How many times have you taken what you were sure was the perfect shot, only to be disappointed when reviewing your work later on the computer? There's the trashcan you didn't notice in the corner; the stranger's elbow jutting out behind your subject. And why did that tourist have to step into the frame? These image-wrecking situations are easily avoided - if you notice them before you press the shutter button.
|It's easy to be so preoccupied with capturing an interesting subject set in a stunning locale that you ignore small but distracting details like the out of focus pole jutting out from the bottom of the frame.|
Photography is unique among most crafts in that more experienced practitioners often work a lot slower than those picking up a camera for the first time. Watch most any novice photographer as they approach a subject, hold the camera to eye level, take the picture and then move onto the next shot. A more seasoned shooter in the same situation puts a premium on trying different vantage points, re-adjusting camera settings, changing lenses, you name it.
And they are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating the scene via the viewfinder or on the LCD display. Does this process take more time? Certainly. But it's borne of an attention to detail that eliminates unwelcome surprises later on in the image review stage.
|Before photographing this plaza, I took the time to ensure that the logo was centered, the horizon level, and that there were no pedestrians entering the frame.|
In this article, I want to share with you an exercise that will slow you down, train your eye to better evaluate compositional elements and increase your ratio of keepers to rejects. I call it the Five for Five technique. The next time you go out to shoot, make yourself a promise. Once you pull the camera up to your eye, spend five full seconds looking carefully through the viewfinder or LCD screen before you press the shutter. Pay particular attention to each corner of the frame, looking for any elements in the scene that detract from your desired composition. If you find anything objectionable, adjust the camera position to remove it from view and then spend another five seconds repeating this process.
|Moving closer to your primary subject for a tighter shot is an obvious way to create a different composition.|
Once you take the photograph, don't pack up just yet. Compose and shoot four additional images of the same subject. Get down on your knees and shoot from below. Shoot from a side angle. Get closer. Try horizontal and vertical shots. The idea is to come away with five images captured from different perspectives and angles. And remember, before each press of the shutter you are still examining the viewfinder or LCD screen for five seconds.
|Switching to a vertical format opens
up a wide range of compositional
alternatives. Here, I positioned the
camera so that the steps mimicked
the butterfly shape of the logo...
| ...while here I shot at an acute angle
with the camera just inches from
|Getting down on one knee provides a vantage point distinctly different from that of a standing position.|
From one location, I've captured five separate and distinct photographs. If you're used to shooting quickly and covering a lot of ground, this exrecise is going to be a drastically different way of working. But I guarantee that while you may come home with fewer images, your reward will be more thoughtful compositions and a greater variety of images.
Amadou Diallo is a technical writer at dpreview, photographer and author of books on digital image editing and travel photography. His fine art work can be seen at diallophotography.com.
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