Technique: Reflections

Careful. Reflections are tricky beasts, because depending on the situation, they can both make or break a photo. A good reflection of a lake can turn a mountain landscape into something ethereal, just magic, whereas the refection of a portrait photographer himself in a subjects spectacles can just as easily ruin it. But reflections are everywhere, quite often reflecting an almost psychedelically distorted version of our surroundings, reality seen through a glass darkly. We’ll meet just off the Ku’damm, where there is an almost limitless supply of glass facade and the city is at its most colourful. Some examples illustrating the technique Tips for when on location Reflections are not… Read More

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Technique: Shadows

A lack of light. Where there is light, there are also shadows, and whereas we usually concentrate our attention on the light and the way it illuminates a subject, it’s the shadows that give an object its form, that extra dimension. But just as there are different types of light, so it is with shadows too, hard shadows, soft shadows, strong shadows etc., without shadow there is no texture. Shadows accentuate detail, they create mood, but they can also be the subject of a photograph itself. And it’s an old design principle: If you can’t hide it – make a feature of it. Some examples illustrating the technique Tips for… Read More

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Composition: Form

Three dimensions Why is form important? Because a photograph is actually just a 2 dimensional representation of a 3 dimensional world, without this missing dimension everything lacks volume and is reduced to just a collection of 2 dimensional shapes, so when the form of an object is important, the skill lies with the ability to somehow re-inject this missing dimension back into the image. Luckily for us though, the brain has an innate ability to interpret light and shade in terms of depth, and can therefore easily replace the missing binocular depth information from the eyes with a pseudo version of its own. Form is therefore a function of light,… Read More

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Technique: Wide angles

The visual field. Humans have a forward facing horizontal arc of visual field approximately 210° wide, of that however only the center is what is known as the “cone of visual attention” which is only about 55° wide, which approximates to the field of view (FOV) provided by a 43mm lens, which is the reason that 35mm and 50mm lenses are considered to be perfect for street photography. Anything that falls outside of this central cone is known as peripheral vision, and any lens capable of capturing it, a focal length of less than 35mm (full frame) is known as a wide angle lens. Wide angle shots are therefore very… Read More

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Technique: POV – Point of view

The human eye. Many photographs can have relatively uninteresting touch, and that’s probably because they have almost all been taken from the same point of view, that of from approximately 1.50 m off ground level, the height of the average standing human eye. But to get up higher, or lower, can create a far more interesting and dramatic composition of a usually very familiar subject. For example, there’s a huge difference of impact between that of a picture of a dog from above, as we usually see them, and that of a picture taken from a dog’s point of view of another dog, whereby the camera almost becomes the subject… Read More

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Composition: Balance

Juxtaposition Balance is one of the more important rules of composition, one whereby elements are juxtaposed within a composition in order that the overall image has more balance. Although aligning the main subject off-centre, such as according to the rule of thirds, can create a more interesting and dynamic composition, it can also sometimes lead to there being an imbalance due to the large area of negative space it produces, therefore an object of lesser importance can be placed in the empty space to balance the overall image. This is known as an informal balance as the objects are not uniform, it’s therefore balanced asymmetrically. Knowing how to balance objects… Read More

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Technique: Architecture

Machines for living in. Architecture defines our environment, it’s to us what a collection of simple cave dwellings was to Neolithic man. But we’ve gone a long way since then, transforming our living space with more than just a series of purely functional objects, design plays an extremely important role. Architectural photography can therefore be both rewarding and challenging, not least because of the many different factors in play, some controllable, others not. But it’s not the case that architecture equals just buildings, almost everything constructed falls within the theme: buildings, bridges, monuments, street furniture etc. It’s not even just about the the exteriors, there are the interiors to consider… Read More

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Composition: Sub-framing

The picture frame Framing is probably one of the easiest of compositional techniques in photography to master, it’s very easy to use architectural elements such as doors and windows to draw attention to the subject and at the same time to lend context to the overall image. But with some creativity it’s actually possible to use all sorts of natural occurring elements within the field of view to act as framing components, to close down parts of the image, concentrating the viewer’s attention on the main subject. Some examples illustrating the technique Tips for when on location Doors and windows are probably the simplest method to frame a subject Frames… Read More

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Composition: Square format

Forward to the past. There was once a time, back in the far off days of analogue photography, during the 50s and 60s, when the square format photograph reigned supreme, it was only cut short by the advent of affordable 35mm compact cameras in the 80s. And now, although the digital age of photography has been blamed for all manner of evils, it has actually been responsible for a revival of this particular format as the success of Instagram just goes to show. A square format breaks the usual rules, it eliminates the dominance of longer horizontal or vertical lines  which encourages the eye to travel from side to side… Read More

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Composition: Symmetry

Mirror image. Symmetry is the compositional tool most closely related to balance, but than rather just balancing different objects against each other, symmetry refers more to a line that splits an object in half, creating mirror image of each other, think in terms of the Rohrschach test (ink-blot test). Symmetry has long been thought to be associated with beauty and is a powerful tool that automatically creates balance, proportion pattern and harmony, so why not use it? There are 2 main types, a vertical line of symmetry and a horizontal line of symmetry,  everywhere you look there are opportunities, you just have to become aware of them. Some examples illustrating… Read More

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