Jodie Coston: Lesson 1 - Composition And Impact - It's A Beautiful Photograph, But Do You Know WHY It's Beautiful?

Welcome to Lesson One!
When I was first looking into writing this course for Michael and Kevin, it sounded interesting to me. I thought that getting back into the mindset I had when photography was all new, fresh and exciting would be a great creative opportunity for me. After writing the first few lessons of this course, I can honestly say that I had no IDEA how much writing this course would enhance my creativity and how enriching it would be for me. After years of taking photographs, the basics had all become second-hand to me so much that I didn't really think about them much anymore. Starting to consciously consider composition, lighting, shutter speeds and apertures and put more thought into all of those details again really brought me back to those early days when I got my first manual camera and it was all new to me. I remember clicking the shutter and - whammo! - an instant masterpiece! Well, that might be exaggerating a little, but I was shooting exclusively film at that point in my life and I could never wait to get my slides developed and back from the lab to see what I'd captured - the potential for a masterpiece always lingered about in the back of my brain somewhere. I assume that many people taking this course are at that same point, and I'm looking forward to sharing that enthusiasm and excitement with you. If you're taking this course, I also assume you've fallen in love (at least a little bit) with the art of photography and want to move on to the next level. When I look back at the photo courses I took and the volumes of books that I read when I was so eager to take my photos to that next level, most of them started out with the basics: how the camera works, from aperture to shutter speed and how it all works together in conjunction with light. We will get to that in future lessons, but I want to start out a little differently.

Composition And Impact - It's A Beautiful Photograph, But Do You Know WHY It's Beautiful?

Let's talk a little bit about pictures and why we love them. Pictures can be beautiful. They can decorate a home or and office; be published in books, magazines and calendars; they can even win ribbons or prizes in contests. A breathtaking landscape can transport the viewer to another time and place, if only for a moment. A beautiful still life can capture a mood of serenity, warmth, even magic. A great portrait of a person can look into their soul, and let you share their smiles or tears. A great picture *communicates*. Think about it. There is a huge market out there for photographs because publishers know that the people who buy their materials will be drawn to good photographs that reach out to them. Visual communication is something that we're all born being able to relate to. The subjects out there to take pictures of are limitless. The only boundaries are within your mind. But what makes a photograph successful? The answer is a fairly simple one, and you can improve your photography *today* by learning a few very basic rules. One caveat, however. As the old saying goes, rules are meant to be broken. Some of my favorite photographs very purposely break a lot of the basic "rules" of photography. But to break the rules in a way that enhances a photograph and effectively turns it into a great photo, you first have to *know* the rules and have a reason for wanting to break them. So today we're going to talk about simple photographic rules that will *make your pictures better*.


Number one: Get in close. No, closer. Nope, still closer. There! You've got it!

The first, and most important, rule: Simplify. The more you simplify a photo, the more attention you draw to your subject. The more attention you draw to your subject, the more successful you are in communicating your message to the viewer. There are roughly a million and two ways to do this, so I'll keep it simple and stick to my favorite technique here, and that's to get in as close as possible, thereby eliminating anything in the background that may detract from your subject. Over the years I've belonged to a number of photography websites where people post photos and then others can critique them. I can't count the times on these sites that I've looked at photographs of beautiful flowers. Haven't we all taken photographs of flowers? They're inherently beautiful, readily available and seem to just scream out to have their pictures taken. Before you snap your next flower photo, though, do this: look up close at the flower. Really close literally. Put your eye right down there and examine the petals, all of the delicate little parts in the center of the flower, any sort of unique characteristics the flower has. Ask yourself what it is about this specific flower that is crying out to have its picture taken. Is it the plastic Barbie doll laying on the table behind the vase that's really attracting you to it? Maybe the wooden table, or the placemat that Barbie is reclining on? The vase itself? How about the green stuff in the vase with the flower? Are any of those things what you really want to emphasize in this photograph? No! It's the blossom itself that wants to be the star. So try this. Set your camera up on a tripod (we'll talk about tripods later - if you don't have one, I'd strongly advise getting one, but for now you can always sit your camera on a pile of books or something else sturdy) as close as you can get it to the flower, while still keeping the flower in focus. This distance will depend on your camera's lens, which we'll also talk about in a future chapter. You may have to include some of the greenery in the photo, or perhaps even some of the vase or table. If so, for heaven's sake, get rid of Barbie and that placemat. The people you show the picture to in the end will be looking at a rectangular-shaped print, and if what you want them to see if the flower, it should take up as much of that final rectangle - we'll refer to it as "the frame" - as you can possibly get in there. Getting in close seems like sort of an obvious thing when you think about it, but I can't tell you how many background "Barbie-doll" type distractions I've seen in photographs, where the flower takes up maybe 1/10 of the final image and the rest is composed of distracting elements. One way to eliminate distractions is drag them away, like Barbie, but my favorite way is to just get closer and closer until there's nothing else in the viewfinder. That way, whammo!, you hit your viewer smack-directly in the face with your subject. This is referred to as "filling the frame". There's no question about what the photograph's subject is, and you've communicated with the person who sees the final image! The bottom line is to focus the attention on your subject by really thinking about what you want to emphasize. Try it the next time you're taking pictures and see what you think. Here are a couple of examples from my own portfolio.


My husband gave me a dozen roses for Valentine's Day one year. Never one to let a photographic opportunity go by, I took several photos of the entire bouquet, but my favorite picture turned out to be this one, focusing on just one single rose. The petals were so soft, it seemed that if you touched them, they'd melt like butter. I think that focusing so closely the rose really communicates that message to the viewer in this image. I titled the photograph "Butter", which many people didn't understand, but that's part of the fun of being an artist. You can keep „em guessing and call it your artistic prerogative.

This is (so far) my best-selling stock photograph of all time. It's an image that's very useful for designers in advertising because it communicates so well. Once again, I got in close. There's no question that this photograph is about laughter. The smile stands out because of the bright red lipstick that contrasts with the rest of the image that is mostly white. No distracting elements, not even the rest of a face to give a personality to the image and make you wonder what the situation is - just a mouth, laughing.
Number two: Photographic Composition

Most really strong photographs position their main elements in certain specific places of the frame. When you think about where you put your subject in the photograph, you are *composing* your image.


bring our ear down to the flower and then try and shift our eyes to see the flower out of the corners of them. forget about centering your subjects. There are several "classic" ways to compose a photograph. the trees. but that will definitely impact their perception of the image. creating shapes and forms that the viewer may not consciously notice when looking at a photograph. The rule of thirds is derived from another rule called the "Golden Mean" that says that the main subjects of an image should be 4 . We don't put the flower on the table. our eyes are focused directly in front of us. You will probably hear more about this photographic "rule" than any other. you will have that small rectangle to hold out in front of you and look at. both vertically and horizontally. The trick is to realize that when the picture is taken and all is said and done. it will get much easier. One way to see the main shapes in your photographs is by squinting your eyes until the image almost becomes a blur. To use these methods. and then you can look at it by focusing your eyes straight forward. clouds and anything else that needs to be included. you will need to train yourself to see your subjects in terms of lines and shapes. The Rule Of Thirds And The Golden Mean One of the most commonly talked-about rules in photography is the rule of thirds. The concept is best explained by taking your canvas and dividing it up into thirds. This is simply natural instinct for us to compose a photograph this way. the flower itself has been dead center in the frame. This is a harder concept to master than you might believe at first. the main lines in a photograph are not nearly so obvious. Until then. You may notice how shadows blend together in a way that might not be immediately obvious otherwise. Other times. so I'll explain it fairly in depth here and try to give you an understanding of why it is so effective. The rule of thirds should be used as a guideline for when you have vertical or horizontal lines in your image. Some part of our brain knows that and wants to place the subject right there in the middle of the frame. nonetheless. When we are looking at the flower. Once you try it a few times and see for yourself with your own images the difference that it makes. This is a great way to look at a scene when you're thinking about how to compose a photograph. Creating a photograph. then you'll see any lines and shapes created by the shadows and light. those mountains. where our eyes would normally look. Remember the flower we talked about photographing in rule one? Nine times out of ten when I've seen that photo of the flower with Barbie lying in the background. When a painter starts out with a blank canvas. he or she has free reign to decide where to put that river.Think about it. you should go through the same process. Sometimes lines in a photograph are obvious. so that you essentially wind up with a tic-tac-toe board. like the horizon in a sunset picture.

from your high school days in math class. I'll interject a little art history and math lesson here to explain the theory behind the Golden Mean.. thusly: So if you are composing a photograph of a sunset. This is derived from something else you may or may not remember from your math days called the Fibonacci Series.D. Fibonacci was an Italian mathematician born around 1170 A. I wonder? Maybe the same thing that makes us take pictures?). 5 . Whereas Pi is equal to 3. as far as I can tell. try placing that horizon line one-third of the way from the top or bottom of your image. Mathematicians use the Greek letter Phi when they're talking about the Golden Mean. Well. Big deal.618-yadda-yadda-yadda. it's easier to visualize: 0+1 = 1 1+1 = 2 1+2 = 3 2+3 = 5 3+5 = 8 5+8 = 13 8+13 = 21 13+21 = 34 21+34 = 55 34+55 = 89 55+89 = 144 89+144 = 233 144+233 = 377 233+377 = 610 And you can keep going like that forever. let me just lay it out this way. What does that prove? Nothing. All right. to include either more foreground or more sky. for reasons unbeknownst to me (What really possesses mathematicians to do anything. who. the Golden Mean is equal to 1.. He did it again by adding one and two and got three.14-yadda-yadda-yadda (math was never my best subject) and is handy for all sorts of geometrical things. You'll notice a stronger landscape this way. that just gave him the number one again.placed at the intersecting points created (roughly) by the lines mentioned above. Okay. The Golden Mean is a number sort of like Pi. decided one day to start with the numbers zero and one and add them together. Then next time. Then what? Then he added the last number he used (one) to his new resulting number (one) and got two.

. 1. The ratio of the squares in this rectangle is composed of our magic number..61538 Ratio = 55 to 34 = 1.618! Here's where it actually gets interesting.BUT.6181 Ratio = 144 to 89 = 1. (I promise.the boring part is mostly over. Now we'll talk about what this actually means in the world of taking pictures. When all of these squares are put together in the way they make up this picture.625 Ratio = 21 to13 = 1.. they make up squares.exactly.6180 Ratio = 377 to 233 = 1. 1. Leonardo DaVinci based 6 .61538 Ratio = 34 to 21 = 1. I commend you. this is all going to get back to photography. Let's look at this diagram: If you look at the gray lines in the image.6 Ratio = 13 to 8 = 1.6180 Okay . Have you ever seen a nautilus seashell that's been sawed open? Its growth rate follows the curve in this image. If you've hung on this long. just keep reading. This ratio is found all over in the natural world.618 . where the seeds are.61764 Ratio = 89 to 55 = 1. Same with the little spirals that compose the interior pattern of a sunflower.6179 Ratio = 233 to 144 = 1. if you take the ratios created by these numbers. they come together to form a rectangle.6666 Ratio = 8 to 5 = 1..) Ratio = 1 to 0 = 0 Ratio = 1 to 1 = 1 Ratio = 2 to 1 = 2 Ratio = 3 to 2 = 1. an interesting pattern appears.whew! .5 Ratio = 5 to 3 = 1.

Technically. 34. Even symphonies by Mozart and Beethoven can be broken down into this ratio . 21. A study was done a few years back on top fashion models. So that tells us where the idea behind the rule of thirds came from. 7 . 55 or even 89. then draw your dividing lines down at the mark of three eighths on each side.618.whether that was on purpose or coincidental is anyone's guess. hence we use the rule of thirds. However. The vast majority of flowers have petals that number 3. interestingly enough. when you're looking through your viewfinder. have a number of characteristics with exactly the ratio 1. you've got the spots where the Golden Mean hits. if you draw grid marks on your frame and break it up into eighths. Their faces. and on some basic. it's not like you're going to get out your tape measure and divide everything into eighths. instinctive level. 13.all sorts of his artwork. the human eye tends to find beauty in things that correspond with this ratio. 5. 8. Mozart is rumored to have been a hobbyist mathematician. These numbers are everywhere in nature. experiments and theories on the Golden Mean. which is very close for all practical purposes.

Here's a quick overview of six additional methods of composition that can strengthen your images. The blue of the vase melts into the blue background. the blue and white mountains with a few bright clouds. 8 . the dark purple stormy clouds in the upper third of the image. Notice the subject itself. the image is split up into three distinct areas: the orange sand. and all of that blue really makes the contrasting pink stand out and grab your attention. and one of my best received to date. is placed at one of the "Golden Mean" points. There are other ways besides the rule of thirds and the Golden Mean to use lines and shapes to strengthen an image. The photograph is much more interesting this way than if I had centered the horizon line right in the middle of the photo. The background itself is not distracting. Back to flower photos for this example. Upon close inspection.This was one of my earliest landscape photographs. the pink daisy blossom. and finally.

but by placing objects in your composition along strong diagonal lines that create a triangle.The Triangle When you take a photograph in a rectangular frame. you'll add strength to your image. like this diagram. Note the following example: The eyeglasses and the newspaper chart that they are laying on each create their own implied diagonal line. Another way to use triangles that fits in with the Golden Mean is in the following manner: 9 . Notice the way that the eyeglasses are placed. The eyeglasses and the line work together here to divide the photograph into triangles. It won't be very often that you're photographing subjects that are actually triangular. is always a good way to create a strong image. basing the composition on a triangle that goes from any one corner to the two opposite sides.

is to use materials near you in your foreground and include them in your photograph around two or more of the edges to create a sort of "frame".you can use this sort of natural "frame" by including it in an image and taking a landscape view through the hole. you'd probably tell them that they were nuts.You can see how the photograph above is loosely broken down into three sections that fit in with this. doorways and all sorts of other architectural features work great for this as well. but that's where the idea of implied lines comes in. Another interesting thing to try is taking a photo through a window frame of an outdoor scene. especially landscapes. Upon first appearance. as that tends to make a photograph feel off-balance. as seen below. Oftentimes rock formations will have holes through them . This is most often done with trees or branches on two or three sides of the image. The Frame Within A Frame Another way to strengthen a composition. if someone told you this image was composed of triangles. Archways. and you can be very creative with this. I would suggest staying away from doing this with only one edge of the frame. 10 .

as seen in the following photo. 11 . ready to walk right into the image. The line created by the path then leads the viewer into the photo. as if they were standing on the trail. Any sort of path or roadway can be very effectively used in this manner. The path in this image really stands out because of the vivid green foliage that contrasts with the rich brown path. I just love taking them.Leading Lines Roads and footpaths are another great way to use leading lines to your advantage. I have a gazillion of these types of shots in my portfolio.

A wagon wheel's spokes can work together to lead the viewer's eye into the frame. Going back to the idea of getting in close. Our natural instinct is to place it square down the middle. A row of trees or street lights that vanish in the distance can create very strong leading lines that take the viewer's eye all the way through an image. but placing it in the upper portion of the image to include foreground or in the lower portion of the image to include a dramatic sky can give a photograph much more impact. not just paths and roads. let's look again at the picture of the rose. meeting the horizon line. The Circle After my long-winded explanation of why it's best to use the rule of thirds and the Golden Mean. 12 . which is one third of the way down into the image. The edges of the petals of a daisy can be leading lines moving into the center of the flower. try playing around with your placement of the horizon. Leading lines can be found in many other ways.Notice that the road leads your eye into the image. I'm going to toss in a rule that breaks that rule. The circle can be used very effectively when composing a photograph. Next time you're taking landscape photographs. if the subject is right.

