Like I have done with most of my blog posts, I initially uploaded some photos and text from my phone, and then took over to do heavy writing from the computer. (It is a pain texting the novels I write!)…
Tonight I met with Corla Rokochy. To document my learning I did a mixture of taking photos of examples to help me remember, as well as notes. Nothing wrong with having a good old fashioned notebook. I feel secure when I have something to write on. I don’t think I will lose that habit, even as our world gets more digital!
Corla talked to me about the importance of a leading line in my photo. This is the imaginary line of vision that your eyes follow as you look over a photo. She said it may loop around and around (multiple subjects), or it may go from one side of the photo to the other but it should be done with purpose. Also, if I am photographing a road or path that leads somewhere, it is best for it to disappear to the corners of the photo (not up any middle area).
She talked about the rule of thirds and how subjects should not be focused dead centre. I learned I do this naturally… Both horizontally and vertically. She liked the sunset photo I took the other day because the horizon was 2/3 of the way down the photo!
Then she critiqued my crab photos, noting that the subject should not be clipped (and I clipped some of the rock off in one photo and some of the shell in another) unless for a specific purpose. She also said there should be something of interest in the other two thirds (not just the subject in the one third) unless everything is blurry behind the subject. Good advice!
She critiqued my event photos, saying I could change my position or wait for the subject to move so that the Exit sign/table is coloured. It is useless and distracting from the main purpose of the photo.
We then moved onto talking about lighting. She said that generally, taking a photo of something/someone with the light facing them (so to your back) is not good, because there are no shadows and everything looks one-color and very flat. I agreed. We tried different angles (please ignore the background – just look at the kitty) and I realized how important it is to scout out your light source and position yourself so you have the shadows how you want them!
The first photo is the bad angle lighting. Corla also said this is bad because the people you photograph are looking into the light and will be squinting. The second photo is alright. It is taken from the side and is dramatic. However the subject’s body is still facing me head on. I like the third photo most because (as portrait photographers suggest) it looks nice to tilt shoulders on a diagonal. (Corla also mentioned taking photos downwards as people tend to look more flattering if you look down on them – yay for being short!) The fourth photo is how Corla usually shoots… With her subjects’ backs to the light source.
We then talked about “filling the frame”. As the term suggests, we should make sure there is purpose in every inch of the frame. She said that sometimes the subject may fill the frame, and if not – the photo should be taken meaningfully so we can see the subject in its world/surroundings. We got into talking about purpose – I was trying to showcase the Lyric and focus on a presenter, and she said if I chose one, I could have a clearer shot. So I could take photos of the entire happenings at the Lyric, or I could do a closeup of the presenter – but trying to include the presenter and a few random things from the Lyric doesn’t look too good. So – lesson: Know your purpose. And keep it simple.
Then we talked about creating a frame. I still struggle with this one. It is hard to find (naturally) a frame with an organized enough scene to take a photo of. I tried at the Lyric and it didn’t look good – mainly because it is like a storage area in the basement and if I take any long-distance shots, you will see all of the odds and ends strewn about. I will need to keep looking for a good place to try this framing business.
She showed me a photo with a blurry foreground person and a sharp, brightly-lit bride in the background. She said that good photos have contrast – with the subject to be focused on being bright and the rest being dark, OR vice versa – and same goes with blurry/sharp. So I would like to try to focus on that when I take photos, too – setting up contrast as good as I can on my own.
I already knew this and didn’t know I did, but she mentioned shooting from an angle so you can get more of a subject in. (Think about shooting a dresser straight-on versus from a corner.)
My favourite photos I took on my own (after Corla left to do her ukelele lessons upstairs – I love the Lyric!!!) is this one. I thought about what she said about having the light behind the subject, and that really lit it up dramatically. I also thought about what she said about having a backdrop. She said she used vinyl sheeting as her first backdrops, but I decided to get creative and have natural phenomena work with me – I used a darkened doorway as a backdrop! I thought about the rule of thirds, and also tried to keep the entire chair in the photo – it was so dark I couldn’t tell I was cutting off the bottom leg. Darn! Oh well -with photo editing I got the rest of it so dark you could not tell!
Here is the original – upon further investigation… I am realizing that my camera’s screen is WAY brighter than my computer screen. If someone could comment saying whether or not you can see the bottom leg of the chair (below the metal circle) on this photo below, that would be great. I can see it clearly on my phone but it is all shadows on my computer!
Either way I will turn down the brightness on my screen so there is some middle ground to work with.
I also took photos of this Pride tote I found downstairs. I’ve attended one (or two?) Prides in town and enjoyed them so much. I am so glad our city has a community that is open and accepting. I thought about what Corla said, about not needlessly cutting off parts of the subject. For example if I have most of the tote in the photo, why cut off an inch of it? However… if my main focus is on the tape and I do a dramatic side shot, I don’t have to worry about keeping the whole tote in. So I did my best but soon realized how random it is to have two totes in a photo. Does not tell much of a story.
I moved the totes around, thinking the bigger one in the back would block the background (hiding unnecessary distractions) but it didn’t help much. I like the first photo I took the most – the one where the tape fills up most of the page. Second favourite is the Pride one with the lid popped open – to me it tells a story, like: Hey, come take a look at what’s inside – what’s been hiding in the “closet” (tote).
Better – but still random.
Out of the entire basement of vintage finds, I found a tote labelled Pride and it meant something to me. Memories and symbolism.
We agreed that this learning session was good because now, I can critique my own photos with some basic language. When I ask myself “Is this shot with good technique?” I can say “Yes/no because…”
She also gave me places to go to further my knowledge.
This pdf document from Schultz Photography School.com (which Corla forwarded to me) gives great tips on taking portraits. I read it before I could do a before shot so all I can do is shoot with my knowledge and do pros and cons like you will see in my blog post about shooting downtown!
Corla’s daughter also recommended I look at a site called photonhead.com where you can play around with a camerw simulation to see what the same photo would look like with different settings!
Great learning experience for one night!