Photography Tips

The Art of Photography

The Art of Photography

The Art of Photography

How to “Art” Your Photos

I was asked recently the most important things I consider when taking photographs of models.  Kind of like ‘What makes a good photograph?”  Ask a hundred photographers and you will get some answers that are basically similar and many that are different as you will get what has worked for that particular photographer.  But there are basics.  

There are things that you need to know about your camera and how it works; the relationship between ISO, shutter speed and aperture and what happens to a photo when you change these things in ration to each other.  (All this was discussed in my last blog article.) You need to know how different lenses ‘see’.  

That is only a part of the equation.

There are some basic art techniques that work whether you are shooting landscape or a fashion model.  With a model where you are shooting to show off the outfit, there are sometimes very exact rules that apply for posing. These things flatter the clothes as much as the model.  The intent here is for both to look fantastic.  Small details can make an otherwise mediocre photo look fantastic!  

A lot of photographers concern themselves with the technology of the camera and its bells and whistles.  These are key tools of a photographer of course and his or her knowledge of various settings and how they will affect the final resulting photo, are very important but…

Don’t forget the Art of Photography!

I see someone learning about the ‘Rule of Thirds’ thinking they know all there is to know about art and figure that the rest of art rules belong with the Renaissance or the Old Dutch Masters.  (Some of you reading this already know that ‘The Rule of Thirds’ is inaccurate… I know - more on that later.)

The purpose of this article is not so much to iterate the specific techniques that you should know but really to inspire you to search out these basic art techniques and apply them to your trade.  

Don’t call it cheating. There is technology for everything, including Art.  I’m sure you wouldn’t want the engineer/bridge builder to ‘wing it’.  An engineer has a set of rules that he or she follows so that the bridge won’t collapse with the first vehicle that crosses.  An airline pilot has a set of rules that allow him to fly and plane… or land it in the Hudson River with everyone still alive!  

So, too, do visual artists have technologies or rules they can follow to help make them more competent.  Many of the techniques of the Dutch Masters and the Renaissance* painters can be easily applied to photography.   

There is a key here. If you know the rules, then you know when and when not to break them.  

You will never have good judgement on what works and what doesn’t if you don’t first understand what your tools and techniques are.  And to do that you have know the rules of whatever game it is that you are playing, in this case art.  Learn ‘em, drill ‘em.  

Art Techniques

I won't go in to detail on all of these. But do research them out so that you can get your own take.

1. The Rule of Thirds or The Golden Rectangle?

The Rule of Thirds is kinda of a bastardized version of The Golden Rectangle.  

  • Golden Rectangle(The real rule of thirds…)  This one is so easy to apply if you know of it and especially if you have Adobe’s Lightroom.  This includes The Golden Spiral and the Fibonacci Sequence.  
  • Here is a great article that fairly simply explains these: Golden Rectangle

And another that explains how to use and shift between these in Lightroom.

 

2.  Eye Trail.

3.  Colours: what colours come forward and which recede.

4.  Shapes

5. Perspective and vanishing point - themselves and in relation to golden ratio 

6. Focal Point
(Focus: definition, n, “ … or a point at which converging rays would meet…”, “… in figurative use, a central point, as of attraction, attention or activity”
Focal: definition: a. ‘of or pertaining to focus’)  So, Focal Point would the point of focus.  There are various ways to lead the viewer here. 

Decide where you want the viewer’s eye to land — that will be the primary area of interest in the painting or photo known as the focal point. A properly designed composition will lead the viewer’s eye right to it.

“Although this is more relevant in landscapes than still life paintings, your focal point should be supported by your design and the value patterns that lead up to it. Elements of color, value and directional shapes should be employed and emphasized so that there is a pathway leading around your painting to the focal point.

The eye will automatically be attracted to the area of the painting where the lightest and darkest values are in closest proximity to each other. If the values are scattered and don’t offer any type of path toward the focal point, the viewer won’t know where to engage with the painting.  Notice how the perspective lines of the fruit, flowers and sidewalk in Flower Dude (above) lead the eye directly to the figure, which is the lightest value surrounded by the darkest value. The viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to the strongest areas of contrast in the painting. Use this strategy when establishing your focal point.” Artist's Network

Cropping

Don’t be afraid to crop.  Also, when you are taking a photo, your camera is taking a rectangular image of around 3:2 and you may want a sort of panoramic or a much wider than taller final image.  Take a wider image, a photo from much further back and allow yourself to do that long wide and short crop.  If you are not completely sure what you want take a couple of both and mess with the images later in the darkroom.