The effect is similar to a whirlpool. This is a way to use repetition of form and shape in an image to create interest.The petals that all overlap each other naturally make the viewer's eye move in a circle in this image. Rhythm Another way to create dynamic impact in your photograph is with the use of "visual rhythm". The main circle of the composition also takes up virtually the entire frame. "The Circle" is a tricky element to use in a photograph effectively. Those two elements of the photograph work together here. drawing the viewer in. 13 . even while breaking the traditional rules. the little lines created by the rows of chickens and the zoom blur work together to really make the viewer's focus shift to the blue chicken. so none of the image's space is wasted on unnecessary elements. giving the image a strong composition. In this image. but when done well. Rhythm is combined with leading lines here to really bring attention to that little blue guy. makes for an outstanding photograph.

14 .Another use of rhythm. or to give the impression of the subject being in a wide-open space. However. technically the subject is the wheat. created by the replication of the lines of each glass snifter. Negative Space Negative space is a term used in photography that implies only a tiny fraction of the frame is taken up by the actual subject. the feeling that you get is that of a wide-open sky .turning the negative space itself into as much of the subject as the wheat. since they are surrounded by so much vivid blue space. In this image. Negative space is usually used either to make the subject seem very small.

The diagonals in this image are implied diagonals. like we talked about above. Does the photo feel "balanced"? Following are a few of my more popular "abstract" images that have all either won awards or been published numerous times.Learning To Use These Methods Through Abstract Photography One of the best ways to learn to see compositionally is by taking abstract photographs. The soft lines and the soft pink color inspired this close up photo of a calla lily. Notice the diagonal giving strength to the composition and where the petals meet each other at the bottom third of the image. look closely at it. When you're done. use color and lines in your composition to create the whole image. By abstract. I mean that your subject matter is unrecognizable for the most part. Another instance where I used the "get in close" technique. Get in close. 15 .

This is the side of a trailer that was covered in yellow. cracking paint. texture and the line of rivets that hold this image together and make it interesting. It forces 16 .This photo was taken of a tulip leaf. I noticed the light falling just right on a red object in the background and captured just a little bit of each in the photograph to make a vivid abstract. but it can be a marvelous learning tool. Abstract photography is definitely not for everyone. It's the vivid colors. I placed the line of rivets by using the rule of thirds and the texture creates an interesting abstract. Once again the rule of thirds comes into play in the composition of this image.

even diagonally. 17 . far. you might have to watch out so he doesn't come over and lick the camera lens. to pay attention to things that might not come naturally. no distracting backgrounds. trying the same thing. Make sure every single element is something you want in the photograph and that each element is in the exact spot that you want it.through that viewfinder before you snap the shutter. Again. you can dramatically improve your technique with one simple process. All the way around it. See how the background changes as you move 360 degrees around your subject. if it's your dog. you notice that it actually appears as if that tree branch is growing out of her head! The trick is to look . Likewise. Post your photo online and send me a link. along with an explanation of which you think is most visually appealing and why. but if you're taking a photo of your Aunt Sally sitting in the back yard knitting a sweater. as the photographer. behind). from above.really look . then I put the tripod over her to look down on her from a rather unusual angle. Take a whole roll of film (or fill a whole memory card if you use a digital camera) of the same subject from drastically different points of view and compare the results. You might surprise yourself. I used my "get close" style to make sure nothing was in the image but the model.maybe a barn. or your dog . Creativity is encouraged. watch out for what is in the background. Assignment 1: Take at least one abstract photo based entirely on some of the compositional rules we talked about. This photo was taken of the model by having her lie down. watch out for that tree behind her. and the diagonal line adds visual strength. a tree. Okay. Climb a ladder and look down. post your best two or three photos of the subject online and send me a link. Subjects should not be recognizable. Assignment 2: Students will take pictures of a subject from various viewpoints (near. along with an explanation of why you think the composition makes a visually interesting image. like the rule of thirds Number Three: Is there a Better Way To Do It? The last thing we'll talk about in this lesson is point of view. below. You'll definitely surprise the viewer by trying something different and that will add impact to your photo. Not "Barbie the distracting element" that we already covered. Then lie down on the ground and point the camera up at your subject. When you're walking around your subject finding different points of view. Many a photo has been ruined because Aunt Sally's hair is the same color as the tree bark and when you've taken the pictures and are looking at the final product. your point of view.and picked up your camera to snap a picture right then and there? If this is the way you go about taking photos. How many times have you seen something worth taking a photo of . Tilt the camera vertically. but you get the point. Walk around the subject.

Lesson Two: Aperture And Shutter Speed . It takes a while to get the feel of how to know exactly what you're doing. these lessons are a good learning tool anyway to help you know what you might want further down the road to help you create better photographs. the poodle I had growing up and all of my friends acting goofy. but I digress… The point is that I was born with a love for taking pictures. I figure some of that will make good blackmail material later on in life. Those two things alone put me off for a very long time when I was a beginner and considering learning more about photography. If you don't have a camera that will let you control those things. and I'll give you some tools you can use to help you along until it all comes naturally to you. slumber parties. you should have a camera that you can control manually. I'm here to tell you that you have nothing to be scared of.and shutter speed. This class is designed for anyone interested in learning more about photography. but all of the crazy technical sounding stuff was very scary to me. but it's completely fine if you use a digital camera.How They Work Together Let's start by studying the following Newtonian lens diagram: 18 . I have boxes full of photographs of school events. If there's much student interest in digital specifics. as well as control your camera's aperture (which is the hole that lets the light in). I mean you can make the decision on whether to set your shutter speed to 1/60 second or 1/1000 second. By this.Aperture And Shutter Speed . but the basic concepts are quite easy. possibly we'll touch on that toward the end of the course. All the years I spent growing up while I was young. We'll talk specifically about film and how it works. we're going to talk about aperture .Jodie Coston: Lesson 2 . If that's where you are.How They Work Together Welcome to lesson two! The next two lessons are going to focus on camera basics.also called f-stop . First off. To get the best results from your camera. I had a camera in my hands.

opposite the pinhole. I know that you're probably looking at that diagram and thinking. It looks something like this: 19 . Though if you're really going to go the pinhole camera route. Let's look at this: There are only three things you actually need to make your own camera. Number three is a piece of film to put across the back of the box. mostly to emphasize to you that no matter how difficult operating a camera looks. If at any point you start to get confused. I assume most of you have the general idea of that already. We'll get into the different kinds of lenses and how they work in the next lesson. In this case. I told you in lesson one that I was never any good at math. but in today's world of high-tech-huge-megapixel-super-cameras that do everything but cook your breakfast.Hah! Are you kidding me? I wouldn't do that to you. Number two is something with which you can poke a pinhole in it. we'll start out with how a camera works. None of that is necessary. which makes the aperture bigger or smaller to let more or less light in. The pinhole camera is the most basic of cameras. it could always be worse than what I'm going to show you. so I'm basically going to be using it as our model while we talk about apertures. I took that diagram from a physics book on optics. Your camera's aperture is the hole that lets the light in. Whatever camera you are using has something called an Iris Diaphragm. it's the pinhole. you might also need some tape and glue and cardboard and other stuff. First of all. go back and look at this diagram. It will make whatever I'm explaining seem much more simple. it's easy to think that the instruments we use for taking pictures are a lot more complicated than they really are. right? What about a shutter and all that other neat stuff?" Nope. Number one is a lightproof box. "What are you talking about? A camera has to have a lens.

It's called your lens' focal length. f/4.your f-stop will be f/8. using the same shutter speed. f/11.6. To put all of that gobbledygook that I said above simply.25 mm wide . Each of these f-stops lets in twice the amount of light as the next f-stop.Your camera's aperture does two things.8. This is referred to as "depth of field". since we know that it controls the amount of light let into the camera. F-Stops And Amount Of Light Your camera's lens will have settings called "f-stops" that look like this: F/1. is the distance from the film in the camera to the lens when the camera is focused at infinity. It's a ratio. (Because its 200 divided by 25. so let's skip all of the crazy lens technicalities until lesson three. f/2. it will have a number on it that says something like 200mm. Here's what happens when I take a picture under the same lighting conditions. just changing the camera's aperture one stop at a time. If you "stop down" your aperture to half that size . sort of like when we talked about "golden mean" ratios in lesson one. simply put. I know that it seems a little weird that the smaller number lets in more light than the larger number. because the ratio of 200/50 equals four.BUT . That number. The f-number is the ratio of that focal length divided by the diameter of the aperture (how wide the hole is). f/22.4. It'll seem like a piece of cake.I'm doing my best to keep on track and just talk about aperture. but there's a reason for that. which we'll also discuss in our lens lesson. First.) So the "f-number" gets larger as you let less light in. When you buy a camera lens (assuming its not a zoom lens). go back and look at the Newtonian lens diagram again. f/5. If you're feeling confused. when the aperture of a 200mm lens (focal length) is 50 mm (aperture opening) wide. f/8. What do those numbers mean? Those numbers tell you how large the opening of your aperture is. f/2. f/16. it stands to reason that it also controls how dark or light your picture is going to be. your f-stop will be f/4. There are exceptions . Then come back and read this part again. f/32. 20 . The second thing it does is control how much of your picture is in focus.

I suggest going out and trying this yourself at the end of the lesson, to really get a feel for it.
Shutter Speed And Amount Of Light

Your camera's shutter is the tool that you use to control the amount of time that you let light reach your film. Following are typical shutter speeds on a camera: 1 second 1/2 second 1/4 second 1/8 second 1/15 second 1/30 second 1/60 second 1/125 second 1/500 second 1/1000 second


Some cameras will have shutter speeds as long as two, four or eight seconds or as short as 1/2000 or 1/4000 second. Two other options you may have on your camera are "T" or "B", which stand for "Time" and "Bulb", respectively. They're basically the same thing and they give you the option to leave your shutter open for as many seconds, minutes or hours as you'd like. If you set your camera's shutter speed to 1 second, obviously it will let in more light than if you set it for _ second. Basically, light is going to hit your film for twice the amount of time. Each setting is twice as long as the next. So between opening and closing your aperture and varying your shutter speed, you have a great amount of control over the exposure of your photograph. What you want to achieve is a proper exposure - when the whites in your photo are really white, but still have detail or texture to them, and the dark colors to be really dark, also still showing texture and detail. In the example above where I was talking about apertures, I used a 1/60 second exposure for each separate photograph. If I had used a 1/1000 second exposure, the f/2 example would have been very close to properly exposed, while f/8 through f/32 would all have been very near completely dark. Conversely, if I had used a 1/8 shutter speed, the f/32 example would have been the closest to properly exposed, while f/2 through f/8 would have been almost completely white. In the following chart, each scenario will let the same amount of light into the camera - they will each give you the same exposure. Let's say that we want to take a photo using the first scenario of aperture f/11 and 1/15 second shutter speed. If you "stop down" your aperture to f/8, this lets in half the amount of light as f/11, so you'll need to double the amount of time the shutter is open to 1/30.

Aperture (F-Stop) Versus Shutter Speed in Seconds Scenario 1 Less Light >> More Light >> f/11 1/15 Scenario 2 f/8 1/30 Scenario 3 f/5.6 1/60 Scenario 4 f/4 1/125 Scenario 5 f/2.8 1/250 Scenario 6 f/2 1/500 << More Light << Less Light

Just remember that every time you open your camera's aperture by one f-stop, you're letting in twice the amount of light, meaning that you need to cut your shutter speed in half. Conversely, if you stop your aperture down by one f-stop, you'll be letting in half the amount of light, meaning you need to double your shutter speed time to let the same amount of light in. The two work hand in hand to control your exposure. Note that the chart above is only an example. You won't go out into the real world and expect an aperture of f/11 to give you the perfect exposure with a shutter speed of 1/15 second every time. In a dark room you'll need much more light than if you're outside on a sunny day. It's like learning to drive a car with a manual transmission - you need to let the clutch out as you give the car gas or things won't work right. I remember driving around the same block in my neighborhood for two hours when I was 16 years old and killing the car's motor at the same stop sign every single time until I got it right. Using your aperture and shutter speed is the same sort of thing. You'll find as you experiment


with the settings, you'll get the feel for them and one day it will just come naturally.

The Other Factor Of Shutter Speed: Motion

Shutter speed can have a really interesting effect when you want to emphasize motion. Look at the following two photographs: This photograph was taken of this truck with a shutter speed of 1/1000 second. I purposely waited until a vehicle came by with some lettering on it to emphasize how a quick shutter speed stops motion. You really can't even tell whether the truck is parked on the road or moving. In actuality, the truck was moving close to 70 miles (112 kilometers) per hour per hour.

This photo was taken with a shutter speed of 1/30 second. The vehicle was moving about the same speed as the vehicle in the above photograph. This photo definitely implies motion. The longer the shutter speed, the more motion a moving object in your photo will have. Notice that because the camera was not moving and was on a tripod, everything else in the photo is tack sharp.


Finally. And if that's not enough for you. you can go down to your local camera store and show them your camera . If you're interested in getting one for your camera. but will darken your image to let you use slower shutter speeds. First. Days like that will really bring out the beautiful saturated colors in foliage. and you'll definitely have better luck shooting water. these kinds of pictures work best on very dark. So if you want to go out and take scenic pictures some day and you're discouraged by the weather. Even with your aperture stopped all the way down to it's smallest position. we'll do a special lesson that will include camera filters and what they do. whether it's the vivid greens of spring or bright autumn reds. but I think now is an appropriate time to talk about a "neutral-density" filter. yellows and oranges. or any kind of moving water. Even more motion blur. Different filter manufacturers call them different things. this photo was taken with a shutter speed of 1/8 second. I'm sure you've all seen beautiful images of tranquil settings where falling water looks like angel hair moving over rocks. Here are two tips. the more effect your slow shutter speed will have. One thing to note if you're going to try this kind of shot: water reflects a LOT of light much more than you'd imagine. but they generally are made to reduce the amount of light getting into your camera by either one. The slower the better for images like this. two or three stops. don't be! Just head for the nearest wooded area with moving water. Second. Two interesting things to note are that an object moving from one side of your frame to the other will show more motion blur than an object moving toward or away from you. it might be too bright for you to get a long enough shutter speed to achieve this effect. too. Also. the closer the subject. This is a filter that is optically clear. 24 . This is accomplished by slowing down your shutter speed. they can be stacked on top of one another. overcast days.they'll help you find one that fits your camera model. One other interesting way to use a slow shutter speed is to photograph a waterfall.

