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Digital Photography Part 4 Composition. Péter Tarján2 Thinking through the viewfinder The world is full of picture possibilities. It is ultimately the.

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Presentation on theme: "Digital Photography Part 4 Composition. Péter Tarján2 Thinking through the viewfinder The world is full of picture possibilities. It is ultimately the."— Presentation transcript:

1 Digital Photography Part 4 Composition

2 Péter Tarján2 Thinking through the viewfinder The world is full of picture possibilities. It is ultimately the photographer who decides where to point the camera and how to shoot. To take great photos, you have to learn to see in a different way. Human vision is active, searching, scanning. A photo is a static image of part of a scene; it turns three-dimensional reality into a two-dimensional one. What you think looks good may turn into a bland, disappointing picture. You have to learn to think through the viewfinder. This is a skill, it can be learned.

3 Péter Tarján3 Composition Composing an image involves thinking about what you want to be in the picture – and what you want to leave out. It’s usually best to include one subject only. Too cluttered scenes divide the attention and take away emphasis. Rule #1: simplify! Eliminate unwanted clutter by zooming or moving to a different place. If you include more than one element in the frame, they should complement the main subject, not compete for attention. Manipulating the composition Most of the time you can’t move your subject elements around and you have to adjust camera position, angle and focal length to get the most out of the scene. Sometimes, however, you can manipulate your subject: choose a different background, rearrange fruits in a still life or ask your subject to move to a different spot (for better light or less distracting background). Don’t be afraid to use these opportunities!

4 Péter Tarján4 The effect of simplifying

5 Péter Tarján5 Image formats It’s easier to take (and review) landscape (horizontal) shots than portrait (vertical) ones, but using both adds variety to your pictures. Some subjects usually work better in one format than the other – but not all the time! Experiment! On the computer you can crop your pictures to any aspect ratio and you aren’t limited to a rectangular shape either. Use that to your advantage if the image looks better that way!

6 Péter Tarján6 Color The 5 structural elements that define how a subject looks: color, form, outline, pattern, texture These usually work together but a shot can be composed to emphasize one or an other. Certain colors (bright red, yellow, pink) attract the eye and seem to leap out of the screen, while others seem to stay in the background. Just as with painting a room or choosing clothes, color combinations are also important in photography: some combinations work well together, others may clash. It is an artistic decision whether you want to create a calm, harmonious picture or you want to “shock” with vivid, bright colors for maximum contrast. Saturation and brightness of colors depend on the direction and the amount of light. Colors can be changed later on the computer to some extent.

7 Péter Tarján7 Working with color Sometimes you may want to emphasize colors selectively – one way to do that is to get rid of the rest of them on the computer. Reds and yellows work very well in photos: they seem to jump out of the picture, while blue seems to recede

8 Péter Tarján8 Form and outline In photography it is important to distinguish form (3- dimensional shape) and outline (2-dimensional shape). Photos are 2-D, but shadows and perspective in a picture provide information on the 3 rd dimension: depth. It is useful to emphasize form in photos, otherwise they may end up looking flat and lifeless. Sidelighting usually works best. But: form can be sacrificed to emphasize outline (silhouette). The subject should remain recognizable, which means you have to select camera position and angle carefully. Other strategy for stressing shape: subject against a light, uncluttered background.

9 Péter Tarján9 Showing form and outline

10 Péter Tarján10 Texture Texture is the picture element that tells you what a surface would feel like, how rough or smooth it is. It is the indentations on the surface that provide this info and their pattern of shading. To emphasize texture, the high points of the surface should be highlighted, the deep points should be in deep shadow. To achieve that, you need extreme sidelighting (raking light). For vertical surfaces, a light that is directly overhead also works. You can show texture with a long telephoto lens or in macro mode. The amount of texture visible highly depends on lighting and depth of field! The texture of human skin usually shows the age of the person quite well.

11 Péter Tarján11 Showing texture

12 Péter Tarján12 Pattern Pattern is a repeating picture element. Pattern can be a great help in composition: by placing similar or identical subjects in the frame, you can fill the picture while keeping the composition simple. With the camera, you can isolate patterns in a way that you wouldn’t see it normally, and this can create interesting compositions. Pattern can be help accentuate your main subject in the composition or it can be the composition. The pattern in the picture shouldn’t be too uniform – it becomes dull. Some break or irregularity (a red apple in a pile of green ones) can make the photo much more interesting.

13 Péter Tarján13 Showing pattern

14 Péter Tarján14 Diagonals Diagonal lines in an image are visually appealing, especially if they originate in or near the corners. They lead the eye through the composition and result in stronger pictures. They don’t even need to be actual lines: just placing two or more compositional elements along an angled imaginary line will work too. By choosing the lens and the viewpoint well, you can turn horizontal or vertical lines into diagonals too. E.g. if you use a wide-angle lens and a close viewpoint, parallel lines on a building converge because of perspective.

15 Péter Tarján15 Working with diagonals

16 Péter Tarján16 Adding depth Unlike our eyes, photography produces 2-D images. When we look at a photo, our mind has to guess the 3 rd dimension from clues in the picture. Sometimes it gets it wrong (optical illusions), but most of the time it gets it right, especially if you consciously reinforce the clues when taking the picture. Depth in a photo can be judged from perspective and relative sizes, elements covered by other elements and aerial perspective. Some tricks you can try: wide-angle lens to exaggerate perspective (relative sizes) filling the foreground frame within a frame foreground partially covering the background converging lines (perspective) aerial perspective: distance haze

17 Péter Tarján17 Showing depth

18 Péter Tarján18 (A)symmetry Where should the main subject be within the frame? Putting it in the middle may create a simple order and convey harmony – but usually it’s boring that way. Pictures with an off- center subject are usually much more interesting. Animals and people should be placed such that they have more space in front of their eyes than behind so that they don’t look “out of the picture”. Don’t overdo it, though: a picture should normally have some kind of balance between its two halves. A compositional guideline: “the rule of thirds”. Place main subject to one of the grid points or along one of the grid lines!

