Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tech Talk Tuesday (Just the Basics)

Keeping Your Viewer Engaged
One way to tell if you have created a great photo is to note how long it holds someone's interest.  In other words, is a passing glance good enough, or does one linger and enjoy looking at a picture for some time.  There are many qualities that make up an interesting photo - beautiful colors, interesting people, lots of action, etc.  But I'm going to mention a few things that are a bit more subtle that you as the photographer can do to make photos more interesting for people to look at.  Here are some examples:

Look for compositions with Triangles
Think about how your eyes move around a picture.  Usually you start with the most prominent element, then move to the next and then the next.  If these elements form a triangle you have a tendency to keep moving around the triangle.  In this picture I first look at the chair, then I move to the beautiful light on the palm, then I see the gazebo in the distance, then I come back to the chair.  Compare with the next photo....

Notice the path acts as a leading line into the picture but then moves you quickly out of the picture to the right.  There is nothing to take your eye to the left of center in this scene.  Below is the same view with a different composition:

This is a little better, in that the path leads you into the center of the picture and not out of the picture.  You want to explore what is at the end of the path.  (This, however, is still not a great picture.  Can you tell me why?????  There needs to be a strong, distinguishing element at the end of the path to rest your eye on and study.)

Don't Place People, or Animals, etc. on the Edge of the Frame Facing Outward.
In general, a picture looks out of balance when composed like this, and the viewer quickly moves out of the frame in the direction the person is facing.  Most often we want to see more of where the person is looking and we can't.  See the next photo for a better view:

This is a more pleasing composition.  The fireman, or main subject, is not dead center but was placed on the cross lines of an invisible tic tac toe (do you remember the 'Rule of Thirds'????), and is given plenty of space in the direction he is facing.

Create a Definite Foreground, Midground and Background
Again,  one's eye typically starts at the largest object in the foreground, the rocks, then moves and rests on the next element, the fence in the middle, then on to the background interest, the Tetons.  Because there are interesting elements throughout the picture, one tends to pause and take a longer look at each individual element in the image.

Create Tension
In this image there are two distinct areas of activity on opposite sides of the picture.  First my eye goes to the most prominent subject, the two boats and large group of people.  I study what the people are doing for a moment, but don't stay long because I'm curious about what the other group of people are doing way over on the other side.  I study them for a minute but then go back to the larger group because I really didn't take long enough the first time to see everything that is going on there. Get the idea?  Back and forth.

These examples show just a few ways to keep the viewer interested in looking long enough to discover how amazing your photography is, why you took the photo and why you wanted to share it with them.  We'll talk about more ways another time.  Also remember that all rules, suggestions, helpful hints, etc., are meant to be altered, revised and downright broken as you, the artist sees fit!  (Do you remember way back when I told you what National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore said to us in a workshop...."The first rule of photography is, there are no rules!")