So we've seen the difference between fast and slow shutter speeds and interesting effects you can create with your slower shutter speeds.the longest exposure I could manage that day without overexposing my photograph. if you catch something in the air with a fast shutter speed. so capturing that kind of event on film can make a really impressive photograph. 25 . are often used in sports photography. whether to capture a high jumper mid-air at a track and field event or to capture a motocross competitor flying high over a jump with bits of mud flying out from under his tires. meaning 1/500 second or faster. Here again. I could have lengthened that exposure time and gotten an even softer effect with the water. while keeping the rocks and foliage sharp. When would you use a fast shutter speed to your advantage? Fast shutter speeds work really well capturing things that our eyes are too slow to see clearly. there's no question of whether it's moving or not. What about fast shutter speeds? The stopped-motion truck in the example above is not every interesting. water can also make an interesting subject. If I would have had my neutral density filter with me.This photo was taken with a shutter speed of 1/15 second . Quick shutter speeds. Our eyes don't have a chance to focus on water drops spraying when they hit the shore at the beach. Whereas the truck in the example above was sitting on the ground.

Along the same lines. setting the focus to a specific spot on the bowl of milk. Okay. on to the assignments for lesson two: 26 . It can take a lot of experimenting to get a shot like this get a fast enough shutter can see the shadow created by the splashing milk . we'll explore other effects of your camera's aperture on your photographs. I needed to use my camera's flash . And there you have shutter speed and how it works with your camera's aperture. this was done by setting my camera on its tripod. In the next lesson on lenses. and simultaneously dropping a strawberry while tripping the camera's shutter.This image was taken with a 1/1000 shutter speed to capture the spray of the water off of the apple. but it's fun when you finally do.

Print (negative) film is an entirely different animal . but you should know that when negative film is printed.we'll cover film extensively in lesson four.either fast or slow .if you're shooting digital. try the same thing with a different shutter speed. Assignment 2: Do the same thing again. I once took some night shots of the sky and left the shutter open for hours to get a photo of the stars moving through the sky. your first shot should be nearly white. The idea of this assignment is that the more you do this and fiddle back and forth with these tools. and in my case. Assignment 3: Go out and take some pictures using shutter speed . the last one should be nearly black. with nothing being too light or too dark. If your first assignment came out that way with the 1/60 shutter speed I suggested. and this time find the shutter speed where your camera's mid-range aperture gives you the best exposure. similar to what I've done in the example in this lesson. there is a ton of latitude in how you can expose it. you'll get much more familiar with them. their automatic printing machine just "thought" I had underexposed my photograph. Be creative and have fun! 27 . most likely you'll wind up with a series of photographs that all come back to you looking the same. If you try these assignments with print film. The printers tend to compensate for any mistakes you make. while using a 1/60 second shutter speed for each shot. you'll do just fine. If you don't have a tripod. you can set your camera on a fence post or any other handy thing to keep it in the same place for each create an effect. One quick note on these two assignments . so it compensated for it. If you have a film camera. if you have 9 f-stops available on your camera. make sure and use slide (transparency) film. For example. and the came back looking like they were taken in the middle of the day.Assignment 1: Take a landscape photograph using each available aperture on your camera. and the fifth (middle) one should be nearly properly exposed.

Choosing a camera lens would be easy if all you had to worry about was getting a good quality lens. depending on how much light is on your subject. a pinhole camera. Lens quality is a much more complex issue than you might think at first. lens "speed" . Good lenses are spendy. We'll go over some of the aspects of camera lenses and how those should influence your decision when you're trying to find the right lens for what you want to do with your camera.The lens choosing camera optics In lesson two we briefly touched on lenses when we talked about aperture. A really good. If you do have an interchangeable lens camera. but they will be well worth it if you're interested in producing the best possible photographs. That wouldn't be very useful if you wanted to take a picture of a high jumper in mid-flight. you may want to consider upgrading in the future to a camera that lets you change lenses. This is a great place to start. The pinhole camera is really an amazing thing when you think about it. but for the most part. and the tiny amount of light that a pinhole lets into the camera means you need a shutter speed of anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours. but it's not practical at all for most of the purposes we want a camera for. A good. sharp lens will be a huge asset to you in your photography as you become more and more concerned about the quality of your images. To eliminate these two issues.a 50 mm lens. but the many different variables .complicate the choice. sharp lens uses special glass . we simply discussed the basics of how a camera works by looking at the most basic camera of all. The lens is really the most important part of your camera. I recommend using that sort of lens until you're very familiar with it and comfortable using it and start to feel the need for a lens that is suited for some area of photography that you're particularly interested in. Let's do a quick overview of different focal lengths of lenses and their common uses. it's not possible to get a really sharp picture. Without a lens. the camera will most oftentimes come with what's considered a "normal" lens . we simply put a glass lens in our camera. If you're using a compact camera that has it's own non-removable lens.Jodie Coston: Lesson 3 .focal lengths. That focal length lens is regarded as "normal" because the image it makes is very close to what the human eye sees. 28 . The lens then gathers waaaaaay more light than that little pinhole and sharply focuses that light into a picture on our film. zoom lenses.several layers of different kinds of optical glass that have been precisely ground and then inserted into a mechanism that you can move around to focus all of those layers on your subject.

A 24 mm lens will pack four times more of the scene in front of you into your photo than a 50 mm lens. Wide-angle lenses are also very common for landscape photography. You can see what I mean by linear distortion in this image. Those kinds of photos have been a big hit in the greeting card industry as of late. This can also be used very effectively in landscapes to draw attention to the foreground of an image and add depth to the overall image. enclosed spaces. dramatic skies.21 mm Ultra Wide-Angle 6 mm .it also will make things seem out of proportion. Notice in this photo of the aftermath of a forest fire the way that the ground seems to almost "bubble". The wider lens you use.35 mm Wide-Angle 17 mm . The following chart should give you a general idea of the amount of area in front of your camera that each type of lens covers. Sort of like looking into one of those convex mirrors you see in the corners of convenience stores and such . the more linear distortion you'll have in your image.their nose will appear very large in proportion to the rest of their face. 29 .15 mm Fisheye The wider the angle of your lens. in that the closer an object is to the lens. so in landscape photography you'll wind up with more foreground and vast. the more apparent that will become. the larger it will seem. like when you're taking photographs in small. They include much more of the scene in front of the camera than your normal lens. 24 mm . This can be useful in several instances.Wide-Angle Lenses Wide-angle lenses have a couple of practical uses. A good example of this is a close up photograph of a person or animal using a wideangle lens . creating a comical effect. There are three sub-categories of wide-angle lenses.

notice how the building's lines curve in towards the top. A full fisheye lens actually makes a photograph that is circular in nature. but probably not the first on your list of lenses that you need.This image showcases the rocks in the foreground. 30 . A fun lens to use. Another unusual effect that wide-angle lenses tend to create is the problem of converging vertical lines. In the following photograph. so if your interests lie there. looking up. This effect is most noticeable when taking a photograph of a building from a low angle. also. Wide-angle lenses are a must for landscape photography. you might want to consider adding one of these lenses to your inventory. drawing the viewer in and giving them the feeling that they are "right there". Notice the curving bottom line.

you'll probably notice that it is not 400 mm long. So what are telephoto lenses used for? Let's look at the following example of the same scene taken from the exact same spot. The term is used for almost all lenses that are longer than "normal" focal length. When discussing focal length in the last lesson. but now you know the difference. I'll use the terms interchangeably in this section.Long-Focus Lenses Long-focus lenses are basically the opposite of wide-angle lenses. That's just a bit of trivia for you. even though they're all commonly called telephoto lenses. I made a general statement that the number of the focal length is generally how many millimeters it is from the front of the camera to the film plane inside of the camera. That's because inside of the lens barrel they use elements that magnify the image. If you happen to have a 400 mm lens lying around and decide to whip out your ruler and measure it. A lens that is actually shorter than its focal length is technically called a telephoto lens. using both a wide-angle lens and a telephoto lens: Whereas a wide-angle lens will make objects in your foreground larger and objects in the distance 31 . you've got a long-focus lens that is not a telephoto. They're also oftentimes referred to as "telephoto lenses". If your 400 mm lens actually happens to be 400 mm long. however.

smaller, a telephoto will make objects that are far away seem much closer. Telephotos are commonly used for wildlife photography. It's very difficult to get near many wild animals and birds, and a good wildlife photographer will take his or her telephoto lens out into the wild and sit, unmoving, for very long periods of time to get that great shot.

Another thing that telephoto lenses are good for is eliminating those converging vertical lines that I mentioned when talking about wide-angle lenses. This shot was taken from quite a distance using a telephoto lens. Notice that the lines of the building don't seem to curve like the old brick schoolhouse in the previous example. If you can keep your lens and film plane parallel to the surface you're shooting, you'll have good luck with eliminating those converging verticals. They also make special lenses called Perspective Control (or PC) lenses that can help you correct this problem if you can't get far enough away to use your telephoto - unless you are planning on doing a lot of architectural photography, though, I wouldn't recommend one of these. They're rather expensive. There are a few disadvantages to buying telephoto lenses, so unless this is the type of photography you're really interested in, I wouldn't recommend one. Long-focus lenses can be very expensive - when you take a picture at a great distance like the telephoto example of the barn above, you tend to get a bit of haze to your image. Only the purest environment will eliminate this. They're also very bulky, and yes expensive. A 200 mm telephoto will probably take care of most of your needs, unless you're planning on photographing something small, like birds, from a great distance. You can also enhance your telephoto lens with something called a "tele-extender". It is another lens that you put on your camera, and then your regular lens attaches to the front of it. A 2x tele-extender will double the size of your image. They're reasonably inexpensive, not huge and bulky, and give you a lot of versatility. Their disadvantages: you won't get quite as sharp of an image using a tele-extender, and you'll have to open up your camera by 2 stops with a 2x tele-extender because they decrease the amount of light that comes into your camera. But if all you have is a 200 mm lens and that rare African Ruby Throated Ring Necked Swallowtail shows up, you can throw on a 2x tele-extender and increase your lens power to 400 mm. They even make them in 3x and a few other variations.


Portrait Lenses

Lenses that are between 85 mm and 135 mm are called "portrait lenses". Remember how we talked about wide angle noses causing the "big nose" effect? This is called perspective distortion, and here's an example of that, along with a portrait taken using a 110 mm lens, which is what I generally like to shoot portraits with.

These are both self-portraits. Notice the caricature feeling of the shot taken with the wide-angle lens and the more in-proportion feeling of the nose in the standard portrait. If this is an area of photography you're interested in, this might be one of the first lens purchases to put on your list. I find a focal length of right around 100 mm to 110 mm to be very flattering in portraiture. You'll be able to get close enough to fill your entire frame with your subject while still standing a reasonable distance from them, too.

Macro Lenses

A macro lens is used to take pictures very close up of objects. A true macro lens will make an image on the film that is exactly the same size as the subject. They're commonly used to photograph flowers, insects, coins, etc. I do a lot of macro photography and it's one lens that I couldn't live without. Macro lenses can come in any focal length - 24 mm, 50 mm, even 200 mm. In addition to being able to function as standard lenses, they will also focus much closer than regular lenses have the ability to do. The following images were taken with macro lenses:


Zoom Lenses

There are also zoom lenses. These will let you change the focal length that you are using without changing lenses. They tend to be expensive, and because of all of the mechanical stuff inside the lens barrel that allows you to zoom in and out, the optics tend to not be quite as sharp as a fixed-focal length lens. However, some of them aren't too bad and they can be very handy if you're out shooting and want the versatility of more than one lens without the hassle of carrying various lenses around with you.

Aperture and Depth Of Field

In the last lesson we talked about aperture and shutter speed and how they affect your photograph's exposure. Aperture also controls something called depth of field. When you focus your lens on a subject, anything at that same distance will similarly be in focus. Things that are closer to or further from the camera lens will gradually - or drastically - be less sharp. Your camera's aperture controls how large of a zone is acceptably in focus. This is called "depth of field", and the smaller your camera's aperture, the larger that depth of field zone is.


Depth of field also increases with distance. while macros have a very shallow depth of field because the subject is so close to the lens. Landscapes tend to have deep depth of field. the more of the subject you can get in focus. Here are two more photographs of the same subject using different depths of field to create different effects: 35 .In this image. the tip of the red pencil is sharply in focus and the acceptable focus zone fades quickly so that the other pencils are more and more blurry. This was achieved by using a large camera aperture. Shallow depth of field can be used in many interesting ways for impact in your photographs. The farther you place the camera from your subject.

I could have just hired Roger Clemens to stand there and chuck baseballs at me and my camera all day until I got a properly composed photograph with the ball in focus . Each number is printed twice . less expensive and much safer.once on the left of the center position. you need a lens with a depth-of-field scale imprinted on it. Tightly focus on the subject's face and open up your aperture to blur that city street or whatever is in the background and you'll have a portrait that jumps out at you. 36 . It's a bunch of numbers written on the lens that coincide with the apertures on the lens. Finally. this image uses shallow depth of field to achieve effect. A lot of lenses don't have this on them. don't take this to mean that stopping down your aperture and throwing your focus on infinity will give you a completely in-focus landscape photograph.Likewise. It's the best way to assure your foreground is tack sharp as well as the rest of the photo. First. this is a good thing to look for. This is the setup I used to take that picture: Of course. We've talked about shallow depth of field. once on the right. but when you want deep depth of field in a landscape image. you should use something called "hyperfocal distance". If you go back and refer to the lake image used earlier in the lesson where I noted the rocks in the foreground. so if you're selecting a lens to buy. Another creative use of depth of field is to use a shallow depth of field when taking a portrait if you're in a less-than-ideal setting.and then snapped the shutter at the exact time it all came together. that sharp focus throughout the image was achieved using this method. This way was probably a lot easier.

also sharp. move on to another model.this time they should be exactly the same. Got „em? do. If they slip. That being said.If your lens has apertures running from f/2. easy-to-handle knobs and handles. if I don't get around to talking about tripods soon it's going to drive me crazy. I know. but they are few and far between. you should not hand-hold your camera at less than 1/100 second. Assignment 1: Set your camera up on its tripod or other sturdy me . This is what you do: Set your lens to its smallest possible aperture. Okay. I went through a stage where I thought they weren't REALLY necessary. extend 1. is figuring out which thing to grab and where it is. It shouldn't 4. Personally. all those little numbers look so CONFUSING! What the heck am I supposed to do with those?" It's not as hard as it looks. There are some circumstances where it's just not practical. you will see a "2.8 through f/32. and had a good portion of my best early images ruined due to this.8" written in the center and a "32" printed way to the left and then again way to the right. them. I do my best to never . That's f/32 on the fictional camera I'm talking about. Even if you are positive you have the steadiest hands in the world and you really don't need a tripod .take a photograph without using a tripod. If there are telescoping legs. you're saying. Tripods Okay. 3. position the infinity symbol above the "32" mark on the right. so I guess this is as good of a place as any. there's sort of an informal rule that says it's okay to hand-hold a camera if your shutter speed is at least equal to your focal length. now look at the left-hand marking that says "32" and it will tell you at what distance your depth of field starts . but use your aperture to make your subject the only thing in focus in one of them and then to make everything in the picture in focus in the other one. Assignment 2: Again. Huh? Easier way to say it . now instead of the normal procedure of positioning the infinity distance mark at the center. Compose them both so they are as interesting as possible. and it sort of fits in with the lesson on lenses. Using a tripod will make a big difference in your technical quality of your pictures. So now find the "32" markings on the depth-of-field scale on the lens. Big.ever . So what should you look for in a tripod? Several things. Anything on the tripod that locks should lock really securely. Take a photograph using your widest angle lens possible and another using your longest lens possible. lock them and then try and push them back in before you buy. "Man. move. Overall sturdiness. Why am I so emphatic about this? The absolute worst mistake a beginning photographer can make is to not use a tripod. There are also monopods on the market if you're hiking and a tripod is too much to carry. Now you are now focusing most sharply on a distance of somewhere around ten feet or so. I've seen some beautiful shots that have been worthless when viewed up closely because of camera shake due to not using a tripod. too. A 500 mm telephoto lens should not be hand held at less than 1/500 second. A head that rotates 360 degrees and lets you tilt the camera straight up and straight down. but infinity is just within your depth of field. set your camera up and take two photographs . and I promise you'll be happy you learned this. I can't stress enough what a help this will be to improving your image quality. so we'll stick with that. Stand it up and press with good pressure on the center of the tripod. Have fun and be creative! 37 .if you're using a 100 mm lens.from about three or four feet out all the way to infinity. The last thing you want to worry about when you're shooting 2.