I have gone back to some particularly favourite photo shoots and re-edited some that I thought were mediocre and cropped in different ways to find gems.

Roads and railway tracks are commonly used to lead to a point on the horizon and give the image perspective. Do you want your eye trail and perspective to lead the viewer to focus on the very centre of the photo or to one of the points of the Golden Rectangle or Golden Spiral?  And why? Or why not?

Perspective 

Definition: II,n, … also, the art of representing solid objects on a flat surfaces as to give them the same appearance as in nature when viewed from a given point; … hence, the appearance of objects with reference to the relative  position, distance, etc.; - The New Century Dictionary, Volume 1, Copyright 1927

Change your perspective when you are shooting.  You can shoot low, so the main subject is above the horizon.  Or you shoot from higher so that the subject is below or partially below the horizon.  Perspective can create a huge difference with the appearance of the length of peoples legs. Shoot high, shoot low?  You will find that when photographing people standing, models for example, that if you shoot higher, their legs will look shorter than if you shoot from a lower perspective.

How did the Renaissance painters create perspective?

"The mathematical precision of architectural linear perspective, applied to painting, allowed Renaissance artists to create a sense of real dimension in their work. By painting subjects so that they became smaller and appeared to vanish into the distance, artists added depth and the illusion of rounded, whole shapes to flat stucco walls or canvas. The paintings seemed to come alive, to show real life and people, not two-dimensional painted shapes. Blurred edges on distant objects mimicked the effect of the atmosphere on what the eye could see. Vivid color in the foreground, gradually fading into murkier blues and greens in the background, enhanced the "distant" vista. Another perspective trick, planar perspective, separates a canvas into planes. In Leonardo's "Mona Lisa," the foreground is the colorful figure, the middle plane is a distinct section of brown and green trees, and the distant plane is mostly blue."   Renaissance Painters

 

Horizon

This ties into perspective.  Where do you want the Horizon?  If you have it in the middle of the photo most of the time it will look boring.  Raised or lowered to the level of the line of the Golden Rectangle will give it a greater dynamic.  

COPY FAMOUS PAINTINGS

https://www.easy-oil-painting-techniques.org/copy-famous-paintings.html

This is a great drill.  Whether you are applying it to painting or photography.  Take some piece you like or has the technique or techniques that you would like to emulate and copy it.  Do this more than once or twice if you need to as you get comfortable with the process.  Never discount the importance of drilling.

And there is the whole subject of lines and shapes and their directions.  What feeling or emotion will a certain line or shape elicit?  

A flat, horizontal line could be considered calm (or even boring), a very neutral mood.  Like this photo below:

 

A line or figure rising to the left or to the right may elicit different feeling.  Using perspective, colour and vanishing point, with certain lines, you could show something either receding or approaching.

If you know these and other rules and you are studying really great photos, whether they be fashion photos or action or landscape, you will have a much better understanding as to why they are good or great shots.  And why others are just not.  

One would not always use all of these techniques all of the time but knowing of them and where they would be used can take your photos, whatever type, to the next level. 

Take the time to be professional.  There is so much good, useful information out there.  Examine for yourself what, of these techniques and skills, will enhance your art.  Use the technical to increase the quality of your art. 

*The term renaissance means “rebirth” and is the period in Europe’s history right after the Middle Ages. During this time, society during turned to classical teachings, world exploration, and cultural achievements in language, art, and science. This period was rooted in Italy and lasted from the 14th Century until the 17th Century AD. It provided an important stepping stone into modern history. Wealthy patrons from Florence sponsored writers and artists so that they could pursue their interests. This renewed knowledge of ancient Roman and Greek cultures gave way to humanism, the appreciation of human achievement and expression. Artists employed these principles in their work.

