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Photography Tips

Taking Better Photographs Part 1

Art Photography Tips

There are certain key elements that are present in all photographs and all forms of visual art.

When the elements are coordinated and fit together nicely, you get an attractive piece of art. When these elements are not coordinated and do not fit together, you get something less than art or substandard.

Anyone can learn these elements and take better photographs simply by paying attention and using a little bit of good judgment before you take the shot.

It all starts from a very simple understanding. If you can grasp this simple principle and apply it, your photographs will improve:

All photographs and all works of visual art contain a subject.

The Subject

    All photographs and all works of visual art contain a subject. The subject is what you are photographing. Sometimes aphotograph might have a group of objects or a group of people as the subject; but in people photography or glamour photography, more often than not, you are photographing a single person.
    It does not matter what style of photography or medium of art, all pictures have a subject or a group of objects as a subject.

The Setting

    Not only do all pictures have a subject, but the subject is painted, photographed, etc. against some type of background.
    The background is the “setting” or “set” for short.
    In studio photography people (the subject) are often photographed against a single colored (usually black or white) background. In which case, we have the simplest of possible settings.
    In on location photography, the subject is photographed somewhere out of the studio and in the world.
    It is also possible to build to a set in studio to photograph someone against as well.

black and white patterns beauty photography

Props can fill out a set and add to the theme

The Prop

    If you are shooting on location or if you are shooting against a set, there will more than likely be other objects besides your subject in the picture. These we will call “props”.
    Props can fill out a set and add to the theme. However, if the props don’t coordinate with the subject, background and other objects in the picture, they distract from your photograph.

Composition – Integration of Subject and Set

    Art photography begins by integrating or coordinated the subject of the photograph with the setting. This is called composition.
    There is a lot of confusion in art theory over the word “Composition”. “Composition” is the noun form of the verb “compose”.
    The word “compose” means to arrange. Composition essentially means how you arrange the objects in the picture relative to one another and background.

Austin Photography Tips Composition Example

The word “compose” means to arrangeThere is more to composition than simply how you line up and/or frame the shot.

    Composing a photograph means taking your subject and placing the subject in a specific set and then arranging the different sub-object or props on the set relative to the subject and the background.
    Now that’s composition! What background are we going to photograph the subject against? Where should the subject be positioned relative to the background? What other objects are included in the photograph besides the subject? How should these other objects be positioned relative to the subject?
    And lets not forget that in a theatrical play or when filming a movie, the actors (subjects) perform on a “set”. The verb from of the word “set” means to place. It is actually short from of the word “setting”. So the set is a background that has been created by arranging and selectively setting down objects to create an integrated background.

This may seem very simple and it is. But it’s from this point that all principle of art design move forward.

How many billions of photographs are taken every year without the slightest bit of forethought as to how the subject of the photograph is integrated with the setting? It’s paying attention to this one point that shifts a photographer from an amateur to an artist.

Once you grasp the simplicity that you have a subject and a setting, it’s your responsibility as a photographer to select the subject, select the setting, arrange the subject in the setting, and then take your photograph; then the door opens to all other principles of art design.

Photography Tips Color Scheme Example

Do the colors of the subject harmonize with the colors of the setting?

    Color Scheme – Do the colors of the subject harmonize with the colors of the setting?
    Contrast – Is there enough difference between the colors of the subject and the colors in the setting to make the subject stand out or does the subject get lost in the setting?
    Relative Exposure – How much light is on the subject relative to how much light is there on setting? If the subject isn’t as lit up as setting, the setting get overexposed and burns out.
    Theme – Does the subject look like it belongs in the setting? A beautiful woman in lingerie does not belong in a fast food restaurant.
    Depth Prospective – Is the subject positioned relative to the set in order to allow it to make the photograph look three dimensional? If done incorrectly, you photograph will look flat.

There are other principles of art design which apply to photography, but this is the start.

Mike Williams
Austin Fine Art & Glamour Photography

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