Jan 8, 2009

Don't Kill The Subjects

Ok, so identifying the subject is a bit obvious. Seriously, if there wasn't a subject, you would not have grabbed the camera, right? But now that you have identified the subject in your mind, you can start to do the fun creative part of photography and making intentionally good pictures.

Photos that create visual interest start with a good subject, but the rest of the image is what takes the picture out of the "snapshot" category. In this case, very selective focus draws the eye to the bell of this well-used horn. If everything else in the picture were in focus, the uniqueness of the subject (which in this case is the horn) would get lost in all of the other details.

Canon 5D, 50mm, f1.4, 1/250, Av mode, iso1000, no flash

Subject Killers...

When you start looking for things that detract from your subject, you can eliminate them.

Clutter in the background, especially if it is in focus, draws the eye away from the subject. Many times, you can eliminate background issues behind the subject by moving the camera. When you are really feeling sneaky, you can hide background distractions behind the subject's head, with the bonus of having a unique lighting effect at the same time!
Canon 5D, 24-70, f2.8, 1/60, iso3200, no flash

If you would like insight about the importance of a good background, check out blog posts by the three top-notch photographers Newsweek sent to cover the Olympics last year. Many comments are made about locating a good background, and then using it to frame the action for beautiful shots. They give a lot of insight into the amount of thought that they put into making photos, which is inspiring or depressing depending on how you want to look at it!

Focus is another huge subject killer. I hate coming home from an event and finding an image that could have been really good, and seeing the focus was off. For those who have made the jump to an SLR, you have the greatest amount of control over where to focus. A little time with the instruction manual and some practice time will take care of that. Point and Shooters... this is a tough one, but you do have some options. Many P&S cameras have modes like center-weighted focusing that can help you select what you really want to focus on. You may have to dig in some menus to find it.

I wanted to like this shot, but it really ended up being a nice picture of the subject's hand (which was not intended) while her face is a bit out of focus. If I had been really looking at this, an extra second and I could have put the focus on her face, and waited for the background to clear.

Nikon D3, 300mm, f2.8, 1/200, iso6400, no flash

Other subject killers include distracting colors, chopped off limbs, bad hair days and overly harsh light. Just stop to think... identify the subject, then look at everything else. The "everything else" should be in some way enhancing the subject, leading the eye toward the subject or giving context to the subject. If it isn't doing that, just fill the frame with the subject and eliminate the subject killer altogether.

I will cover some lighting info in future posts, for the bad hair, I would be no help. Seriously.

don j.

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