Jodie Coston: Lesson 4 . Regardless of which of us is right. Negative. transparencies are still widely accepted and preferred by a wide range of professional photographers and printers.ISO. Transparency vs.A History Of Its Beginnings It's difficult to imagine a world without photography. Thereís nothing quite like it. Negative. Specialty Films Lesson Four: ISO. Grain. We can now literally see things that happen all the way across the world without ever 38 . a lot of you are probably looking at this lesson and wondering exactly what the point is. One thing to note is that while many professional printing houses have moved to accept digital files. Grain. He says it is going the way of vinyl records. and I think that will be here to stay forever. Photographs changed the world in ways that we can barely imagine. even though I shoot almost exclusively digital today. I constantly argue with my husband (who is NOT a photographer) about the future of film. but I insist that film will always be there for us. Specialty Films In todayís world of digital cameras. not to mention the folks who shoot black and white and enjoy that time in the darkroom developing their own shots. Film . So weíll go into a little lesson on the history of photography and film in this lesson and then talk a bit about how this affects us in a digital world. to ignore the history of film and an understanding of how it works together with light would be a mistake. Transparency vs.

It's referred to as 39 . which were entirely dependent on conscious or subconscious alterations interjected by the people that used these methods to communicate. In 1827. too. Daguerre called his images Daguerreotypes and is largely credited today with discovering photography. but there was no way to make the image permanent. Then there were the painters and artists who were terrified that photography would overtake what they did for a living and feared that they would have to find new professions.then the invention of COLOR celluloid film. That basic camera. That world without photography existed just 165 years ago. NiÈpce died shortly thereafter. These images formed positive "prints" on metal plates. Further advancements that got us to the point where we are today were: the ability to transfer these permanent images to paper rather than metal plates. many scientists noticed that forms of silver. but there was no way to actually capture images that would last permanently using this tool. Over the next several hundred years. It's made up of photons. would darken. Before that. but this was actually the very first successful photograph. people relied on paintings and verbal descriptions. and also a way to use salt to make the images permanent.leaving our home. There's something called the electromagnetic spectrum. but how does film actually work? Let's talk about light for a minute. Somewhere in the middle of all of that is a tiny little section of light waves that the human eye can see and interpret into different colors from red to yellow to blue. when exposed to light. Many called daguerreotypes blasphemy and the work of the devil. motion picture photography andÖ digital photography . but Daguerre kept working on the photographic process and found a way to decrease exposure time to less than a half hour. It required an exposure time of eight hours or more. So we're going to just go by faith that it's these photons that cause the sensitive stuff on the film to make the picture you wind up with. but I'm going to assume that since I don't understand exactly what photons are. the ability to copy these images without having to re-take the picture. could be used to actually create images using this silver solution. He then went into a partnership with a man name Daguerre. the process is very different from any current photographic technique used today. because she'd spent the last several years thinking her husband was losing his mind working night and day on this project. NiÈpce called these Heliographs. According to the physics books it's not REALLY a wave but it's not REALLY a particle. the invention of celluloid film . Light is really weird stuff. I have seen daguerreotypes and they are truly beautiful and amazing. It's composed of everything from microwaves to radio waves and ultraviolet waves to infrared waves. Prior to the creation of a successful photographic process. you can understand the basics of film without really knowing what they are. We can communicate visually with people who don't even speak our language. I find that last note of particular interest because today I hear the same sort of thing from others in my profession who have spent the last thirty or forty years shooting film and are now daunted by digital photography and it's ease of use contributing to the number of photographers growing by leaps and bounds. This "sensitive stuff" is made up of gelatin and something called silver-halide crystals. But How Does Film Work? So now we sort of have a history of where photography came from. Okay. This entire process caused QUITE a stir. Leonardo DaVinci made drawings of plans for a basic camera as far back as 1519. People who understand physics might be able to grasp the whole thing. either. called a Camera Obscura. man was fascinated with the idea of creating a photograph. though aside from the end process of capturing an image made of light and making it permanent. a man by the name of NiÈpce (pronounced Nee-ps) found a way to make a light-sensitive silver solution harden. (Daguerre's wife was about the only person who was happy with his results.) People had never seen such images before with such detail and found it kind of disturbing.the latest step in the journey of advancements.

As a general rule. depending upon how much light is hitting them. It's usually referred to in units of ISO (which stands for the International Standards Organization) and typically comes in the following speeds: ISO 25 . green and blue that all have little crystals working together to create a final product. much smaller silver-halide crystals. Since you have that down. you can decrease the aperture size by one f-stop or shutter speed by one click and get an equivalent exposure. black and white images can be made even more dramatic with a heavy grain. too.Slowest Film ISO 50 ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400 ISO 800. you get a dark spot on your film in the shape of whatever is in your image. no. but that should give you an idea of the difference in films. the more quickly it will respond to the light that hits it. When light hits them. I'll introduce a third element that we can throw in to further complicate the whole business. these little crystals cluster together into bunches. Of course. ISO and Exposure Now.the "emulsion" of the film. SoÖ You would want to buy the fastest film you can get your hands on. there are separate layers for red. If you double the film speed (in ISO units). the faster the film. right? Unfortunately. Grain will be especially apparent on enlargements of photographs and give the print the appearance of having freckles. High-contrast. celluloid film is much more sensitive than that so you don't need ridiculously long exposures. which is made up of larger silver-halide crystals. These silver-halide crystals are what detect the photons that are hitting the film and the gelatin holds it all together. The slowest films are made up of much. Grain tends to get in the way of an image and cause less "perceived" sharpness. and when enough of them cluster together. Your camera's film has something called a "speed". In color images. the larger the film grain. Of course. in lesson two we talked about aperture and shutter speed and how they affect exposure. So the professionals tend to use the slowest films that they can. The different sized crystals cause something called "grain". 40 .Fastest Films The "faster" the film is. grain can also be used for effect. Remember when we talked about NiÈpce needing an eight-hour exposure for his photograph to "set" and Daguerre shortened that to a half hour? That would sort of be like NiÈpce using ISO 25 film and Daguerre using ISO 400 film. 1000 and 1600 . as can gritty subject matter. It takes those itty-bitty crystals quite a while longer to move across the film surface and cluster up where the light is directing it than faster film.

Still normally need a tripod unless light is very bright . even in large enlargements. and outdoor photography. because there are many films that lend themselves nicely to beautiful. Here's a chart of sorts to give you an idea of which films work best for what lighting conditions: Film Speed Characteristics Advantages Beautiful. Without the grain. Pros will recommend nothing else. the vast white areas would just seem overexposed when viewed as a print. It's best to go with a film that will eliminate any grain unless you have a reason for wanting it there. artistically: This shot was intentionally made as a very bright (referred to as "high-key").very few advantages over higher quality ISO 25 or 50. almost impossible to see grain. but the grain adds a textural feel to the image that holds it all together. high-contrast image to showcase the flaming red hair and tattoo. tripod definitely needed for any low light situations ISO 100 200 Still a fairly low grain Good for portraiture under useful on sunny days or controlled lighting conditions with flash. Disadvantages ISO 25 50 As close to flawless as possible. Below is a close up viewed at 100% magnification showing the grain in the image. fine grain patterns. Difficult to use with moving subjects unless you have bright light. crystal clear prints with highly saturated colors excellent for use in landscape photographs and studio work with controlled lighting. Grain is most often used creatively in black and white photography. 41 .This is an image where I used grain to add to the photo.

so be careful of that. Film that has gotten old or been exposed to high temperatures may have an ugly greenish tint or a mottled appearance. Quite grainy. X-rays will cause unsightly lines and impressions in your developed film. abrasion from rough handling and of course. allaround film to be used under various lighting conditions. however. even expected. Be good to your film and it will be good to you! Types Of Film Now that you have a general idea of how film works. we can talk about all of the different types of film. in those circumstances because itís the only film that will capture such situations. 42 . chemicals (including salt if you're in an ocean environment). flecks or the actual appearance of the film looking torn or broken.this is the reason you see grain in a lot of indoor sports photography. Used a lot for situations like basketball games or stage performances. heat (don't leave your loaded camera in a car on a hot day). light.1600 Highly grainy. And rough handling will be apparent in spots that show up looking like cracks. but still acceptable for snapshots. Quality due to grain becomes a bit of an issue at this point if you plan on making any enlargements. good for action shots in low light situations when flash is not possible. VERY high grain in shots . ISO 1000 . Film is also susceptible to fungus if kept in high humidity. which will cause blotches. Best suited for situations when you donít have any idea what lighting conditions will be or will be moving from indoors to outdoors and not have the ability to change film. Film is sensitive to all kinds of things. Very similar to 1000 & 1600 below.ISO 400 Most print film manufacturers market this as a versatile. too. you can keep it at room temperature. If you buy film and are going to use it within a couple of weeks. If you stock up and plan on keeping your film around for a while. good for low light situations when flash is not possible. you should store it in your refrigerator. Itís come to be acceptable. including Xrays (watch those airports!). Taking Care Of Film Film is very delicate and also very easily damaged. ISO 800 Grain visible even in standard sized prints. Can still use reasonable shutter speeds to capture action under very low light conditions.

You can be off by two or three f-stops and never even know when you look at your final prints. You take your roll of photographs. that paper itself is processed to give you your print. A piece of equipment called an enlarger is used to project the negative image onto light sensitive printing paper. there is still usually enough detail in the negative that a print can be made to look just fine. the machines that printers use today are "smart" enough that they know if you've exposed your print wrong and will automatically print it to the exposure it thinks is correct. but not at all good for learning photography. Then in the last step. then your exposed film will have to be processed by a lab to create a "negative". One good thing about negative film is that even if you expose it incorrectly.Also Called Print Film If you are looking to wind up with a nice set of prints. The negative is then used to produce a print using the "positive" colors. this is mostly the type of film you will use. You might think you're exposing your photographs correctly. but the "smart" printing machine is actually fixing any mistakes you might be making. In fact. 43 .Negative Film .the colors are reversed. You've all seen these . A handy thing for that picture of grandma blowing out her birthday candles when the flash didn't go off. The film box will usually say something like "film for color prints".

Normally they will only take slides (though more and more they are moving into the world of digital. as you might expect. Number one: You will definitely learn how to expose your film properly using slide machines trying to interpret what you might have wanted that image to look like. After processing the film you will have a set of positive images . There's only one step . you'll be amazed at your results.also called slides or transparencies.once you've got proper exposure mastered. There are too many different films for me to discuss specifics here. I highly recommend test-driving some of these films .but I'm sticking to just discussing film for the moment). slide film is the only way to go . too . No print film in the world can match the beautiful colors you can capture on transparency film specially formulated for landscapes. is the opposite of negative film. Number two: Color slide film reproduces faithfully and immediately exactly what you've seen though your viewfinder. No running through an enlarger onto light-sensitive paper and then having to develop that paper . editors and print houses will only accept a print if it is phenomenal and they have no other choice. They also make special transparency film for portraits and other uses. Slide film is not forgiving in that manner at all . There are a couple of bonuses to that.Also Called Slide or Transparency Film Positive film. If you want to make a living with photography. so there are way fewer steps in which to screw up your artistic vision. We talked about negatives above and how you can vary your exposure and still get a good print. and working the manual controls on your camera will become so second-nature you won't even have to think about it.agencies.slight over.or underexposure is nowhere near as tolerable as color negative film.Positive Film .to develop the film. 44 . The other great thing about transparency film is the amazing color saturation you can get. but a trip to your camera store to discuss the various professional transparency films that they stock can be a real eye-opener.

While our eyes can't see the infrared portion of the spectrum. and if you use infrared film for portraits on someone who happens to have an abundance of blemishes on their face. Human skin and foliage both tend to reflect a LOT of infrared light. but one of the most fun films is black and white film.because the blemishes don't reflect infrared light any differently than the person's unblemished skin. black and white does not. Infrared film has some really unusual characteristics that can make beautiful effects. Without actually having a hands-on class. so if you use black and white infrared film to take pictures of either people or landscapes with a lot of green leaves or grass.Black And White Film Color negative and transparency film are the two most common types of film. meaning it gives you the freedom to do so relatively inexpensively. Infrared Film I'll touch on a couple more unusual types of film while we're discussing different kinds. 45 . this film can. I won't go into the details of processing black and white film. Working in a darkroom is great fun and when you're finished and have that final print in your hands that you created yourself. you'll get back images where the subject has beautiful. glowing skin . but if you ever get the chance. Whereas color film requires a considerable expense in the materials needed to develop and print your own images. you'll get beautiful creamy white tones that almost seem to have a ghostly glow to them. I've seen wedding photographs shot with infrared film that turned out to be masterpieces. it's a very rewarding experience. Skies will turn an inky black while puffy clouds will stand out brightly. you should give it a try.

and I'd suggest a trip to your local camera shop to discuss the pros and cons of what they might have available. not just when using infrared film. Most of the time the film manufacturer includes specific directions on important facts you need to know when handling the film. Then when you develop your film. bluish tinted lighting you see outdoors when it's overcast measures around 7500K. The "cool".there are several to choose from. however .shooting infrared is very different than shooting regular film. vanilla-colored light that you see at sunrise. Film. Many photographers use a system of setting the camera's aperture the way they want it and then using varying shutter speeds. Most films are balanced for natural lighting . but having your first successful prints done with infrared is an exciting and rewarding experience. 46 . It's like seeing a world that you normally wouldn't know existed. This process is called "bracketing" your exposures. so pay attention to those and you should be fine. however. sunset. Another important thing to note is that infrared film must be both loaded into your camera and removed in absolute darkness or you can ruin your images. Just like our eyes can't see infrared. you can see which shutter speed worked best and use that as a rule of thumb. Infrared has lots of goofy little quirks like that. The Kelvin scale is what is used to measure the temperature of different types of light. a camera's light meter can't see it either. and can be handy in any tricky light situation. Tungsten-Balanced Film When we walk outdoors after being inside with artificial light. and in indoors measures between 2000K and 3000K.A word of warning. so figuring out the proper exposure can be tricky. The "warm". doesn't have the latitude that our eyes do and it will give your images very unusual color casts if your lighting is not exactly the specific "temperature" that the film was created for. it's considered "white" and its temperature is about 5000K.daylight. making notes as they go. You'll also need a filter for your camera that will filter out all but the infrared light . During the day when the light is bright. our eyes don't perceive much of a difference in the colors of things around us.

