Are you wondering what I might be talking about? Photography. Yes photography. More precisely I am talking about what goes into getting a composition that has that special zing!
I recently complimented someone on what I felt was an excellent capture.
The reply was – yes but do you know how hard I worked to get that one shot? I took tons of photographs and only this one turned out.
Have you had this experience too? I know I sure have! For some reason when a person is a “professional” photographer, loosely defined as a person with a camera that sells her work or is commissioned to take photographs, it is assumed that this person just picks up her equipment and goes out to take great photographs. Not so.
Let’s look at some round numbers. I usually photograph something every day. Most days I take between 50 and 200 images. On a full shooting day I might take 500. These are small numbers for a full-time photographer. But none-the-less these are my numbers. If I take an average of 100 photographs a day times 365 days a year that would be 36,500 photographs. In the past two years on my redbubble site, how many images do you think I have posted for sale? 10,000? A 1,000? 500? Lower still. I have 335 including today’s two winners. Yes I have some keepers that are not for sale. But still – you get the idea. To take good photographs a person must take photographs and a lot of them. Not in a shot-gun style hoping that you get something. But with purpose and intention, building on our learning as we go.
How about we get more specific? In my humble opinion, the most critical decision photographers and artists make is the composition of their subject. For example, after 28 tries at photographing the fog drifting through the trees across the valley, I came up with four compositions I wanted to work through the editing process. I am going to share with you my personal critique so you can see how I chose the two winners. This doesn’t necessarily make my decisions right. In fact, you might have made different decisions. We each have our own eye and our own intention when capturing an image. However, humour me for a moment and if you like, argue later in the comments.
The first image – A Time to Wonder.
Yes this first image is okay. I like it but the overall square composition is indecisive about whether the darkest tree is the subject or the fog. There is too much room over the top of the trees and my eye keeps wandering around in the fog in the middle wondering what to look at. I will keep it though because if someone wanted to put words at the top as in an advertisement, it would work well. But it is not strong enough to stand on its own.
The second image – Fog Sun Trees
(image is available for purchase HERE)
It is much like the first but with a landscape composition rather than square as in the other. These are typically easier dimensions to work but I have been enjoying exploring the square. The darker tree is dominant with the fog providing a supporting role. With the space on the right it provides visual room for the fog to drift which is underpinned by the tree branches that have been shaped by the predominant winds. The image breathes. The sunlight is catching nicely here and there like frosting on a cake. The frame is tight and dramatic. It is a winner. Off to my redbubble TREES portfolio it goes!
The third image – Where Our Dreams Go
Yeah, well what can I say? The composition places the significant tree to the right. The front trees take up two-thirds of the image. The fog is nicely dispersed in the background. It is a “nice” image and it should have worked but it doesn’t. There is no “zing.” The image remains flat, dead and uninteresting to my eye. So what is wrong? Huh-uh! There are too many trees the same size and value as the tree I want to stand out. There is the one in front on the right, part of one on the left and two overlapping on the same plane of the photograph on the left as the tree I want to hold our attention. My tree of most interest is lost in a crowd of trees. Trash bin here we come. But I am going to keep the title. I like that!
The fourth image – Lifting
(image is available for purchase HERE)
This is my other finalist. It was one of the last images I shot and was an after thought. I had been at the farthest reach of my new lens. I was loving being able to get up close and kiss the trees in the mist across the valley. But I pulled back and took a couple more shots. One of which is this image. So why is it a winner? My special tree stands out amongst its cousins because now there are many more shapes surrounding it – building towards its uniqueness instead of competing with it. The fog is even more dramatic in this frame because of the heavy mass in the background on left accentuating the steepness and mystery of the hill in the background to the right. The little trees in the foreground left, though not a star attraction, keeping my eye moving back into the frame and towards the tree with the most personality. There is enough context in this frame that the eye lingers and muses on the scene. To put it bluntly, it can’t be eaten in one bite. I like that about it. A way to my redbubble TREES portfolio it goes!
So next time you take a hundred or five hundred photographs to get the one you want, remember – that is what photographers do. They take photographs – a lot of them. Everyday. For years. As we take each photograph we keep learning, studying, critiquing and deciding which ones are keepers. Overtime, our photographs improve and keep improving for as long as we keep taking them. There really are no experts just willing learners.
Well, what do you think?
Sprout Question: What are you willing to do a lot of to get the results you want?
News Flash: Our good friend Patricia from Patricia’s Wisdom has a special Thanksgiving guest post with yours truly and she is giving away a copy of Precious Seconds to one of the people who comment on For Such Beauty is Mine ~ A Guest Post. Might as well take a moment and get your name in the draw.
© 2011 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.
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From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada
Terrill Welch online Gallery at http://terrillwelchartist.com