Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tech Talk Tuesday

What Karen Sees
Hummm, the title of this post sounds familiar.  What I want to talk about today kind of has to do with the name of my blog, but I'll explain that in a minute.

Last week's Tech Talk Tuesday was the tip of the iceberg of what you need to know about the technical side of using your camera to capture memorable pictures.  Important, but not fun.....unless you're one of those techies I talked about.  Important because you must have that foundation so you know how to record the image you see with your eye, or with your 'mind's eye', on your flash card, a computer, film, print, web, etc.

Today I want to talk about some fun stuff, and for me, it's the artistic side of photography.  I'm going to talk about what I think is the most important first step in taking a great photo.   First of all, I want to describe what a great photo is for me.  I've done this before, (most recently in a comment on Scott's blog), but it's an important part of my philosophy so I'll repeat.  A great photo is one that causes the viewer to take a second look, or look a little closer, or want to view it longer than the other pics he may be looking at, or decide to come back and view it again - in other words, keep and hold the attention of the viewer.  The photographer has done something  right to make that photo memorable.

So how do you make a photo memorable??  In my humble opinion, it starts before you pick up your camera, before you fiddle with the controls, or before you push the button.  I think all of us at times look at a scene and think, "that would make a great picture",  so we put the viewfinder up to our eye, compose, focus and take the shot.  This could be a landscape, a portrait, almost anything.  Then later when we look at the picture on the computer or printed out, we think, "that doesn't look as great as I remember".

I think one reason we are disappointed is we failed to identify what it was about the scene that really caught our attention.  Or even if we did,  we didn't stop to think about how to use our camera, our understanding of composition, and our own creativity to emphasis this interesting feature.

This is where the title of my blog comes in.  You and I might look at the same scene and yet see things very differently.  In other words, what I see can be very different from what you see!  Here's an example.  Maybe you and I are both at Zion National Park looking at the same beautiful scene.  I say, "wow, this is beautiful", pull out my camera, compose, and snap the picture.  You on the other hand, take a few minutes to really study the scene and say, "what is it that makes this so beautiful.....well, I think it is the amazing intense red color of the rocks and the way that cliff is enormous and dwarfs everything around it.  Humm, how can I show the people who will view this picture what so impresses me about this scene.  Well, first I'll make sure my camera is set on Landscape picture style to make sure the color saturation is at the max to show off the vibrant red color in the rock.  I also think I'll adjust the aperture so that the foreground is not quite in focus and attention is really drawn to the cliff. Then I think I'll move in closer and angle my shot upwards to emphasize how huge this cliff is.  Boy I wish that tourist would move out of the way so I'd have a clean shot...wait a minute, I'm going to include him to show a comparison in size so the viewer can really see how enormous that cliff is.  O.K. I think I'm ready.....wait a minute, I just realized that the cliff is facing west.  At sunset, (the magic hour), that cliff will be 'on fire' with beautiful light and shadows.  I'll come back and take this shot then!!!"

Can you see what I'm getting at?  Producing an interesting picture takes both thought and often time.  The first picture in my last post is a good example.  When you read the caption you can see I not only wanted to show a beautiful scene, but I also wanted to create a mood about how I was feeling at the time.  I had to figure out creatively, how to put that across by using my artistic abilities, my basic knowledge of photography, and my understanding of how my camera works; and I have to add, my ability to use post processing techniques in Photoshop and Lightroom, and various other computer programs I use.  But it always starts with getting it right in the camera. 

This takes some practice and it even works with candids and action photography; however, often you have to anticipate and picture in your mind what would make a good shot, then be in the right place with your camera ready for what you hope will happen.

Sometimes you might want to create a mood or feeling or emotion for the viewer.  Maybe it's an outstanding feature in nature.  It could be an idea, or something unusual, or even something common but seen from an unusual view.  The possibilities are endless but should all have one thing in common...whatever it is should make your photo stand out from the rest.  I read somewhere that it was virtually impossible to get a picture of a sunset accepted for publication in a certain magazine, because photos of amazingly beautiful sunsets are so common, they are no longer interesting.       

Now for you skeptics who insist there are great shots you've snagged with no effort, because you just happen to have been in the right place at the right time, with camera in hand..... I totally agree.  Sometimes it all comes together and you get lucky.  But I maintain, you will consistently create more memorable images that you and your followers, family, and friends will want to look at over and over again, when you spend time really 'seeing' what you are about to photograph, then deciding how you will get your viewers to 'see what you see'.

This week's assignment is to look at some of your recent photos with a critical eye.  See what you might have done differently to further emphasize the reason you took the photo in the first place.  And, if you are an over achiever and want extra credit, here's a bonus assignment.  Pick a scene and identify one element within the scene you want to emphasize.  Take at least 5 good pictures of the entire scene, using different angles, camera settings, creative focus etc., but of the 5, take only one that you really feel emphasizes the feature you chose.  Then show the 5 images to several friends or family and ask them if they feel one of the five does a better job of showing that feature, and see if they choose the same one you did.  (And I would love being one of the friends who look at your images.  You can either make a comment with a link to your photos, or email them to me at:   Karen@KarenLarsenOnline.com)      

P.S.  For next week's 'Tech Talk Tuesday' I'm going to list my favorite blogs/websites where I find both education and inspiration.