Day 3 – Visual elements

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Don’t be shy

Take your camera with you everywhere and keep it handy

Make sure your exposure is set appropriately to whatever lighting situation you encounter

Take your lens cap off

Makes sure you have plenty of space on your storage disk

Now for the design elements…


Fast shutter speeds will stop action, while using a slow shutter speed and following the subject (known as panning) will show motion.


Stopped down aperture will provide a great deal of depth of field that shows both the foreground and the background, while a wide open aperture will provide a shallow depth of field, separating the subject from the background. Each has its merits.


Change your perspective and go high and look down or go low and look up.


First determine what the focal point or subject of your photograph is. Then make sure that all the elements in the photograph are not on the same plane. Think three dimensionally. A photograph whose subject is virtually against the background is not nearly as dynamic if there is some separation between the subject and the other elements in the photograph.


Always watch your background.  First, to make sure it does not interfere with your subject. For example, telephone poles growing out of someone head or a background that is so cluttered that it interferes with the subject of the photo. Second, on a more positive note, look for backgrounds that contribute to a photograph, put it in context or add interest to a photograph.


Get close to the action. Ed Reinke, an Associated Press photographer who mentored a countless number of photojournalists across the country, used to call photos that were shoot from too far way, “football field” photos. He would say “You are a football field away,” get closer.


The rule of thirds is a compositional guideline frequently applied in painting, photography and design. A natural tendency when one starts shooting photos is to center the subject in the frame. However by dividing the frame into thirds, both vertically and horizontally, and placing the subject of a photo where those imaginary lines intersect, more tension, energy and interest is created in the image. A related guideline is to watch the horizon in your photographs. Avoid centering the horizon, top to bottom, in your photographs. Photographs are much more dynamic if the horizon is across either the top third or bottom third of the frame.


Look for leading lines that direct the eye toward the focal point of the photograph. In this instance it is the water streams from the fire boats, but leading lines can be comprised of many different things. It could be a long winding road that leads to someone walking. I am reminded of the 1962 Pulitzer Prize winning photograph by Paul Vathis of President John f. Kennedy and Former President Dwight Eisenhower walking down a path at Camp David after the Bay of Pigs fiasco.


The best time to make photographs is early in the morning and late in the afternoon. These are commonly referred to as the Golden Hours. Think of the times when you have marveled at a sunrise or sunset. Then imagine what kind of photographs you could make if you were shooting pictures during that time. The light is directional and warmer in tone than during the harsh midday sun. When you take advantage of directional lighting it provides depth and dimension to photographs.




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