art

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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