Cameras have changed the way we document daily life. Digital photography has significantly decreased the time lapse between taking photographs and seeing the results, and smart phones have made invisible any wait time between taking, seeing, editing and publishing your photographs. But having a camera doesn’t necessarily mean taking good pictures. A variety of factors affect the appearance of the photograph taken—light, focus, distance from the subject, framing….
This week your task is to take photographs. A lot of photographs. The more photographs you take, the better your photographs become.
The photographs you take this week will be unedited photographs. This means that you will not edit the photographs using IPhoto, Bridge, Photoshop, or even the cropping and filter effects already in your camera apps.
This includes Instagram Photos (which is a filtering program), or the effects portion and cropping functions of Camera+ because of the filters available (don’t worry you can play with these as much as you like after this week—our focus this week is on you positioning the camera and paying attention to what you see).
Your first task this week is to decide on your tools.
If you have a smartphone… you can use the camera function as is. But you can also consider a camera app like Camera+or Dramatic Black and White for the IPhone, which provide a certain degree of control and functionality the way a point-and-shoot digital camera does or a digital single lens reflect (digital SLR) does. Like—zooming and focusing. Search for free apps first with high user ratings!
If you have a webcam... Practice taking pictures with the laptop in various ways. What is most convienent with a laptop is it’s like a smartphone with a built in kickstand. Don’t be afraid to push the limits – gently stand the laptop on its side like an open book (we can always flip the photos later in Photoshop). Check out this article on tips to make your laptop’s camera perform its best: click here
If you have a regular camera... read the manual (seriously). There will be many unique features to your camera that only you can discover. If you don’t have the manual Google search the name and model of the camera + manual and see what you find.
Basically, this week, any “changes” you make to your photographs have to happen before you click the button to take the picture.
This week, you can adjust your photography by altering the following with your camera:
- your position
- with lighting
- the zoom function
- with aperture (which controls the depth of field–how much of the picture is in focus)
- and shutter speed (whether or not you can ‘stop motion’ with the camera and capture someone jumping in mid air)
You should not do the following this week:
- Crop to change your framing after you take the photo
- Change the lighting with digital filters
- Adjust the color
No amount of creative editing can fix a badly taken photograph.
Whatever your skill level or the type of camera that you have, some basic photography and art concepts can significantly increase the success of your photographs. Remember a camera, like any other tool is only as good as it’s user. To get started read Bailey’s blog post from Let Birds Fly—5 Tips for Good Photography (November 29, 2011).
Additionally, let’s talk about three important art concepts that affect the photographs you take—framing, rule of thirds, and negative space.
Framing refers to where, and how objects leave the picture field of the photograph. So it’s all about the edges. Another word for framing is cropping, but cropping generally refers to adjustments to the photo after it has been taken and framing refers to deciding what can be seen on the digital screen or through the viewfinder of the camera.
The following excerpt is from Wendy Ewald’s I Wanna Take Me a Picture. A professional photographer, Ewald (and her assistant Lightfoot), work to put cameras into the hands of children as a way to provide an outlet for their voices and their worldview. Her chapter is great because she breaks down framing, symbols, and point of view in a very accessible way for beginning photographers.
Next, pay attention to negative spaces. Negative spaces are background areas, or areas in between and around solid objects. For example, look at the picture below.
Can you see the giraffe? The photographer was trying to take a picture of the couple kissing, using the sunlight in the back to create tone and mood. But by not paying attention to the negative spaces–especially the negative spaces in between the couple–the photographer inadvertently created the silhouette of a giraffe. So always, as you take pictures, be on the lookout for giraffes!
Focal Point and Rule of Thirds
Finally, where you place your content or focal point in a picture is important. Often beginning photographers place the focal point of the picture—the person, the building, or the object right smack into the center of the image. While this is sometimes highly effective, it also risks being boring. So a good option is to use the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds advocates that more interesting pictures occur when you, the photographer, place the focal point in 1/3 of the picture field.
For example, if you imagine a grid over your photo lens or camera screen (some photo apps will show you the grid on the screen) move the camera until your subject matter is in the right or left, top or bottom third of the screen before you take a picture.
Through My Eyes Assignment Part 1:
Take your camera outside to a place that is familiar with you and take about 50 photographs in about 20 minuets in the environment. Don’t pull your camera out right away though. Find a spot to sit or stand in your chosen environment and just hang out for about 20 minutes to take these pictures. Make sure to document:
What do you see?
What do you hear?
How does time feel in this place?
Is it full of busily passing people bustling to and fro or is it quiet and calm?
When you feel like you have a sense of the environment start taking photographs. Move around, kneel down, climb on something, practice framing, pay attention to negative spaces, try out using the rule of thirds. Then take a look at the photographs you took, which ones are okay? Which ones are better, which ones are best?
Step 1: Create a My Daily Life Documentary Photography Blog Page on your website where you post 3 photos—one good, one better, one best.
Step 2: Discuss each photograph in terms of their differences and why each successive photograph is better than the last. Don’t forget to apply the terminology you are learning!