I want to improve my skills as a photographer but I have the snapshot taking mentality instead of composing or "framing" my shots. I have been reading a book about composition but I still can't wrap my head on what I am doing wrong. I think composition is one of my major weaknesses along with the subject matter of the photo. Do I keep on taking photographs until I can master composition?
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#1. "RE: Improving my photographic skills" | In response to Reply # 0JosephK Nikonian since 17th Apr 2006Sat 01-Sep-12 06:15 AM
The first thing I tend to do is to purposely slow down and ask myself a bunch of questions:
Analyze your subject for why you find it interesting. (Color? Shape? Leading lines? Texture?)
Look at what is around the subject. Do these things add to the picture or distract from the subject? If they distract, get rid of them. (Zoom in, move closer, change your viewing angle.)
Take pics in both landscape and portrait orientation.
Is there a different angle the subject can be shot at?
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#2. "RE: Improving my photographic skills" | In response to Reply # 0blw Nikonian since 18th Jun 2004Sat 01-Sep-12 06:54 AM
> Do I keep on taking photographs until I can master composition?
Certainly! You are highly unlikely to master it without experience, which can largely be accomplished only by making photographs. Note that this isn't a "light bulb off... light bulb on" sort of thing. It comes gradually. I found that it helped to compare new with old, possibly quite old, as it never really feels like you're making progress, even if you are.
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#3. "RE: Improving my photographic skills" | In response to Reply # 0archivue Registered since 26th Mar 2002Sat 01-Sep-12 07:03 AM
Composition is just a tool among others...! The snapshot "mentality" is often more a desire to "record" such scene or event, while those highly praised pictures that became landmarks in the history of photography are more of the "saying a story" type...
The difference between these two attitudes can be technically very small. If I take as an example an animal in a zoo, the "record" snap would be perfectly exposed, sharp, and often centered cheetah in it's enclosure...
Now, being in front of such a scene, what would a "story teller" want to do ?
After evaluating the cheetah's comportment, the visitor's ones, the surroundings, one could want to convey the boredom or the sadness of the animal, another might want to show the relationship between the animal and the visitors, another still might want to show the cheetah daydreaming while staring at impalas in the next compound...
To "say" those different little stories in one unique pictures, technique comes as "writing" tools... Either a framed view of the cheetah yawning in a decentered part of the final picture with out of focus public gathering against the enclosure (the bored "star"), or a "compressed perspective of the same cheetah from two third back, seeming to look at a distant compound (dream of food, original habitat, etc...) !
All depends of the surroundings, the viewpoint possibilities, the story that pop's up in your head... Then, aperture, speed, focal length... And "composition", will come into play to convey in the final print what you thought of as a story !
Of course, the viewer of the picture, might see in it a very different story then the one you tried to convey ! That would be great, as it would mean that each of the viewers would find an "interest" in the picture, finding in it a "quality" (whatever), a meaning, bringing out the "oh's and the ah's...
Another easy way (nowadays) to understand and learn about composition is to crop in a square your pictures in a PP software... Would the square crop be better with the left of the picture or the right, or centered ? What does the two (or three) results show ? Could you give each of them a different titles (i.e. bored, attentive, Acinonyx jubatus, etc..) !
Composition is more like grammar or syntax, it's helpful to be understood, but can be overridden sometimes...
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#4. "RE: Improving my photographic skills" | In response to Reply # 3John Bertotti Nikonian since 30th Jun 2012Sat 01-Sep-12 10:03 AM | edited Sat 01-Sep-12 10:33 AM by John Bertotti
I don't know if this is common but I like to take a lot of shots of the same thing. I go to extremes. I may take several very close twisting the camera all around, some from above, the side below, laying on my side, stomach, back. I may stand close or back way up, shoot wide or zoom. I think you get my point. I take all sorts of pics of the same thing, most eventually being deleted but while looking at all of them I try to figure out which I like the best but also why I like them. I find this practice is helping me a lot. My next idea for practice is going to be the same thing but I am going to add a little red t-rex stuffed animal to every scene and try to see how I can make it work. I even pick things, places and subjects that initially look very boring to see what can be done with them. I find it is not just about taking as many shots as I can but taking a close look at them after and learning from them. Also look at other people pictures to see what they have done take a favorite from someone else's portfolio and roam around trying to find ways to recreate the elements of the shot that you like but also try using elements you don't like effectively. Make sure you have fun but remember growth isn't always easy or fun and working with some of what you like the least can help young row the most. Oops I digress, my martial artist jarhead side is slipping out. Have fun, work smart! Bertotti
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#5. "RE: Improving my photographic skills" | In response to Reply # 4jesse101 Nikonian since 28th Dec 2011Sun 02-Sep-12 03:17 AM
like what brian already mentioned..keep taking photos! maybe back in the film days, you might want to be a bit conservative..but with DSLR's, click away, if you dont like it, trash it!
