What’s Your Composition?

Out you go, camera in hand, all set to locate and shoot the perfect image. Your “digital capture device” is complicated and has a mind of its own. No matter how many shots you take, they just don’t look right.

Thank goodness you’re here. Regardless of whether you have a point and shoot, digital SLR or iPhone, this is the column to ask questions and find suggestions that will improve your photography.

Welcome to the inaugural edition of The Digital Eye.

The definition of a successful photograph varies, depending on the style of photography and the individual artist.

Exposure and sharpness are commonly thought to be key components. However, for some genres such as event photography and news, capturing the moment is of prime importance.

You will improve the quality of your pictures by employing some simple changes in your technique even without learning any technical aspects like the use of shutter speed and f-stop.

The one thing that sets a great photo apart from the rest is composition.

Where you put your subject in the frame is paramount to the creation of an image that captures the heart and mind of the viewer.

Look for interesting curves and lines that lead the viewer into your creation; a winding path, converging lines on the side of a road, a flow of direction from foreground to background.

Do not plop your main subject into the middle of the frame.

Instead, use the “rule of thirds”. Divide your frame into thirds, both horizontally and vertically and then place the focal point of your main subject at one of the spots where the lines intersect.

This improves the appearance immensely.

It’s often a good idea to change your orientation from horizontal to vertical (i.e. landscape to portrait).

When your subject is taller than it is wide, it may be appropriate to have your photo reflect the same orientation. This is most apparent when creating a portrait.

Portraits shot horizontally with the subject smack in the middle of the frame are the hallmark of the snapshot. Turn your camera so it is in a portrait position, move closer to your model, and capture them.

Have your subject facing into the image rather than out of it or make direct eye contact with the camera.

Let’s also dispel the myth that you need the latest and greatest of electronic gadgetry to create great photos.

The marketing done to convince you of your need for higher megapixels and auto everything benefits the manufacturer’s bottom line rather than serving you.

Ask yourself if you will be using all the bells and whistles of the higher priced systems.

Do you just want to take shots for emailing, putting on social networks and make the odd 4×6 inch print? You need very little in the way of resolution for this, so a simple, low cost system may suit you best.

I have made excellent digital images and prints to 8×10 inches with a 12-year-old, 3-megapixel digital unit.

One talented Yukon landscape photographer I know uses a five-year-old, 10-megapixel camera and a 50mm lens as his main equipment. He regularly produces fine art quality 16×24 inch prints.

My current system is inexpensive (comparatively speaking), three years old, has 14.1 megapixels (effective 4.7), and prints to 20×30 inches beautifully.

If your intent is to create large prints of your images, a DSLR with higher resolution and interchangeable lenses may well be your preference.

As I said, consider your needs.

Personal experience prompts me to tell you that that your camera is of use to you only when it is with you – so have it with you.

The creation of a photograph is a rewarding and pleasurable experience in itself; more than just a recording of events.

Photography is an artistic form of self-expression.

Take the time to move around your subject, look at the light and shadows; find the best angle. Set the focal point of your subject on one of the points from the “rule of thirds”. Then shoot and share the results.

Email your questions to me at [email protected] or post them after the column at the What’s Up Yukon website old.whatsupyukon.com. Your queries will form the basis of further columns.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy shooting, and remember to leave the environment as you found it.

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