Just like film having larger grain with the faster ISOs.So that means that if you use film balanced for daylight when you're indoors under tungsten light the color will be incorrectly balanced and the image will have a yellow or orange color cast. all those marvelous colors will show up as big as life and you'll get exceptional photographs. you'll get the best image quality when you use your lowest ISO settings available. Noise is sort of the digital equivalent of grain. One of the best uses of tungsten balanced light that I've found is for photographing Christmas lights during the winter. They have image sensors that work in place of film. If you use regular film for this. so a tripod might be necessary. digital cameras don't use film.what's the point of having them on a digital camera? You're right. If you're shooting indoors under artificial light. you generally won't notice any odd color cast when you get your prints back from the lab if you took your pictures indoors. They make tungstenbalanced film to correct this problem. a bluish color cast. Photo taken at ISO 400 on my digital camera. you may want to give tungsten-balanced color film a try. if you then take your tungsten-balanced film outdoors and try and shoot a landscape. With tungstenbalanced film. you'll find the opposite. What About Digital Cameras? Since I know this is an online class and that means many of you are probably doing work digitally. viewed at 100% magnification. Likewise. but because the printing process automatically adjusts for color temperature differences. what do those ISO markings mean? You're not using film . That ISO marking means that the camera will set it's little computer to work as if it had that type of film in it. a lot of times your photos will come back and those spectacular colors of the Christmas lights will all come back looking white or yellow. how does any of this apply to you? If your digital camera has manual settings. Same photo taken at ISO 50 on my digital camera. This will require longer exposures. using a faster ISO in your digital camera will give you a "noisier" image. Notice the severe noise in the dark corner of the image. Big difference! 47 . Just like film. making that number it's ISO equivalent. Negative film is normally daylight-balanced. viewed at 100% magnification.

using your camera's auto white balance. Assignment 1: Assignment 1: Using a film camera. fluorescent and other types of lighting. image quality degrades as you make changes to your picture. your image sensor records it just like it sees it and doesn't add ANY sort of white balance to the shot and when you upload it to your computer. cloudy. incandescent. This is a good way to see how accurate your camera's white balance actually is . you'll be amazed. You can also use your camera's auto white balance. fluorescent. take both a roll of slide film and a roll of negative film. I shoot almost exclusively in RAW format with my digital camera. if you have preset white balances on your camera. Even if you don't shoot much film. 48 . It's best to always set your white balance manually if you can. this is an excellent exercise in helping you understand exposure more in depth than you do already. Compare the difference in color between the correctly exposed slides and prints. cloudy. Use the bracketing system to take a couple of sets of shots that are: 2 stops underexposed 1 stop underexposed Normal exposure 1 stop overexposed 2 stops overexposed Assignment 2: Take notes on what your aperture. shutter speed and film speeds are set to on your camera so that you can compare when you get your developed film back. incandescent. in both bright light and dim light.sunny. you won't be able to post your results. set the same white object up on a white or black background and take pictures of it using each setting . When you do get them. but the slides will show a dramatic difference. depending on the camera.Okay.if the camera guesses wrong and you need to go in and make changes using photo-editing software. great! Next. If you don't have a camera that will let you take photos in RAW format. but please post any relevant comments you might have. your camera probably comes with settings you can use for daylight. This will give you some idea of the differences in color temperature your camera sees that your eye might not naturally notice. but beware . Most likely you won't be able to tell much difference in the negative film that has been printed. Since these are not digital. you can then go in and make all sort of incremental adjustments until the shot is just right. you can always go in and change the white balance or exposure after you've taken your photographs.are the whites really white? If so. unless you have access to a scanner. Assignment 3: Take a white subject and photograph it both inside and outside. so what about all that light and color temperature stuff? If you have a DSLR camera or other professional camera that has the capability of taking photographs in RAW format. When you take a photograph in RAW format.

I have two words for you: Get One. Camera Filters There are numerous filters you can buy for your camera lens and they all create different and fun effects. Imagine standing with a partner who is about twenty feet away from you.Camera Filters. we would get to the fun stuff. Let's discuss a few of the more common filters: Polarizing Filters The most common filter for use in landscape photography is a polarizer. but there are a million other light rays all traveling from side to side. Zooming And Panning I promised all of you back in lesson two that it might get a bit boring and technical for a couple of lessons. Each of you is holding one end of a long jump rope. What happens? People will probably cross the street to walk around you because of your weird behavior.Jodie Coston: Lesson 5 .Fun Effects Camera Filters. 49 . for one. Zooming And Panning Lesson Five: Fun Effects . Soft Focus. They'll make your skies beautifully dark blue and the clouds will really stand out. here we are! You should now have a good grasp on all of the basics of your camera to the point where now you can move into some of the really cool areas of photography and creative ways to use your camera. Soft Focus. A polarizer will also reduce ugly glares and reflections from windows. The only reflections they won't change are ones in metallic surfaces. Both of you begin to shake the rope wildly in all different directions. but that if you hung in there with me. A polarizer will make your colors super saturated and eliminate reflections from water. that is . If landscapes are what you want to use your camera for. But what happens to the rope? It will move around in all kinds of various directions. so you can see rocky lake and riverbeds and add foreground depth to your images. in diagonal waves or any other number of directions. Some might travel in sort of an up-and-down motion. Well. Natural light . just like you are.moves in waves that vibrate in all different directions.UNpolarized light.

no matter how much you flail around with the rope in all directions.. The specular highlights that were on the barn without the polarizer are also gone. By letting in light that is moving in only one direction..BUT. one with a polarizer and one without. The following photos were taken on a hazy day this summer. what a difference! Notice how the clouds stand out. I remember thinking how there really weren't any clouds to speak of. Polarizers also work well for photographing framed artwork or anything else under glass to cut down on any distracting reflections. A polarizer basically does the same thing. making for much more saturated colors and overall a more eye-catching photograph. but after putting the polarizing filter on. it eliminates a lot of haze in the sky caused by light being reflected off of water vapor and other particles in the air. the holes that run up and down in the picket fence will then only let waves move through that are vertically oriented. When I took the picture. if you take your rope and run it through a picket fence and stand on either side of the fence and do the same thing. 50 .

One very important thing to understand about soft focus photography is that it does not mean "out of focus". Also. They are very useful if you're interested in portrait photography for adding a peaceful feeling to an image and helping make skin tones to be more attractive. You can also create soft-focus effects yourself without spending a dime. If you go into wedding photography or something where soft focus is an effect you'll be using a lot. the details come out quite clearly. just by stretching a nylon stocking over your camera lens. There are even polarizers that will change the colors in your photograph. This baby photograph was taken with that technique. but it will be well worth it. but expect to pay much more for those. Most photo filter manufacturers make soft focus filters for your lenses in varying intensities so you can control how soft you want the image to be. 51 . it can be worth it to invest the money in one of these lenses.One note . the more your polarizer will cost. Some lens manufacturers even make soft focus lenses that are of fantastic quality. A good polarizer will be more expensive. but the highlights of the image have an almost magical glow. Scenes with moody lighting like this are an ideal use of soft-focus photography. go down to your local camera store and talk to them about their selection of circular polarizers and what the differences are. Soft Focus Filters The use of soft focus is one of my favorite photography techniques. Note in the photograph above. Soft focus generally gives a soft feeling especially to the highlights in the picture. which can be a fun effect sometimes.all polarizers are not created equal. while leaving the details of the image very sharp. the wider lens you want a polarizer for. If you're planning on buying one. I've bought cheap ones in the past thinking that a polarizer is just a polarizer and any one would do.

Cutting your shutter speed in half for each exposure for stopping down your lens to let in half the light will fix this. then without advancing the film in your camera. I don't Then I made a copy of the want to turn this into a lesson photograph and blurred it in digital photo editing. play with your focus until the entire image is out of focus and create a second exposure. so I extensively. yet transparent to let the blurred image show through for a soft-focus effect. You need a tripod for this. you can also create a beautiful soft-focus effect by taking two exposures on the same frame of film. and it's fun because you have unlimited control of how much soft focus you wind up with. Then I layered the two together using the computer with the sharp version on top. Simply take one image that is tack sharp. Vivid green foliage is another subject that also makes a lovely choice for soft focus photography. you'll have to take into account that you will need to change the exposure on your camera. won't go into specific software programs or techniques. 52 . you can also use this technique by layering two shots over one another. but the following image was taken digitally.I know of other photographers who use optically clear filters and smear a dab of petroleum jelly around the edges for a soft-focus "framing" effect that can be beautiful. If you're shooting with a film SLR that has the capability of making multiple-exposure images. The following image was created in this manner. If you have a digital camera. Note that when you do this. Taking two exposures on one frame of film with the correct exposure settings will actually overexpose your photograph by letting in twice the required amount of light.

you won't know the incredible feeling you get when you see those beautiful prints that you've made yourself. This color wheel is a simple way to figure out complementary colors if you are unfamiliar with them. however. But I'll leave it up to you to go find a camera club or hands-on photography class where they'll then teach you how to take your pictures further by working in a darkroom. You can get them to add little "stars" to the highlights of your image with any different number of points . Some of the real magic of creating black and white photography is the hands-on process you get when you're working in the darkroom and it's almost impossible to translate that magic to text. They have different grades. select a filter that has a color that is complementary to the color of the object. soft focus. some that create a very light effect that can be beautiful on water scenes and other. yellow and blue. I will. When you mix red and yellow. To make an object appear darker on film than it does to the eye.if that weren't true. and many other situations where you want to add a dramatic effect to bright lights. I can tell you that you should give it a try. Their overuse at the time has given them sort of a "cheesy" feel today. creating a soft glow with a bit of flare and producing a warm romantic tone. Rather than creating an even. They're most often used to add sparkle to bright water scenics. heavier grades that create a far more unnatural effect which can be used in fantasy scenes. a fog filter mimics natural fog. but they can still be used for a nice effect in the right situations.four.More Filters To Know About The Star Filter Star filters were especially popular in the 1980's in advertising. candle flames. you get orange. The Fog Filter The fog filter is different from a soft focus filter. jewelry photography. talk about filters for use in black and white work. night scenes. etc. Ansel Adams would not be (arguably) one of the most famous household names in photography history. stadium or stage lighting. six on up to sixteen. but without actually being able to drag you into a darkroom and show you how to develop and print your own photographs. Our color spectrum is made up from red. but up until this point we haven't discussed black and white photography much. Black and white photography can be incredibly powerful when care and knowledge are put into the making of prints . 53 . as they're extremely important for good results in black and white photography. Filters For Black And White Photography We've talked a lot about color photography. They make them on both optically clear filters and soft focus filters.

Let's take a look at the above image. yellow and blue have absolutely no red in them. making a boring image. An orange filter will do the same thing . In black and white a lesser degree . etc. Notice how all of the dark green foliage has lightened up? The green filter has also taken some of the impact out of the sky. To assure that all of the objects in your image don't come out as very similar shades of grey.and a yellow filter to an even lesser degree. adding drama to your image. The trees that in life are green have turned a very dark color. a filter can darken tones in your image while lightening other tones. Now let's look at the same image taken with a green filter. Now let's look at the image taken with a red filter: Notice how the clouds stand out with contrast against the sky. taken without a filter.When you mix blue and yellow you get green. 54 . If you look at this diagram. as opposed to the black and white filter taken without any filter above. A dark red filter on a bright day with puffy clouds. I'm also including a color shot of the same scene so you can see how the color tones came out in shades of grey. the color located across from red is green. That means that green. really define those clouds while darkening the blue sky. black and white. Also notice how the red flower in the lower right has turned a very light color. everything is rendered in shades of grey.

and continue moving along with it as you press the shutter. If you put them on. You can try this as a mini-assignment if you want. 55 . you can get a dramatic motion blur of a moving object. you'll get a good feeling for what tones will lighten and darken when you use photographic filters in black and white photography. It's not at all difficult once you've practiced a little. you can achieve a very visually interesting final image that looks highly professional. It's a great way to get rid of an ugly background when your subject is moving in a way you can predict if the circumstances don't permit you to use a small depth of field. but don't blame me if people look at you funny because of your glasses. you'll be please with the result. from fashion models on a catwalk to sporting events to wild deer running through the forest. This is also an impressive effect. One interesting way to get an idea of how filters will work in black and white photography is to pick up some of those cheap sunglasses with colored lenses. giving the trees an ethereal effect. you can keep the moving object in focus while blurring the entire background. When combined with a particularly interesting camera angle. go outdoors and really pay attention. moving along at the same speed as the subject. Panning Remember in lesson two when we talked about shutter speed and I showed you shots of how by setting your camera on a tripod and using a long shutter speed. but when you get it right. You need to have your camera focused on the subject. I've seen great shots using this technique with a creative variety of subjects. all through the exposure.In black and white photography. By "panning" your camera. these filters will not really affect subjects with very little color. It takes practice to keep the motion smooth and not be jerky.

Post your best results for us all to see. crazy feeling to the image. Assignment 2: Practice panning to capture a moving object and blur the background. Assignment 1: I don't expect people to go out and buy a bunch of new equipment. This can be really fun to try and night with streetlights to add a feeling of motion and business to a city street scene. For this you need a zoom lens on an SLR camera. Even if you don't have access to the filters listed in the assignment. It's fun! Once you get the hang of it you'll be impressed with yourself. Try and find a subject that will be particularly fitting for soft-focus and see what happens. If your budget allows it or you already have any of the above filters in your inventory. One interesting thing to note is that whether you zoom in or out. static image a very powerful final photograph. This technique can really make a boring. I've also seen it used in a crowd of marathon runners to add a jumbled. go out and take some shots with and without the filters to compare the difference. You need to have the camera on a tripod in order to keep the center of the image in focus and clear while creating a streaky-zoom effect.Zooming Zoom blur is another fun technique that can add a visual punch to your photographs. the final effect is the same. you can move your lens barrel either in or out to produce this effect. try the nylon stocking stretched over the lens for a soft-focus effect and let me see what you come up with. 56 . Upon depressing the shutter.

We'll talk about how to take the best photos that you can . whether it be through photos of food. but it doesn't matter if you're interested in outdoor photography for business or pleasure. Landscape. from the weather to road construction. Nature and Travel Photography One of the biggest areas of interest for photographers is landscapes. sweeping views of the land. nature and travel. Travel photography is both important for sentimental reasons when you've been on a wonderful trip and also a big seller in the travel publishing industry. The business market for these kinds of photographs is extremely competitive. It's a creative challenge to produce the best images you can. bodies of water and sky. tend to feature grand. Nature photography covers a broad spectrum of categories from animals in the wild to detailed shots of flora and fauna . it's like a mini-adventure. but perhaps details of architecture that are unique to the place you're visiting or images that capture the particular culture of the people. Nature and Travel PhotographyLandscape. park benches or just about anything . flowers.What's The Difference? The terms "landscape photography". "nature photography" and "travel photography" tend to get lumped together (sort of like I'm doing in this lesson) but they're all quite different ways of looking at the earth we live on and our perceptions of it.Landscape. A beautiful desert scene could be taken in the United States or Africa. So many items are variables that you can't control. you want to take photographs that really capture the essence of the place you've been.but the actual subject of the photograph is the landscape itself. but unless you as the viewer are familiar with the specific area. clothing or any other particular man-made influences on the area. Nature and Travel . They tend to be generic in the sense that they don't provide a "flavor" of a specific local culture. They might feature some interesting object in the foreground .the kind that make people stand up and say. no matter what the circumstances.fences. Travel photography can be a combination of landscapes. customs. the overall feeling of the photograph is simply that of a dry.Jodie Coston: Lesson 6 . When you go on a trip.there is usually an actual subject to focus in on when taking nature photography. nature and several other things. Nature and Travel Photography Lesson Six: Landscape. "Wow!" This is one of my favorite areas of photography. You never know what you'll find or what kind of pictures you'll come home with. Not just beautiful landscapes and cityscapes. arid landscape. Landscapes. as a general rule. simply because each time you head out to make photos. whole cities or buildings. 57 .

