OK… so I have not been posting for a bit. I be busy! And I have been thinking. Thinking about you…the reader. And I have come to the conclusion… well… not by myself… I have had help from a few “photo friends” that say… ” Hey Gene… I only have an iPhone” or I “don’t have one of those highfalutin cameras with a couple hundred knobs and levers but I still want to learn.” Well… readers… you are right… one can take some wonderful photos with a simple camera. You won’t have nearly as much control over the results but you can still do it. My lovely and talented wife has a phone camera… or is it a camera phone… that she has taken many really nice photos. What is her secret? Well… there is no secret… only a “terrific eye”. Meaning… she knows how to compose a photo for the most drama and she knows where to stand for the best light… and she is not afraid of walking around the subject to see what perspective will again… deliver the most drama to her photo.
So this year I will be keeping “you iPhone and simple camera people” in mind as I blah blah on about how to get the most out of what you have. So… let’s get back to the basics. And here to visually help me is a plastic cup I have been traveling with for a few months. Yep… a plastic cup with Cherry Jerry emblazoned on its side. He has been around since 1922… as the official mascot of the world-famous Cherry Hut in Beulah, Michigan! It will be my teaching subject. And after I say something truly remarkable I will give a real world example of what Cherry Jerry just showed us.
First… almost every basic camera has a “zoom” lens… or if not… you can just get closer to the subject which will create a “wide angle” look.
Above you see our subject… Mr. Cup. Handsome guy and helpful. Obviously the extreme wide angle distorts the view. This was shot with a 24mm lens… almost as wide as an iPhone… if you like this look and if you believe it helps the composition and story… go for it! In a real life photo it might look like this:
But… that may be too wide for your taste. Back off and it will look more like this with a 200 mm long lens.
And in real life a long lens will give you this look. It compresses the layers of the photo… the longer the lens… the more compression of the subject.
There is no right or wrong because you are the judge and jury. So use the lens that helps tell the story the best!
OK… let’s move on to another way to make your photos better and more interesting and much more engaging… the classic use of “leading lines”. You don’t need a fancy pants camera to do this but you do need to use your noggin by looking for a visual assist in the scene that will drive your viewer’s eyes quickly and directly to your subject.
Notice how I so cleverly positioned both the plain white cups and the lines in the picnic table to “lead” right to Cherry Jerry! Then I chose a position that would make it easier for the small cups and the lines to corral your eye and lead you directly to the subject. In real life the same technique might look this way.
Great lines… and no that is not snow… I took this in Great White Sands National Park. Now onto a lesson in perspective. Or said more clearly… look up… look down… look all around. Only then will you have truly investigated the scene in order to get the most out of it. And here is Mr. Cup again to help show us the way.
OK… the above photo isn’t as low as I wanted to go… but it is almost worm’s eye. So crouch down and look low and by all means… look up! Like this.
Yes… it is indeed straight up! Had to go to Atlanta a while back and I spotted this street lamp. Now… sometimes this exercise turns out to be nothing… or in some cases… you have totally lost the subject. Being too high will do that. Hence the Mr. Cup shot below. Where in the world did Cherry Jerry go?
But then… it could be something magical and quite dramatic. The photo below was shot in the south of Spain in one of their many “Pueblos Blancos”.
OK… so far Cherry Jerry has been pretty down helpful in getting back to the basics for simple cameras. Now there are two more categories that the boy can help me explain. Lighting and composition. Most things just look better when the light is either coming from one side or the other. Of course… if the subject is in the shadows… then positioning yourself to have the light come from the side… or come directly from behind your camera… or totally from behind the subject… doesn’t matter. So first… from the side. Help us out here Mr. Cup.
Ahhh… there you go … from the side. Having the light come from the side will show more “volume”… and quite frankly will just be better looking. Ain’t that so Cherry Jerry? Here’s how that might look in a real life situation.
Now… how about the light coming from behind the camera straight into the subject?
Sometimes this works out but usually with a person… it is not very attractive. I don’t have a “human example” of this to show you because… well… I avoid it like the plague. But sometimes when architecture is the subject, it can be very dramatic… like the photo below.
And backlit can also be dramatic but one has to “over expose” the scene to “see into the darkness” caused by the lack of frontal or side lights. Here’s Jerry to help explain.
Much like I had to do with the photo below. Backlit. Over exposed. Background “blown out”. It is one of my personal favorites.
OK… let’s quickly move onto Composition!!! You don’t need a high-end camera to produce stunning photographs… just compose it correctly. Here’s Jerry.
Notice that Cherry Jerry is positioned in one of the classic “Rule of Thirds” segments of the photo. The Rule of Thirds states… or indicates that a wonderful composition… pleasing to the eye… is best achieved when the subject is positioned slightly left or right of center and slightly north or south of the center. For people just getting their feet wet in photography… this is a good “rule” to follow. Of course breaking that rule later on is so much fun! Now here is a classic composition…. shot in Las Vegas!
And here is another! Shot on the Oregon Coast.
Now don’t get out a ruler to adhere 100% to this suggested rule… close enough will give your photos an honest to goodness professional look. One other way of thinking about composition is… NEVER PUT YOU SUBJECT RIGHT SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE!!!
Well… I hope you iPhoners got a little something out of those examples. And now we will move onto something for the advanced cameras. Shutter Speed. Most simple cameras just don’t let you adjust the shutter speed. The camera does it… you just push click. Bummer… because the world opens up when you can control the amount of time that the shutter is letting in the light. Here is what I mean… and here is Cherry Jerry to help.
Well Gene what in the world is that above ? That is me dropping Mr. Cup into the scene. Notice the “smear”? Well… that is caused by having a very slow shutter speed. The action is not frozen… this becomes essential when you are shooting moving water and you want that silky milky look to the water. Like this:
On the other hand… if you want to freeze the action … like a soccer game or someone running or jumping… then that calls for a much faster shutter speed. In the photo below… I dropped Mr. Cup one more time… but this time I had the shutter speed set to 1/500th of a second. Voila!
Now I don’t have any soccer games to show you but I think this gentleman walking briskly next to the Louvre in Paris will suffice.
OK… here is another one… again not a real dramatic freezing of movement… but heh… I like it…. and it was cold.
So… there you go. This year I will be keeping in mind the “simple camera” readers who have voiced their need/want of tips and instruction on things that relate more to them and their particular equipment. But don’t fret if you are lucky enough to have invested in a “high-end” digital camera… there will be plenty for you!
Until next time… Viva La France.