PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE: Fall / Spring Semester

1. Pay attention to framing. Nothing ruins a nice photo faster than distracting elements in the background. Don’t get so focused on the photo’s subject that you ignore what else is going on around them. Watch out for poles, trees and power lines, and look all the way around the edges of the frame, asking, Is this what I really want in my photo?”

Assignment: Take 3 or more photographs of a landscape or interior. Crop the photo in different ways in the computer. Compare it to the original. Is it better? Why?

2. Learn the Rule of Thirds. One of the most popular rules of composition—the Rule of Thirds—dictates that you imagine the viewfinder is divided into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. This grid creates four intersection points. Place your subject where the lines intersect, instead of in the center of the frame. View examples here.

Assignment: Take 3 photos: a portrait photo, a landscape with a central object, and an interior shot with no people in it. Try to arrange the most important elements using the Rule of Thirds. Take a look at the examples from the link above. Print them out.

3. Every image has a foreground and a background. How you want people to view your picture determines what you do with the foreground and background. Have your subject prominent in the foreground, and use the background to tell more about the subject or the environment.

4. Change your angle of view. Try kneeling, or even putting the camera on the ground. Climb a flight of stairs so you’re higher than the subject you’re photographing. Digital cameras with twist and tilt LCD screens are ideal for this. Changing angles provides a fresh perspective, and makes for a more dramatic photograph.

Assignment: Take 3 points-of-view (POV) of one person object using extreme angles. Print them out.

5. Look for elements in a scene that draws a viewer’s eyes through the photo. A winding path, a row of telephone poles or even a line of chairs at the beach can serve as elements in a good photo.

Assignment: Take 3 photos that use repeating elements or lead your eye down a path. Print them out.

6. Keep your eyes open for patterns in nature or man-made objects. Interesting photos can be made of the waves and patterns created by drifting snow, a flock of birds flying in formation or pipes stacked at a construction site.

Assignment: Look for things in your environment that repeat such as cars, buildings, trees, similar objects. Take 3 or more photos of these images. Print them out.

7. Try getting in close. Look for texture in the wrinkles of a face or the bark of a tree. Hands can say a lot about a person. Pay attention to the details.

Assignment: Take 3 real closeup photos that show texture but may not show what the subject is. Print them out.

8. Cropping brings a photo to life. If you edit photos on your computer, you are no longer constrained by the standard 4 x 6-inch, 5 x 7, or 8 x 10 formats. Look at each photo carefully and think about what you really want people to see and react to, then crop everything else away. Try some unusual shapes, like wide horizontals or narrow verticals.