The Lens Ask most people to name a true master of landscape photography and time and again you will get the answer "Ansel Adams". really. The following photo is a successful example of using a wide-angle lens to capture a dramatic landscape. the better. 58 . because you can capture the scene in front of you right up to your toes (or the front legs of your tripod. The wider.for making his vision come to life through his camera's lens. there are only good photographs. That being said. which I've oftentimes accidentally captured in my landscape photographs. making images by using his famous and complex "zone system" for black and white photography. No reproduction of his work in a book or any print made by massproduction processes can come close to the magic he could work in a darkroom. This is because a large part of the horizon can be shown in the photograph and a large part of the foreground can be included as well. I recommended a wide-angle lens for landscape photography. "There are no rules for good photographs. If you ever get to see a "real" print made by Adams himself. The wider the angle of the lens.) If you use your lens in this manner. But ask him to tell you how he did it and he'd answer. he had a wonderful eye for capturing the landscape . Likewise. it can give great depth to a photograph. you can add great depth to the sky by including interesting clouds all the way up to those above your head. you will be stunned beyond your wildest imagination. Including the foreground really makes the viewer feel like they're standing there. if you place the horizon at the bottom of your photo's frame. the more you can exaggerate the effect." Back in our lesson on lenses.

like in the following picture I took in a ghost town in Montana. The old wagon wheel adds a feeling that takes you back in time . overlooking a vineyard. This technique is particularly popular for travel photography. the boats being up front that grab your attention and the boat out in the water suggest an adventure awaits the viewer.much more so than a straight-on shot of the building would have done. While being a lovely landscape shot. The same idea is employed here with the boats on the lakeshore. it can be fun to get down close to the ground and have some sort of object near you. I've seen pictures that sum up the whole feeling of being in the wine region of France by showing a glass of wine on a table with a corkscrew.When using a wide-angle lens. This sort of shot is also in high demand among publishers of travel material. The combination of a successful landscape shot with an element specific to the place being photographed will bring back wonderful memories for you for many years to come. 59 .

saturated colors will spring to life. This is another image I took one winter using a telephone lens. When The Weather Is Bad Rain Okay. so yesterday's weather report forecasted blue skies with bright. that doesn't mean at all that there's no use for another. Don't despair! Go back to bed. The darkness of the day will allow you slower shutter speeds to expose really nicely for flowing water without getting too many distracting specular highlights. and if I had used a wide-angle lens. fluffy. rainy days when most people would never dream of trying landscape or nature photography. Head for either a wooded area or somewhere with some sort of a body of water. not at all. they would have been nothing but small dots in the distance. That photo has been purchased many times over and even used by Kodak. set the alarm for some ridiculous hour and got up bright and early to go take the most amazing landscape photos ever. But what's that noise? Raindrops hitting your rooftop? You look out the window and see rain pouring down that doesn't show any sign of stopping. the sepia tones and the classic composition make this photo work.But what about a telephoto lens? What if that's all you have? Does that mean you can't take a good landscape photo? No. I used that to my advantage by using the haze as a backdrop to highlight the silhouettes of the trees. Rich. white clouds. 60 . summer or autumn. Adams. There were so many clouds this day you couldn't see any of the mountains in the background and it was grey and hazy.) Just because one thing is "recommended". You got your camera equipment ready. sleep in and when you wake up you can STILL go out and get some of the most amazing photos ever. no matter whether it's spring. The picture of the storm in lesson one was taken with a telephoto lens and includes very little foreground. The simplicity of this image. They were quite far away. above. The following images were taken on freezing. (Refer to the quote by Mr.

Water dripping off leaves above you can really be irritating when it comes down on your camera lens. Even then. 61 . dry cloth in a waterproof container that you can use to wipe off any water drops you do get on your lens.if you can rig up some sort of stand for one so it will shelter you while you're taking photographs. Make sure you have a way to keep your camera dry at all times. all the better. so always have your lens cap on unless you're actively taking a photograph. Snow and ice can make for some AMAZING photographic opportunities. but they also present a myriad of challenges to the photographer. Take an umbrella .Some guidelines need to be applied when shooting in the rain. soft. make sure you have a clean. however.

which I do on a regular basis at this point . This is another good way to lug your camera and batteries around out in the cold without having to worry about the elements damaging your hardware. If I'm shooting digitally . 62 . You may prolong your battery's life by several photographs by doing this. they will hold those little hand warmers you can buy that contain iron filings and stay warm for many hours. You can also buy those nylon-covered foam insulated lunch coolers in various sizes.cold weather will wear them out extremely quickly. Those hand warmers can get quite hot. there are the extreme temperatures you may be dealing with. You'll find the same thing with batteries . so figuring out a way to keep them inside of the bag and actually away from the camera itself is a must. If you cut slits inside in the nylon. Cameras (especially digital cameras with their LCDs) are built to work within specific temperature ranges. Always check your camera manufacturer's recommendations on what temperature ranges are okay for operating your camera before heading out into the winter weather.Snow And Ice First of all.I sometimes keep the camera on a strap around my neck and tucked into my coat to keep the whole thing from freezing temperatures. I've been known to remove my camera's batteries and keep them in my pockets to stay warm from body heat so that they're warm while I take pictures.

Then it tells your camera to expose so that overall you have a "mid grey". you'll want to actually overexpose by one or two stops to get really "white" snow. You can get amazing pictures of leaves. spider webs and all sorts of other ornate natural objects if you make it out before the sun melts the frost. blades of grass. The following image was taken of a barbed wire fence that was completely covered in hoarfrost. Your camera's metering system looks at your picture and sort of scrambles up all of the shades of light. your camera will tell you to expose so that the white turns out grey. That tends to work really well when you're photographing normal subjects that have a wide range of colors from black to white. you can capture all sorts of beautiful images on a frosty morning. You'll have to experiment and make notes while shooting to find the perfect exposure for your particular camera. A deep blue filter was used to emphasize the feeling of cold. 63 . If you can get up early before the sun rises and things start to melt. To compensate for this. but when you're taking a picture of a snowy scene.The second challenge you'll run into photographing outdoors in the winter is the bright whites that will trick the light meter in your camera. Ugh.

It was extremely dark out and the ground and truck required a full two second exposure that would never have worked on the sky. and that kept the dramatic oranges in the sky from getting washed out and overexposed. Then lay the two correctly exposed parts of the image out together using your imaging software. here's another thing to try. Take one picture exposed for the sky and a second picture exposed for your foreground. Then manually set your camera's aperture and shutter speeds manually for the sunset and use a flash to light up your foreground object. You can even get really creative with sunsets and place an object in the foreground.The Ever-Popular Sunset Ahh… Sunsets. I used that technique in the following picture and it really made a dramatic shot of what would have been a nightmare of an exposure situation. If you have a digital camera. are using a tripod. I took this shot and metered for two stops underexposure.this is an example of what you can really achieve in-camera if you expose your photo properly. otherwise. The silhouettes of the trees help make it even more eye-catching and the wide-angle lens to really highlight the texture in the expanse of clouds makes you feel like the sky goes on forever.your camera's meter can be fooled into overexposing because you're focusing on so much dark area. and know how to overlay photos using digital software. Who hasn't seen a spectacular sunset and thought to themselves. 64 . The sun is still plenty bright. There are no limits with the fun things you can do with night photography. No post-processing was done to the photo . "I need a picture of that!" And who hasn't been disappointed upon getting their photos back and seeing an image that is nowhere near as spectacular as what they remembered? It's the same sort of thing that happens when you try and take pictures of snow . But the two pictures worked out very well together after being combined.

rocks.Don't Forget The Details! While you're out taking those grand landscape images.Nature . but while you're having fun with that. don't forget to look closely at the world around you. There are all sorts of tiny details out there. just don't forget the small pictures that are hiding in the details! 65 . Hold a leaf up to the light to make its veins seem to glow brightly. Experiment with different camera filters and shutter speeds. Look up. clouds and the way the light plays on them. too. down and all around for interesting patterns of foliage. just waiting to be captured with your camera. It's easy to get caught up in the big picture. creating an attractive pattern.

making a visually unsettling photograph. Also. I recommended a very good long lens if you plan on doing a lot of wildlife photography. and look at each "frame" that you're going to expose using those settings. Well. you'll need to set your camera's settings manually. unless you count ducks and geese in the city park. If you have a spot that's darker or lighter than the rest of the series and use automatic settings on your camera. Following is my most popular wildlife photograph. there are a couple of things you'll need keep in mind.The Panorama Panoramic images are a specialty area of photography that can be a lot of's fun! Wildlife Photography Back in our discussion on lenses. I also recommend large quantities of patience and a willingness to sit in perhaps very uncomfortable positions for hours on end without moving. it's my only wildlife photograph. Oh. while keeping the camera perfectly level. there are quite affordable software programs you can buy that will let you stitch several images together into a panorama. When stitching photos together. you'll wind up with a panorama that fades from dark to light and back again. These are quite versatile and can be useful if panoramic photography is an area that you are interested in exploring. having them line up perfectly is the most important element. There are cameras that you can buy that will let you use regular 35-mm and take either regular 35-mm format shots or panoramic images. and there 66 . I highly suggest trying this . If you choose to go this route. You'll need a tripod with a head that will let you pan the camera from side to side. If you use a digital camera.

Also. If that's what you're interested in and you have the same resolve. at different times of day. Because animals move. Wildlife photography can produce some of the most eye-catching shots you'll ever see. It generally appears as bands that run across your pictures . Those two polar bears up on the mountainside don't make that great of a picture if they're just tiny white dots in the upper left hand corner.those who make their own ghillie suits and lie motionless in the bushes awaiting that rare shot of the Ring-Necked African Brush Penguin for 27 hours or more at a stretch . if I lived near such a wonderful opportunity. I'd recommend not using your camera's flash so that you don't disturb the animals. mountain lions. One interesting thing to note is that if your subject is behind a wire mesh screen (like birds in many zoos' aviary areas). rather than grabbing for my photo equipment. make sure and check with the officials at the zoo first and find out any rules and restrictions they may have about photographing the animals.will scoff at this idea because it's not "real" wildlife photography. I have enormous respect for those photographers who come back from safaris to places unknown with rolls and rolls of film containing dramatic images that took so much hard work to get. Getting out early to get the best light on the actual day you plan to shoot will benefit you and make for great photographs. No matter if the water buffalo are doing a hula dance complete with grass skirts and coconut bikini tops. Tips On Travel Photography If you're traveling via air. the best advice I can offer is to research your subjects and the location thoroughly. I live in an area renowned for amazing wildlife and I have seen wolves. If you're lucky enough to live in an area with a zoo. grizzly and black bears.was the time the moose was running down the road in front of my vehicle and I got a picture of its rear end. you can be sure I'd take advantage of it. Some of the serious wildlife photographers I know . So when I see a beautiful wild animal. you can put your lens up directly to the glass and it will eliminate any glare. Similarly. The faster speed film you are using. it's a distraction that will keep your photo from being all it can be. the first thing to consider is x-ray equipment and film. However. zoom in and focus tightly on the subject and the depth of field will completely eliminate the screen in your final shot. I can still offer some tips on wildlife photography. this is a good place for a beginner to practice wildlife photography. Go to the spot you plan on taking photographs several times. there's no doubt you can be successful making the same sorts of photographs. rather than using a polarizer. use that time to move to a different location for an evening shoot.hence the recommendation for a long lens. If you've gone digital. If you do have such an opportunity. Having said that. for those of you who are interested.dark bands on negative film and light bands on positive (slide) film. with animals behind glass. Make sure you have your focus set on the animal's eye. If you are ready to venture out into the outdoors to photograph your subjects. open up your aperture. mountain goats and bighorn sheep numerous times in the wild. here are some thoughts to consider. I simply don't have the patience to sit in a stand all day hoping the elusive animal will come by and pose for me. X-ray equipment can cause something called "fogging" on your film. if the eyes are out of focus. to see what kind of lighting the area gets and when animals frequent the area. and when the sun gets to the high point in the sky where the light has become harsh and is making ugly. One of the most important things that makes a good wildlife photo is when you can really fill your frame with your subject . I'd recommend no slower than a 1/250 second shutter speed to eliminate blur. I sit back and simply appreciate it. dark shadows that don't work well in photography. you can put your lens right up next to the screen. But photographing them is another story all together. You can shoot all morning. you don't need to worry about x-ray equipment. bald eagles. but in the case that you're carrying a dozen or a hundred rolls of film in anticipation of a rewarding photo excursion. elk. I've seen it and it's not pretty. many wildlife publications refuse to publish photos of animals that are taken in captivity. the more pronounced the effects of x-ray 67 .

and use your hand or anything else you can to create a cover to eliminate the reflections. Always remember to be polite when asking for such an inspection . Now checked baggage is run through a very strong x-ray process that can permanently damage your unprocessed film. as this type of inspection takes more time than a quick run-through at the x-ray machine. the easiest way to travel used to be to put your film in your checked luggage.maybe on your return trip you'll have better luck! 68 . you might be exposing your precious images to damage. Just like we discussed with photography at the will be. please hand-inspect my film and camera" will get you a lot further than some of the approaches I've heard of people taking with these employees. now you're actually on the plane and on your way to your destination. nor are their jobs particularly fun. x-rayed. so get your lens as close to the glass as possible. If you're stuck with glass that's dirty. Security concerns with increased terrorism threats in the world have put an end to this process. non-US airports may not honor this sort of request. which might be a good thing to consider if your journey is a complicated one with lots of stops. as checked luggage was rarely. "I am a photographer. the two pieces of polarized glass will work against each other and cause weird rainbow-like effects. Don't forget taking photos out the airplane window! An overhead view of the city or scenic areas you pass as you're on your way there will bring back enjoyable memories in the future. Chances are if you're only going through one or two terminals. of course. there's not much you can do about it. that thick glass in airplane windows is polarized already. Enjoy the ride and pay attention to what you can see . so if you have several layovers. so if you use a polarizing filter on your camera. So what do you do? First. taking pictures through glass can cause disturbing reflections. But the effects of x-ray equipment on film are cumulative. if ever. You can use a wide-angle lens to capture the wing of the airplane against puffy blue clouds. This makes it easier for the inspectors to see what's inside each canister. The airlines offer handinspection rather than x-rays. There's a bit of debate about how strong the x-ray machines are that your carry-on baggage goes through and whether or not they will damage your film. rather than having to open each one to make sure it's not packed full of hazardous material.the airline inspectors are doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. according to their country's rules. Interestingly enough. so the last thing you need is to make an enemy of a tired airline baggage inspector at the end of a grueling 10-hour shift when his or her feet hurt. I highly suggest taking any film with you onto the plane with your carry-on luggage. You can also get film that comes in clear plastic containers. you won't have any problems. rather than the dark black ones. If you do plan to request a hand-inspection of your film. Also. change planes and have to go through numerous gates on your voyage. Their jobs don't pay particularly well. make sure and arrive early. All right. or a telephoto lens to capture an aerial view of the city you're approaching without getting any portion of the airplane in the shot.