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Dynamic Posing Guide By Craig Stidham, Jean Harris

Came across this excellent text on posing models.  The go into a lot of the ‘why’ behind various ideas about posing.  Some great artistic ideas and technical stuff.  Great read for a model as well as photographer.  Download from the library to check out if you want to keep a copy.  If you are buying, a digital copy is about half the price of an actual book.  Get your models to read this to very easily increase their knowledge of posing.

Go here to Amazon.com:

 

 

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A Model’s Job vs a Photographer’s Job

I’ve read numerous articles and comments about who should bring what to a photoshoot.  I read a comment recently where a model was asking about poses.  The comment was that the photographer will tell you what he or she wants.  That can be true to the extent that a photographer may have an exact vision of what he wants and will give very specific instructions and direction.

Often, though, if the two are doing a model shoot(testing – TFP) there may not always be something specific planned. Either way a new model should learn some basics.  Years ago when learning I had a chance to work with a professional model where previously I had been working with people who were learning.  We were shooting a wedding gown for a client.  Once finished, we had a bit of time and so we decided to a couple of rolls of regular film.  (Yes, this was before the digital era.)  I shot two rolls of 24 (48 pictures).  She gave me a different pose and look after each click of the shutter.  Every shot was fantastic and it took us all of 15 minutes.

I asked her afterward about this ability.  She said it was hours of practicing in front of the mirror.  This was for her facial expression and her body pose.

So, I suggest as a model or soon to be model: get a full length mirror if you do not already have one.  Look in magazines for poses that will work for your body.  Get at least 10 poses that work for you.  More if you can remember them.  And try different facial expressions.  I have seen what otherwise would be a great shoot but the expression on the model’s face is exactly the same in every photo.

For a genuine smile that gets all the way to the eyes, check out this video by    about the ‘Squinch’:

https://photo-photo.com/blog/peter-hurley-and-the-squinch/

Now, if you are doing a shoot modeling a evening gown, your poses would likely be different from the poses that you are going to use for a bathing suit photoshoot.

Spend time in front of the mirror.  There are tons of samples of poses online – try Pinterest.  Work it until you have several standing, sitting or laying down.  The photographer may ask you something to tweak the pose but by bringing a number of good poses that you already know work well for you, the photographer can work on light and shadow and getting these perfect for the shot.

Another video that needs to be watched by anyone getting their picture taken is this one:

https://photo-photo.com/photography-tips/peter-hurley-video-headshots-and-the-jaw/

It is also by Peter Hurley. Practice this until it is second nature.  Again, I’ve seen more pictures ruined by a double chin where the person is trying to look cool or sexy and they have not looked in a mirror to see what it looks like ahead of time.

All this observation of yourself in front of the mirror will also help you get a better idea what type of clothing works for you; what hides curves you want hidden and what enhances curves that you want enhanced.  What poses make your legs look smaller or larger depending on what is needed.  A little bit of side advice here: don’t ask your friends to tell you what looks good or doesn’t.  This is your job; you are the professional; you need to get your judgement to the point where you are certain. And that comes from observing and understanding what works and what doesn’t.

If it is your first photo shoot or so just start with a few and try and increase your list of poses as you go.

The photographer should be bringing his or her skills of lighting, framing and knowledge of the camera and similar tools.  Make each shoot a collaboration.  This may change if the photographer has something very specific in mind.  In this case he has likely hired you for a specific skill set or look.  But have some ‘stuff’ up your sleeve so you can contribute if asked upon to do so.

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Peter Hurley video: Headshots and the Jaw

This is a great video that should be watched by anyone taking or getting their picture taken.  Any kind of portrait.

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“Common” Knowledge about Model and other Releases

One of the things that keeps me from going to Facebook is the huge amount of false information that gets forwarded by people without checking validity.  Then there are the deeper, more entrenched urban legends.  Here is a fantastic blog post on the subject of model releases and property releases.   Great article – lots of good research.

Model Release Myths

Do couple this information with manners.  Even if you do have permission, you won’t get invited back if you piss people off.

 

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Peter Hurley and ‘The Squinch’

I’ve been looking to improve portraits and have been watching Peter Hurley videos.  This one about the ‘squinch’ is great:

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