Since getting my new camera last April, I’ve focused on improving my composition. Worobiec’s Photographic Composition and Excell’s Composition, both given to me as gifts, have both been great guides. At their suggestion, I’ve been experimenting with different angles and heights, aligning different parts of the scene with the intersection of thirds in the frame. You can follow my evolution on Instagram.
All of this has led me to think more about the photos I take, framing what is best in a scene rather than cropping later. It’s makes a difference: I feel like my landscape and still life photos are becoming more interesting and evocative. Portraits and street scenes are still difficult, but I’m working on how I can better compose them.
And I’m starting to understand how light and contrast also matter.
Light creates colour and shadow, giving warmth and relief to objects and scenes. Just moving a desk lamp around an object can alter the picture’s mood and appearance. For me, the angle of the light presses or lifts the subject (below, my sequence fiddling from high light [positions to low). Some angles look more ‘natural’ than others, others make the subject look ‘startled’.
Professional photographers think about lighting from three points: the main light that gives illumination and contrast, (key), a second to soften the shadows (fill) and another to give outline and depth (back). While I’m not adding lighting to a scene, I am watching where I stand and how the subject is lit in these three ways. Is the face lit or shadowed? Is the background too bright? Are my steepest light / dark differences at the picture’s focus (this, from painting classes).
Another change has been in choosing the time of day that I take pictures. I like the dramatic contrasts and vibrant colours that come from having low, filtered light, natural at sunrise and just after sunset. I try to get out during the ‘golden hour’ when the camera gets vivid blue skies and orange lights: an hour later, the scene changes completely.
Finally, there is the issue of photographing coloured lights. A rainbow of hanging lamps invariably photograph as monochrome white lights. I thought that getting closer and reducing background light might help, but these results from a London alleyway are scarcely changed.
Wikihow offered relevant advice on photographing Christmas lights: Use illuminated backgrounds, get closer, and adjust the camera settings. It helped a lot with getting strings of lights to resolve and to photograph better, but I’m still trying to find the right solution for capturing vivid colour.