what i started doing and continue to do to help improve my photographs, is i browse other photos, look at the ones i like the best, check their exif data and keep a mental note when i go out on shoots. till this day i do not think i got anything great..its a tough thing to do.
the other thing i find myself continuously doing, is when i am shooting portraits, when i see a change in DOF or sharpness, i check my exif data on my camera, then make adjustments to see if the results get better or worst. at this point i take notes..i have a note section for photographs on my iphone, i title it "Bokeh" "sharpness" and so on, i add different set points and go from there. basically every single time i am taking a shot, i am teaching myself..i pretty much know what each of my lens can do in different situations, i pretty much know what f stop will produce good results in low light settings and with bright settings. i do the same with a speedlight attached to my body or for OCF.
there are so many variables. Each time i think i got a great shot, when i get home and start my PP..i then notice the flaws and again, i take notes as to how i could have improved that photo.
I am not even sure if i will ever be able to get that awesome shot, but in the meantime, i am educating myself and enjoying it all at the same time.
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#6. "RE: Improving my photographic skills" | In response to Reply # 0
Great suggestions so far. Definitely keep shooting, as Brian says. While reading a book or magazine is great for giving you a foundation of knowledge to call upon, it's practice in the field that helps you gain the actual experience you need to know what you're doing--to "see" the opportunities while looking at a scene or object, and to be able to make the settings decisions necessary to execute your vision.
Also, I like John's suggestion of going to extremes. Keeping within a comfortable method or style is sure to put boundaries on your art or expression. But, doing something different or "extreme" will give you new perspectives and let you see things in a way you hadn't before. Doing this enough will help this approach become more natural and you will automatically start to capture more interesting images.
While I believe that creativity in people varies and this is all very natural to some, I think anyone can train themselves through exercises to improve their compositions. Just knowing some of the rules and techniques--when to use them and when to break them, in what situations--will give you the means to discover these new perspectives.
You can make fun exercises for yourself. On particular days, don't just go out shooting without a plan, but give yourself a task such as shooting just detail, or shooting from a low angle, or making it a point to put your main subject in an extreme corner of the frame, or even not looking for "objects" but looking at everything in terms of lines, shapes or textures. It's amazing what you can see in everyday scenes and objects thinking this way.
#7. "RE: Improving my photographic skills" | In response to Reply # 6John Bertotti Nikonian since 30th Jun 2012Mon 03-Sep-12 10:18 AM
I just got done browsing all the linked galleries in this thread. I suggest starting there. I seen a lot of incredible images and everyone seems to put mine to shame! You all are doing great work! Thanks for sharing!
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#8. "RE: Improving my photographic skills" | In response to Reply # 0
Keep on shooting.
You may want to check our Tips & Tricks wiki section for Composition technique
Have a great time :-)
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#9. "RE: Improving my photographic skills" | In response to Reply # 0
Take your time. Find something still that looks interesting to you and fill up your memory card with it. Go home and look at the shoots. Try to pick out what you like about each photo what you don't like. Do it again and again. You will start to make connections as to what you need to do.
#10. "RE: Improving my photographic skills" | In response to Reply # 0
I know for me it is finding what really interests me and developing that interest. I found I naturally gravitated to portraiture. And macro has become interesting.
I know how you feel. I nearly tossed in the towel and quit photography. I got frustrated and even emptied my gallery. But I stopped and realized the only way I was going to become better was to go back to square one and take my time and learn. I think everyone gets to that point at one time or another, no matter what it is.
So I am going to be shooting a lot more. Hey, the images may never be seen by anyone else, but the point is to keep at it. Be willing to suck at composition. Have poorly exposed, poorly framed photos. So what? Who cares? Just keep at it. (I am giving myself a pep talk here too!) I live in a small, boring town. So go out and photograph it. Sooner or later it will come. That image that makes you say to yourself, 'I made that?? Me? Wow!' and then you will feel that wonder and that passion and you'll want to create more.
Wow, now I'm getting chills!