The picture above was taken at a lodge in Glacier National Park. if you're not a professional photographer. this can be a good way to get the day's shooting done so that you can still enjoy the traveling time with your companions or family. You'll find fewer tourists at popular destinations and you may have a better chance at getting closer to your subjects and not having people in the actual image. I'd skip it and just settle in for landing and take-off like everyone else. first. Also. The interesting light fixtures. if the décor is particularly interesting. I've heard of people becoming quite suspicious of photographers taking such pictures in today's world of high security. log beams and Native American influence 69 . Don't forget to take pictures of places you stay and restaurants you eat in. Okay! Whew! Now that you've arrived at your destination.I'd advise against taking photographs of the actual airport and runway as you approach or leave. Unless you have a need for such a picture. however. what more is there to say about travel photography? One good idea is to get up early to take photos of your destination. unless you've discussed it with the flight crew. which is registered as a historic place in the United States.

This next photo was taken at the same hotel. have fun! 70 .on the lobby of the lodge made for an interesting shot.rather than "travel" . following photos: Assignment 1: A landscape . Try and get beautiful early morning or evening light to emphasize nature. but showcases one of the Park's "Jammer" busses in the parking lot. Anything focusing on a specific subject. Remember to pay close attention to the rules of composition and frame your photograph creatively! Most importantly. whether it be a barn in the country. a "cityscape" will do as well.photograph that doesn't emphasize anything specific to your area. full of the cultural feeling of the area. Remember to get in close and fill your frame with the subject. These vintage 1930's open-air busses take visitors all through the Park and are quite a site to see. plant or mineral in its natural environment (or zoo. a tourist attraction or fantastic architecture. specific to the area in which you live. Assignment 3: A travel photograph. which really gives a feeling of local "flavor". if you live by one). If you live in a city. A shot like this that showcases a highlight of your trip will bring back wonderful memories for many years to come. whether it be an animal. Assignment 2: A nature photograph.

Using flashes and studio lighting can really only be done effectively when you've got a good handle on what shadows do and how they affect your final photo. to this day. I almost always. studio lighting is sometimes necessary in order to get the fast shutter speeds needed for successful portraits. how you can set up your own portable at-home studio on a shoestring budget and we'll also talk about different kinds of lighting equipment for those people who are ready to take the plunge into advanced lighting. In this lesson we'll discuss how to create flattering portraits of people even if you don't have your own photography studio. one of the main reasons people get into taking pictures is to create beautiful portraits. still prefer available light for my portraiture. it means "painting with light". For The Beginner . let's talk about natural light. portrait photography can be very rewarding. We were in the 71 . When people are starting out with photography. and because people as subjects tend to move. when you're working inside.Light Photography is all about light. I always suggest that they start out by learning to control the available light (also called ambient light) that they have in the atmosphere to work with. But before we get into that. However. Literally translated. family or paying customers. Natural (Ambient) Lighting The portrait above was taken outdoors.Portraits And Studio Lighting Lesson Seven: Portraits And Studio Lighting Other than taking pictures of beautiful landscapes and flowers. Whether your models are your friends. Having the right light can make or break your photos.Jodie Coston: Lesson 7 . using the available light in the atmosphere.

I would have used the photographer's greatest friend. beautiful effects you can create like this. I actually have my deck set up outdoors so that I can hang backgrounds and move my tripod all around so that I can take advantage of this kind of light. Think of it this way . for standard portraiture. A softbox is a piece of studio lighting equipment that nobody should be without. a white umbrella or aluminum foil (first crinkle it all up. If there hadn't been any shade to work with. What is Rembrandt lighting? I'm sure you're all familiar with Rembrandt.a reflector is a cheap. As a side note. so having the model in the shade was a big help. A reflector card can be made of any number of things. easy to obtain piece of equipment that makes your light work twice as hard and can really make your portraits look professional. you don't want shadows across your subject's face. and the overall even lighting makes for a nice fashion portrait. Rembrandt lighting will spread shadows onto your subject. but given the dramatic. A reflector card is used to bounce light that's shining down back up onto a subject to add light to the shadowed areas. It was a sunny day when we did this shoot. For maximum versatility. The more even the lighting. the reflector card. cloudy sky. grab your subject and head outdoors to snap as many portraits as you can. If it's not a sunny day and you have a high. Rembrandt used a technique of setting his subjects near a large north-facing 72 . the better. then tape several pieces together until you've got a large piece of several thicknesses that you can work with easily) to reflect light back onto my subjects and fill in dark spots. As its name suggests. It makes for the absolute best working conditions! As you can maybe tell from my previous diatribe. overcast. it spreads a diffuse light out over your subject so as to avoid harsh shadows.shade. If you get skies like this. the great painter and artist. use a sheet of cardboard and then tape or glue the crinkled and uncrinkled piece of aluminum foil to the other side. It will cast a very nice. often referred to as one of the "Masters" of his time. making for a much more even overall appearance. congratulations! You've been blessed with the world's biggest softbox. aluminum foil can be especially fun if you can find it in gold color. One 16x20-inch sheet of white cardboard (or whatever material you choose) is perfect. warm light onto your subject. then uncrinkle it. as with all rules. You can buy them in photo equipment stores. there are exceptions. Rembrandt Lighting Of course. Overcast skies do the same thing. you'll see why it's a popular method of portraiture. but I generally use either white poster board. so there are no harsh shadows on the model's face.

and keeps half of the subject's face lit (the side that's turned away from the camera). which is why they are used as a brief strobe instead of left on all the time. Due to the light be prepared for a little longer shutter speed or a diffused flash. you're all set. and if you choose to use strobes. light is generally higher than the subject. maybe at his desk. There are studio strobe units that you set off to the side of your camera and flash as you press the shutter and those are a completely different thing.the subjects won't be coming to an environment where you control what lights are where .on camera flash. To achieve such lighting. Let's not forget. or wearing a hard hat and out with the blue collar workers if they're an industrial company. You'll want at least ten feet of width to the area you choose. A studio flash (also called a strobe) is an extremely bright light that comes on momentarily when you hit your shutter. accent lights. There is just about no light less flattering than a bright light aimed straight at your subject that causes harsh shadows. other light sources can be added . You need a good chunk of empty space for adequate room. you're going to be using available light . like five. you'll see a lot of examples of environmental portraits. you want about five feet of space between your subject and the background. In these cases. Setting Up Your Own Studio At Home So how do we do this at home without spending enough money to open up our own full-time photography studio? Besides your key and fill lights. Several manufacturers make white plastic diffusers that go on the front of the flash . these lights can be extremely hot and uncomfortable for a subject. Step two begins in my husband's favorite place. Unless you are going to be in a dark situation where you absolutely have no choice but to use your camera's flash. all kinds of things . placed to the side of the subject.but for now we'll stick with the basics and an economical way to achieve them.this can be a real help and I highly recommend them. If you have a room you don't use or you can con your spouse out of letting you use the garage. surrounded by whatever product they make or sell. I suggest buying one that stands as high up and far away from your camera's lens as possible. How many you buy will be dependent on which lighting setup you want to try. This can be really great for capturing the personality of a person that you're shooting. (That's US dollars I'm referring to. while allowing only part of the other side to be lit. I 73 . We'll talk about placements of studio lights in a little bit. Ideally. the hardware store. you can place them exactly the same way as what we'll talk about. They're really cheap. not just stand there as if they're posing haphazardly wherever you caught them. ten bucks or so. and come equipped with your light reflectors to really make good use of what light there is. This will at least produce a more flattering light and eliminate the "red eye" effect we've all seen too many times. Once you've found a spot. If you pick up a magazine like "People". Step one in setting up your home studio begins by finding a suitable area to take photographs. Buy some of those clip-on work lights. some lights. and you're talking about a good amount of space. The trick is to make the subject of the portrait comfortably blend into their environment.background lights. Environmental Portraits There is also the environmental portrait. A librarian amongst stacks and stacks of books might be a creative environmental portrait. you can continue to the next step. I don't recommend using it. Add in room for you and the tripod. that is .) About 250W lights will be one thing I NEVER use. If you need to and your camera has a hot shoe where you can use interchangeable flash units. too! Flash Flash . Then you want at least seven feet between the subject and your camera lens so that you can make good use out of the portrait lens that we talked about in lesson three. so you can use depth of field to make the background blur a bit while keeping the subject sharply in focus. If you have a large window that faces away from the sun you can easily achieve very professional-looking Rembrandt lighting.window (so no direct sunlight would hit the subject) and turning them in relation to the window to create flattering lighting effects that really emphasized the high spots and depths of his subject's face. Same with a lot of corporate brochures that like to show a picture of their president. portraits can be of animals.

recommend three for good versatility. two pieces that you can cut into 4 foot by 4 foot will work fine. but they can push your photography "over the top" into a really professional level.) If you can't find one that large. dividing it up into four 2-foot sections. Hair lights and background lights won't be necessary to really flatter your subject's features. 74 . They're 18 inches in from the outside of the foamcore. Then on these lines. four if you want to add something called a "hair light" that we'll discuss later and five if you also want to add a "background light" that we'll also discuss later. make marks where all the little circles are indicated in the diagram. It's sort of like poster board. now buy a piece of white foamcore board for each clip-on light. You can also get it at art supply or office supply stores. Make lines down it. Now play connect-the-dots by drawing in all of the other lines that are noted on the diagram. If you choose to make the smaller ones. (You metric system people are going to have to adapt for this one. but the middle is stuffed full of a Styrofoam-like substance. I use these extensively for a lot of my projects. You want a large piece. just cut all of the following measurements in half. You can also make these half-size by using 4 feet by 2 feet sheets of foamcore. Very handy for smaller tabletop photography projects. Smaller ones are also great if you don't have a huge amount of room to work with. Okay. 8 feet by 4 feet. Then use a razor blade or X-acto knife to cut the foamcore along these lines.

If you think you might want to change it. If you match up the squares. This piece will get taped inside of the small hole. Now. You'll need duct tape. packing tape or some other kind of wide. The thicker it is. If you plan on always using the same cover. You can also go to the fabric store and get all different kinds of fabrics. put it together. as well as the cord and the neck of the lamp. Measure both the clip and the plastic neck of the lamp and make this hole just big enough that it fits through without the metal part of the lamp touching it. so the hole should be thin. as you can see in the pictures. Take the one I called a "light piece" and a hole in the middle of it large enough that your light's clip/handle will fit through. x's and z's in the diagram. heavy-duty tape. the more diffuse your light will be. but mine is about two inches by five inches. you can just cut the fabric to fit and tape it over the large hole. It will depend on the measurements of your bedding is best as you can get it in heat-resistant fabric. You don't want the hot sides of the lamp to touch your foamcore. A piece of white bedsheet will work fine . you'll get a little pyramid thing. you can choose what you'd like to cover the large opening that will diffuse the light. triangles.Now. you can either sew elastic around the edges so it fits over the hole like a shower cap or use 75 . This is referred to in the lighting side of photography as a "scrim".

I know I mentioned the idea of heat-resistant fabric. and don't leave your lights on unattended. Now is the best time for me to mention that if you have no interest in going to all of this trouble. Skin will look softer and you'll still get enough shadow that the lighting won't appear flat. 76 . and make SURE that is what you use.clips to hold it on. You'll find for portrait photography. I go for the shower cap idea. let's have a look at what a difference the diffuser makes. you've got a second-best alternative. right?). personally. you can also get sheer colored fabrics that will actually color your light for interesting effects you can experiment with later. Besides diffusing your light this way. this will really make all of the difference. Diffuser No Diffuser Notice how much of a harsh shadow there is without the diffuser. Now that we've gone through this process (easier than the directions make it sound. nor do you want to spend the money on commercial soft boxes. though.

These may not cut harsh shadows as well as a softbox.You're still going to have to buy a white lighting umbrella for each light. Just because you don't want to spend an arm and a leg on equipment doesn't mean that you can't make your own equipment that will function just as well as the professional stuff! How do you set your lights up in the most flattering way for your subject? 77 . My husband made one for me that is sort of an upside-down horseshoe. depending on how many lights you've decided you want. They also fold up conveniently so you can put them away in the corner when you're done with them. you can create the same design with PVC pretty easily. Okay! Now you just need to find stands for your lights to and you're ready to go. So keep any and all of those options in mind when you're wondering how to set up your lights. I also have separate individual light stands so I can vary the distance between my key lights and fill lights.they telescope into different lengths and have sturdy tripod bases. sturdy clips. I want to emphasize that you want to make sure whatever you use is very sturdy for safety reasons. If you have ladders. You can either buy them from a photographic supply store. If you look at professional light stands. they'll all make good (if rather makeshift) stands onto which you can clip your lights. stools or chairs. OR since we're being super-creative and frugal here. they'll clip to darn near anything and stay put fairly well. This can make a nice. One for each light. the professional light stands are ideal . so I can clip my lights above my subject and/or on either side. regardless. but they're reasonably priced. You can also buy lengths of PVC pipe at the hardware store and all kinds of joints to fashion it into whatever shape you choose. sturdy light stand as well. but they'll do an admirable job. If you want to spend the money. Since the lights we bought have those fantastic. you can opt for other choices.

but direct your key light toward 78 .broad lighting and short lighting. the main light (called the key light) and the fill light . A portrait lighting system usually includes at least two light sources. This is a flattering technique if your subject has a long or thin face. because lighting is pretty easy . but first. you would pose your subject the same way as above. Give it a whirl if you're just starting out with portrait photography. Short Lighting: For short lighting. let's talk about different ways you can place your lights and why. There are two main portrait lighting styles . Dramatic shadows but still a nice effect. a light of the same intensity placed further away (equating to a less intense light) or a reflector. Okay. It will help you when you try more complicated lighting setups. as it will add weight and width to the overall face. I truly don't want to scare anyone off from trying other things. especially if you use something to bounce the light back onto the subject to help with any shadows. These terms are used to imply where the lights are placed in reference to your subject.which is usually a less intense's all about trying new things. When I say "more complicated". Maybe "complicated" or "advanced" aren't the right words. you'll need to pose your subject so that 2/3 to 3/4 of their face is facing you and your camera and then direct the key light toward the side of the face that is closest to the camera. Broad Lighting: To create a broad light.This is as easy as it gets! This will do okay when you're starting out. a little more "complicated" setup follows. experimenting and just moving light stands around. The picture of the girl used the key light a bit off to the side and a diffuser card on the other side.

Notice the lack of shadows compared to the photo made with the first lighting setup. You second light (the fill light) should be further away from the subject than the key light. 79 .the side of the face that is furthest away from the camera. or a light bulb of lesser intensity. It will be quite flattering to your subject's features. This is the next most "advanced" lighting setup. This type of light will slim a heavier face.