19 Péter Tarján19 Creating asymmetry

20 Péter Tarján20 Varying camera angle Taking a lot of pictures from several positions will improve your photography. Walk around the subject! Experiment with different camera angles. Change the background and foreground and try to find angles from which your shot may become unique. Zoom in to capture details, not just the big picture.

21 Péter Tarján21 Different camera angles

22 Péter Tarján22 Varying camera height Usually you shoot from eye level, because that is what cameras are designed for. But it pays not only to walk around the subject, but also find higher and lower points to shoot from. Changing camera height (even by a little) changes how the subject looks – and just as importantly, what is in the background. For town photography it is worth finding tall buildings to shoot from. Camera height and photographing people The basic rule: keep the camera at the eye level of your subject. When shooting children, this may mean kneeling or crouching. This rule is not set in stone, there are reasons to change camera height: first, you get a different background, second, it gives a different feel: a high viewpoint makes a person look small and inferior a low viewpoint makes a person appear taller and stronger

23 Péter Tarján23 Different camera heights Some aspects of Lviv, Ukraine

24 Péter Tarján24 Planning for processing The advantage of digital photography is that quite a few things can be changed on the computer easily: colors can be modified, unwanted elements removed… Furthermore, photos can be combined to give a scene that may look better than in reality. Keeping this in mind can save you a lot of effort at the composition stage. Some things you can do: remove unwanted elements change colors change the sky combine pictures for unobstructed view combine pictures for wider dynamic range combine pictures for wider depth of field add objects …

25 Péter Tarján25 Lights Lighting is a key ingredient in photography and it is sometimes the factor that makes the difference between a good photo and an average one. Not only quantity, but also the quality of light that counts. Even when you are using natural light, you control light in your scene by changing camera position and camera angle. You also control when you take the picture – light conditions can change minute by minute, and waiting for some time may result in better pictures. Sometimes light itself can become the focal point of the picture…

26 Péter Tarján26 Good light, bad light

27 Péter Tarján27 Natural light Natural light changes not only with the weather and the time of year but also with the time of day. Early in the morning and late in the afternoon light comes almost horizontally, which can show texture, form and shape. During the day, light comes from above and casts little shadow to work with. Shadows are never black in daylight because they are lit to some extent by skylight. Color temperature also changes with time of day: before sunrise and after sunset, blue skylight dominates. Early morning and late afternoon the Sun’s light is a warm orange. During the day, color temperature depends very much on the weather: with overcast skies, light is bluish; on clear days, the Sun’s yellow light is the main factor in the color temperature.

28 Péter Tarján28 Using natural light Overcast sky: cold, drained colors Warm colors at sunset Angular light at sunset shows texture Skylight makes colors bluish after sunset

29 Péter Tarján29 Soft and hard lighting The quality of light also depends on how diffuse the light is. Direct light from the sun is “harsh” or “hard” and causes well-defined, sharp, dark shadows. If light is scattered by clouds, reflected by buildings, this diffuse light creates a more even, “softer” illumination. Some subjects are suited better by hard light (texture, form, shape shows better, vivid colors), some by soft light (no distracting shadows, subject evenly lit, no strong highlights or shadows, so no detail lost). Sources of soft light: clouds fog nearby objects/buildings diffusers any translucent material (screens, sunshades) between the light source and the subject

30 Péter Tarján30 Soft and hard lights

31 Péter Tarján31 Frontal lighting With frontal lighting, the light is behind the photographer. The properties of frontal lighting: the subject is well and uniformly lit colors are vivid, saturated shadows are cast behind the subject no dark areas means high contrast is not a problem few shadows means it’s difficult to judge form, shape and texture, and the subject can look flat, 2-D hard frontal lighting can cause problems with portraits as the subject has to look towards the light, which can force him/her to squint

32 Péter Tarján32 Using frontal lighting squintsaturated colors uniform lighting, hardly any shadows almost 2-D look

33 Péter Tarján33 Sidelighting With sidelighting, the light is to the side of the subject. The properties of sidelighting: the subject is not uniformly lit shadows are cast on the subject too shadows give information about form and texture colors are intense in well-lit areas, drab in shadows potentially difficult for the camera to handle because of high contrast works best with simple subjects; cluttered scenes tend to become a mass of shadows small changes in the direction of the light or the camera may make a big difference in the picture

34 Péter Tarján34 Using sidelighting

35 Péter Tarján35 Backlighting With backlighting, the subject is between the light source and the photographer. The properties of backlighting: subject is in shadow colors are usually subdued or lost (unless subject is translucent) no information on 3-D form or texture in hard light, it results in a silhouette useful for e.g. portraits to avoid shadows – soft light needed to avoid high contrast, most of the bright background needs to be cropped away high chance of flare (disturbing bright spots in the picture coming from internal reflections on the lens elements) special case: rimlighting. If the subject is covered with fur (or other semi- transparent material), the edges become brilliantly lit, creating a “halo”. This shows shape and texture to some extent cameras tend to overexpose it, unless you use spot AE changing the relative position of camera, light and subject can result in dramatically different pictures

36 Péter Tarján36 Using backlighting

37 Péter Tarján37 Modifying the light In some situations it is possible to change the way reaching your subject by doing one or more of the following: moving the subject adding/moving light sources using diffusers to soften light (and avoid highlights) using reflectors to soften shadows Diffusers and reflectors can be bought but they can also be custom-made.

38 Péter Tarján38 Modifying light – example without reflector and diffuserwith diffuser with diffuser and gold reflector


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