photography composition – finding the other angles

At the same photo shoot-out that the stunning Film Noir Fight Scene came out of, I again worked with a model, Jill. Her hairstyle and dress were strongly reminiscent of the flapper era. It therefore just suited a more dramatic and sexy pose and styling. And of course, dramatic lighting.

For off-the-cuff / on-the-fly dramatic lighting, a video light is hard to beat.

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eliminate & simplify – the first steps in photography composition

These two images were taken from more or less the same spot.
All that changed was my vantage point, and my choice of lens.

This vibrant park in Manhattan seemed like an interesting place to photograph, but when photographing a couple, I really want the accent to be on them. The best way to do this is to frame them so that the background is as simple as possible, but still complements the final photograph. I had the couple sit on top of this grassy mound, and I lay down on the grass, and framed them tightly against the trees in the background.

Even though I was working with a 70-200mm f2.8 lens, I was shooting around 90mm in focal length. But this was enough, coupled with my low viewpoint, to eliminate any distracting elements from the frame. It is essential to look at the edges of the frame when you compose. And that is the key here in the composition – simplicity.

Working with a telephoto zoom such as the 70-200mm f2.8 makes this much easier of course.

Now, people also naturally have the tendency to stand with their backs against a wall or against something when they pose for a photograph. As photographers, there is the temptation when posing a couple to always pose them directly against a background of some kind.

A neat and effective trick is to have your subjects stand well clear of the background. This can allow you to move your own position, and get a varied background. For example, with these two photographs from a sequence, we used some artwork by painters as a background. But we stood well away from it on the edge of the sidewalk. (I was cautiously in the middle of the road!) This allowed me to move to either side, and get images which look quite different, even though the couple didn’t move much between the two images chosen out of this sequence.

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photographic composition – finding and framing your best shot

Strolling through Green Park in London, I saw these rows of winter-barren trees. The way the snow clung to the trees and branches from the morning’s snow storm, white against dark brown, gave a posterized effect already – the crazy patterns of the branches starkly etched against the white snow.

I took several photographs, finally liking this photo above the most of all. Aside from resizing, it is straight out of camera … my iPhone 4. And therein was a lesson for me that I mulled over the rest of the day, while further exploring the urban landscapes of London …

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composition: finding the perfect background for photographs

Photographers and clients alike regularly comment on this photograph in my portfolio, and the question invariably asked is whether this is a Photoshop effect.  Far from it – this image is straight out of the camera …

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wedding day portraits – simplifying composition for effect

With this article I want to reinforce the idea from a few recent posts about being very specific about your composition. By simplifying the image, we have greater impact. We include only what we need to include in the frame to enhance it.  Just as important, is what we exclude:

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photographing the bride and bridesmaids – location and direction

One of the series of photographs that I like to “have in my pocket” are the individual photos of the bride with each bridesmaid.  This is the kind of photograph you can hammer out very quickly, one after the other. The bride with a bridesmaid, hugging each other.  I always make time for this. One stumbling block might be a lack of place to do this.  But there is usually somewhere to do this, by isolating your subject with a long lens against an out-of-focus background …

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photographing people – available light portrait

While unloading lighting gear from the van to shoot a last few images for a certain section for my next book, I turned around and noticed the way the light fell on Anelisa.  Beautiful portrait light.  The (cropped) pull-back shot will show why ..

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improve your composition in photography – be specific about your background

The impact in this photo of Jessica relies equally on her looks and pose, the lighting, and the background. The background was very specifically chosen by how *I* position myself in relation to my subject. The background was out of focus neon lights in Times Square. I composed the photo very tightly with a 70-200mm lens, set to 200mm. With this, I can select exactly what I want to include in the image.

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dynamic composition – changing your viewpoint (model – Carrie)

Near the end of the recent photo session with Carrie, I walked across the street to find another angle. Walking back, I noticed the sun just dipping behind the roof of this old train station. I thought it might flare interestingly if I caught the sun just on the edge there.

The problem was that I had to step into the street a few times when there was a lull in the traffic. The angle was a tough one since I had to, or rather, wanted to keep my camera at ground level to shoot up. I wanted the flare, and I wanted this angle to accentuate Carrie’s legs.

I resorted to stepping into the road, crouching down, pre-focusing, and then holding my camera away from my eye at ground level. There was no way I was going to lay down in a busy street! It took three tries, each with a series of images, until I “blindly” got the composition the way I wanted it .. with the right amount of flare.

Playing around with the controls in ACR (similar to Lightroom), got me to a retro- faded look I liked. The processing hopefully complements the sun-kissed image and add to the overall feel of the photo.

Settings:  1/250 @ f5.6 @ 200 ISO  //  no additional lighting
Equipment used:  Nikon D3;  Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 AF-S  … at 24mm


composition in photography – framing the shot

In composing a photograph, what you exclude from the frame, is as important as what you include.  With this portrait of Anelisa, I noticed that at this angle, the light reflecting off the black-painted wall created a warm glow of light behind her.  With the receding lines of the bricks, I immediately composed the photo to exclude everything but our model and the specific background.  A very specific background. Looking at the edges of the camera’s viewfinder, I eliminated everything that could distract or didn’t add to the image, such as the shop fronts in the background.  (This image could perhaps still be tightened up with a minor crop in the edit.  But this is the full frame as I had it in the camera, so I had to go with the usual 2:3 ratio.)

The lighting?
Just the sunlight reflecting off the sidewalk that flooded the area with warm soft light.