this subject mentions the Rule of Thirds, which is a huge concept in photography. The rule of thirds is basically a composition guideline that places your subject in the left or right third of an image, leaving the other two thirds more open. There are other forms of composition, such as S-Curve, Leading Lines, and Negative Space. However, the rule of thirds generally leads to compelling and well-composed shots and tends to be emphasized for beginners.

This photo was taken while on trip to Yogaville, at the top of the hill from Satchidananda Ashram. Notice how the image contains more more of the subject (the building) on the right side of the shot, while the left is mostly empty. This invokes the Rule of Thirds. However, there are other things about this image that create balance. The shape of the hill in the foreground mirrors the shapes of the mountains in the background. There are three small spires, an odd number that is viewed favorably in photography.

Moment

Sometimes photography is about catching images of action and movement. Objects in motion are notoriously hard to capture in sharp detail, since you have to anticipate the action and be prepared for the shot. This can be anything from a shot of someone running, street photography of people walking, or a shot of someone posing mid-dance. I personally would love to discover the secret of taking pictures of animals in the moment, because I never seem to be able to get a good shot! Perhaps I’m just better with people!

This image was taken on the same whale watching trip I mentioned before. This shot is the product of notorious winds on the high seas, and me being fast enough to capture the moment my friend’s hair blew all around her in the wind. She didn’t know I was trying to take a picture of her, because I was sitting a good distance away and using my zoom lens. I think it turned out good in the end. It’s a very candid photo that captures her in the moment, much like the rest of us, on a freezing boat in the middle of the ocean in early February. Brrr!

Lighting

Light is a crucial thing you must be aware of in each photo you take. It’s often something that is hard to control, especially if you take photos in natural light settings. Night photography is also vastly difference from normal photography, and you must be aware of how the absence of light will affect your shots, and whether or not you’ll need a tripod for clear images. Likewise, you must know when and when not to use flash. Flash is not always helpful, and the flash of the bulb can easily ruin an image. You also have to keep in mind that light generates shadows

This is a scan of a black and white 4×5 print I created using a large format film camera. I took this picture with the intention of creating a certain feeling of melancholy, or sadness. Notice how the light shines on the subject’s face through the window, which is juxtaposed against the shadows inside. The way this photo was taken was a creative choice based on lighting, which was gorgeous shining through this window that day.

Foreground & Background

What part of a photo do you want to emphasize, the foreground or the background? The foreground is that part of the image that is closest to the camera, just like the background is the part of the image farthest away from the camera. A landscape can be dull without something to break it up, but you also don’t want it to be cluttered. It’s a stylistic choice that can be combined with depth of field for interesting results!

Yet another image from the whale watching trip, haha. This time it’s to demonstrate the use of an object in the foreground to break up the landscape. Since we didn’t see any whales on this trip, I ended up taking a lot of pictures of the ocean horizon or of the Virginia Beach shoreline until we got too far away to see it anymore. Looking at this image, wouldn’t it look odd if the buoy wasn’t there to break up the horizon? It would look empty, yet the bouy breaks it up just enough to be interesting! This image also utilizes the Rule of Thirds by having the buoy off to the left side of the image.

Hopefully you had as much fun reading this post as I did writing it! Every image in this post was taken by me, so feel free to comment on them or let me know what you think! Please comment down below, because I love hearing any feedback!

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