Adding a background light to the second lighting setup. you'll really notice a beautiful effect. It will make your subject stand out from the background and really give the appearance of a professional portrait. 80 .

the last light you might add is called a "hair light". attractive glow.Finally. This works as a backlight and sits behind the subject. It will give the edges of their head a nice. focusing on their hair. 81 .

Glossary of Lighting Terms Following are some general lighting terms. We've gone over a few in this lesson, but you may get creative ideas from others, and we'll use yet others in our next lesson on studio lighting for commercial and product shots. Bounce A reflector, usually white, silver or gold, used to bounce light back from the main light onto the subject. Diffuser Thin, translucent material used to diffuse light. Can be tracing paper, umbrellas, translucent plastic or even a bedsheet, as discussed in this lesson. Effects Light A light that is neither the key light or fill light. These are usually used as back lights to bright out a vivid "halo" around a subject's hair, or sometimes a "background light" used to create interesting patterns on the background. Fill Lights which fill in the shadows on the subject, usually not as high in intensity as the key light or further away from the subject than the key light. Flag The opposite of a reflector, these are sometimes used in studio lighting. They are dark and absorb extra light in order to maximize shadows. Not generally used in portraiture but very common in studio product shots where dramatic lighting is needed. Oftentimes a white reflector card will be painted black on the other side so it can fill this purpose. Gel Translucent or transparent colored material used to modify the color of light. Gobo A sheet with cut-outs on it that creates interesting shadows when placed in front of your light source. Again, not generally used in portraiture (unless used as a background light), these are common in product and stock photography. Imagine a metal sheet with squares cut into it resembling those of a Belgian waffle. If you angle your light at 45 degrees to a background and put this piece of metal in front of it, you'll get dramatic trapezoidal or rhomboidal effects. You can make your own and they can be quite fun to play with! Key Light The main light source, casting the dominant light and shadows in an image. Reflector A "bounce" as mentioned above or a dish-shaped item that surrounds the back of a light source, ensuring no light "escapes" and it is all directed at the subject. Scrim Heat-resistant fabric diffuser for softening lighting. Snoot A cone-shaped item you can place over the front of your light. It intensifies the light and gives you the ability to direct your light source in very specific places. Again, not used in portraiture very much, but you can produce amazing results with these in still life photography. Soft Box Large, diffuse light source made by shining light through a diffuser. These offer the same soft, flattering lighting as a north-facing window in Rembrandt lighting. A REALLY large soft box is often referred to in the industry as a "swimming pool". Umbrella One of the photographer's best friends, the umbrella can either be used by shining light directly at it and then using it to bounce that light onto the subject, or by shining light directly through it, creating a soft box, of sorts. Photographic umbrellas are usually made of a white, translucent material, and the larger the better.


Assignment I'm going to leave the assignments fairly open on this lesson, because you all will have different ideas of what you want out of this class. Ideally, to get the most out of this lesson, you should first try a portrait using available light with a reflector. Then another using Rembrandt-style lighting using a window. Lastly, I'd recommend setting up four softboxes or umbrella lighting setups and try a portrait using key light. Then another one adding fill light, another adding a background light and lastly a portrait using all of those plus a hair light. If you can start out with the easiest style and work to the most complicated, all using the same model, you'll really learn a lot by trial and error. Portrait lighting can be a lot of fun - use your imaginations and be creative! I look forward to seeing what you come up with!


Jodie Coston: Lesson 8 - Studio Lighting - Still Life and Product Photography
Lesson Eight: Studio Lighting - Still Life and Product Photography
Now that you all have a grasp on basic lighting setups, we'll plunge a little further into more detail, talking about still life and product photography. This is the area of photography that I personally enjoy the most. It takes up very little room and the limits of your creativity are the only limits that you have.


You've already got your lighting equipment instructions as we set up in lesson seven. In this lesson we'll go a little further into how to use that lighting effectively, especially for hard-to-light subjects, but first we'll talk about the one element that can make or break your photo: the background. When you're shooting still life photography, the background is as important as your subject, believe it or not.
The Black Background


as thicker material will act as a sponge and really absorb much more light. which means that you can set up your lights specifically for your subject matter and you won't get any distracting reflections or uneven lighting in the background that will compete for the viewer's attention. 85 .The first type of background I'd recommend experimenting with is the solid black background. you get that really cool sort of "floating-in-outer-space" effect as a bonus. I've had mine for years and as long as you take care of it by keeping it clean and not leaving heavy things setting on it for too long to crush indentations into it. Plus. you should never need to replace it. I laid the leaf on the background and tilted the camera to give the impression that the leaf was falling through space. the better. I have a large piece that's about two and a half yards long that I use for my tabletop photography when I need a solid black background. The thicker. The photo of the apples was taken using a light above and to the right of the camera and a piece of gold foil as a reflector on the left and in front of the subject to bounce a nice warm light back and fill in any shadows. Not so! You'll be hard pressed to find regular black fabric that won't reflect at least some light. In the last lesson I sent you to the hardware store for equipment. When you use this approach. Now it's time to go to the fabric store. So how do you achieve this effect? Many people think that they can just take any old piece of black fabric and drape it over something to provide a nice black background. you simplify your setup because the black material absorbs all of the light hitting it. you'll find it's a worthwhile investment. showing wrinkles and folds in the fabric and such. You'll find black velvet in varying thicknesses and densities. Velvet tends to be fairly expensive by the yard. and if you can get it for a decent price. Black velvet material is what you need. The photo of the leaf was taken using ambient light. but fabric stores tend to have big sales every so often.

I have a frame built from 2-inch by 2-inch boards similar to this diagram. so this is ideal. Many times I want to place my subjects on a translucent material so I can light them from behind or below (we'll get to that part a little later). In the case of the black velvet. It works well for all kinds of lighting setups. then proceed to light and photograph your subject. setting up your background is very easy. and then put it back in for sturdiness when I'm done.In this case. I can take out the bottom horizontal piece in that case so it doesn't show up in the photo. You simply need a clean table for your subject and a sturdy board of some sort to set up at a 90 degree angle to act as a backboard. I can simply clip it on at the top and then down each side to hold it in place. It props up on its side in the corner so it doesn't take up any space and is just about the handiest piece of photo equipment that I have! The White Background 86 . You can then clamp your black velvet so it hangs down nicely and lay it out over your table.

You can bracket your shots a bit. For photographing small objects in still life photography. but you'll want to make sure and set your camera to meter off of your subject. (Sort of like when we talked about photographing snow a few lessons back. If the camera takes in its light reading from the background. slightly above the subject. and one side is shiny while the other is matte. When I use this kind of a setup. Then set up your lighting for your subject and photograph „til your heart's content. the idea is that you want to really show off your subject and you don't want anything at all to distract the viewer's eye. Normally when you want a white background. NOT your background. There are a couple of ways to go about achieving a nice white background. Simply prop your posterboard up as in this diagram. and easy and inexpensive way to do this is by using plain old posterboard. I usually put my key light to one side. you'll need to be very careful about your exposure and your white balance. meaning you can control how much light you want bouncing around off of your background. It tends to work better than fabric because there are no textures to worry about dealing with.and more advanced . To get a REALLY white background.background used in tabletop photography is the white background. a fill light to the other side a bit lower and use a reflector to bounce light back and fill in any shadows. it will try and set that white to be an ever-so-undesirable shade of gray and your subject will wind up underexposed.Another popular . The best way to do this is by using what's referred to as a "seamless background".) 87 .

but it's those subtle details that you'll pay more and more attention to as you advance with your photography. The depth of field adds to the perspective even further. however. is the heavy shadow directly underneath the ducks. 88 . but there's also an ever-so-slight reflection of the red and white stripes of the basket that adds even more depth. and I could have made another interesting effect by using the shiny side and letting a bit of reflection of the ducks show up. I used the matte side of the white posterboard in the case.The posterboard background was used to make this image. The following picture of the apples uses this reflection technique to add depth. The viewer might not even notice it. One thing you'll notice. There is still a shadow to give you the feeling that the basket is sitting on something. This shot was lit with those shadows in mind to give the viewer the feeling that the ducks are really "sitting" in this huge field of white and to add perspective to the image.

the more successful your photographs will be. even if its only as a learning experience. There's also another way. you want a REALLY white background with no shadows at all. Then set up your lights for your subject. similar to the black background we talked about. however. I'm trying to show everyone ways to experiment and decide what type of photography is right for you before you go spending a lot of money on equipment. Also. but I highly recommend trying the do-it-yourself way first. to make your subject look like it is floating in space. light the whole thing up. Using fabrics that complement the colors of your subject and draping them so that the light falls gracefully and creates interesting contours can really add to a photograph. the textures caught my eye. and . If tabletop and product photography are something you know you're interested in. This old leaf had fallen off a plant. How do you do this? One way to do so is using this exact same setup and lighting very. since softboxes tend to produce fewer shadows to begin with. I placed in on some fabric I had recently purchased to make curtains and used one large soft light to the left of the camera to really emphasize both the textures in the leaf and the fabric for a beautiful. These kinds of images are very popular in commercial photography because a graphic designer can simply select the subject from the background and paste it into his design. 89 . expose for your subject. Still Life With Other Backgrounds Of course. very carefully. and you've got yourself a subject floating in midair! These translucent kits are available for commercial photographers for fairly reasonable prices. Using several big softboxes (like we made in lesson seven) will be especially helpful. adding other objects to your background that relate to your subject and enhance the color scheme of your setting can really enhance an image nicely. it's entirely possible to completely eliminate shadows.whammo! . there are a million other kinds of backgrounds you can use in still life photography. By playing with your key and fill lights. As with all of these lessons. but when I picked it up to throw it away. however. dramatic still've got yourself a seamless white background. you might want to look into these commercial options. The more you know about lighting. as well. There are also commercial "light tents" made of white fabric that you simply place your subject in. Your local glass store may be able to hook you up with piece of white translucent plexiglass curved at about a 90 degree angle for even a more reasonable rate. and that is to place your subject on a white translucent background that is lit from behind.

so I decided to pluck the petals from one of them and use them as the background. but I wasn't satisfied with the results. This has been a very successful stock photograph in terms of sales because the background is just a bit different than a lot of shots you see. For this photo. I had purchased several roses. I placed the white rose on a white background and set up one softbox to the side of the rose to bring out the texture with soft shadows.In this shot. I wanted a feeling of simplicity and purity. The wooden box was placed on a reflective gold fabric and the shiny gold ornaments in the background add a visual sparkle. I used a warming filter on my camera to enhance the gold tones and create a warm feeling. 90 .

A gobo is simply a piece of metal with holes cut in it that you place in front of a light source to throw "shapes" of light onto your background.This shot was a lot easier to do than it might look. I did this as a bit of a lark just to see what happened and wound up with a fantastic result! In the last lesson. I simply used a white piece of posterboard for a seamless background and one strong light source. I don't know why they have such a silly name. You can purchase them commercially or you can make your own. I want to emphasize that anything you place in front of a light source needs to be fire-resistant and never left unattended. but they're wonderful for enhancing your photography. I then covered half of that light source with a dark. if I remember correctly) and the colors that were scattered onto the background simply curved right along with the posterboard. As when we were talking about scrims in the last lesson. cutting thin lines and patterns into anything you have handy. one of the photographic lighting terms mentioned was "gobo". 91 . graduated piece of plastic (I think it was a tinted plastic clipboard from an office supply store. I'm showing you this to emphasize that you should never quit being creative. making this dramatic effect.

it turned the straight lines into interesting zigzags and swirls. A faint fill light from the front left kept the hourglass from being a complete silhouette. you can create a lot of variety by using textured backgrounds to alter those patterns. For another thing. so these reflections didn't just become huge. fill light from the right and a light aimed directly at the background (but not falling on the subject) covered by a gobo with a couple of diagonal-shaped holes in it. When doing tabletop photography. blown-out spots. The best ways to light glass and liquids are from above. The other thing that adding the fill light to the front of the hourglass did was let me expose the shot for a shorter period of time. there are some easy ways to keep your reflections to a minimum and actually use them to enhance your photograph. waffle patterns or other geometric designs. which was made of crumpled paper grocery bags. though. thin lines of light onto the background. if you use very dramatic lighting. behind and the sides. glass gets dirty really easily so you have to clean it until it is spotless and then be careful to not leave any fingerprints on it. but because the background had been crumpled and uncrumpled. Any time you photograph a reflective surface such as the metal in this hourglass. As you can see from the examples. they'll be in the shape of straight lines. painted with metallic copper and gold paints. In this case of the hourglass. the specular reflections turn into long. The gobo sheds that angle of light on the background that the viewer might not even consciously notice. so I kept the subject out of the left half of the frame and sprinkled some interesting light on the background. If you keep your light 92 . The gobo sent a few straight. For one thing. since the frame is made of long brass cylinders. Most of the time when you see backgrounds lit with a gobo covering a light source. This photo of the hourglass is dramatic because the subject itself if lit with a strong orange light from behind and off to the right of the camera. Glass & Liquids The hardest subjects to photograph well are glass and liquids. The specular reflections we talked about with the hourglass work the same with a glass subject. there are so many reflections you need to deal with. itself. The client needed some text space in the image. If the four tulips were on a plain white background without that bit of light. stretched out bright spots. you'll need to be conscious of overexposure where there are specular reflections. emphasizing the outline of the glass and the warm gold tones of the hourglass frame. it would be a much more "flat" composition and far less appealing to the eye. adding dimension to the shot.This photo of the tulips was taken using a dominant light source from the left. white. but it's the detail that really makes this composition complete. Specular reflections are actually mirror images of the light source.

To take this picture. but I used black posterboard (double thick so no light shined through). A lot of photographers also use the "light tents" that I mentioned earlier. I got a good bottle of wine and headed to my studio. Let's talk about some of those. I used the same sort of seamless background setup that we showed above. also. The vertical reflection on the right side of the glass is actually a reflection of the softbox . Then I placed a softbox very close and behind the wine glass on the camera's left. It's important that it was the only light source in the room .that eliminated any chance of other reflections showing up. What a fun shot to take! When you're done you can drink the wine! (Hic!) 93 . but there are several ways you can experiment without incurring the expense of extra equipment.sources anywhere but the front of the subject and keep the rest of the room dark. I then used a seamless black background for the subject. whatever is behind the container will appear to show up backwards.keep in mind that when light shines through liquid in a round glass container. you'll wind up with successful shots.

I'd suggest doing the martini shots and wine shots on different days if you plan on consuming the products when you're 94 .This shot was taken with a softbox behind the subject and a small light just above it. perfect for the quick shutter speed needed for such a shot. you can try dropping in an cherry or an olive and capturing the splash! Using a softbox as a background creates a very bright light. Illuminating fluids in this manner will really seem to make them glow and can create quite a dramatic impact. For variation.

Make sure your subject is properly lit and composed and take care to get those backgrounds really white or black. You will see this technique time and time again in product photography . I again used a softbox as a background and simply placed the perfume bottle on a piece of glass (steal one out of a picture frame if you don't have glass sheets handy). ow.not just glass and liquids . Assignment 2: Photograph a still life scene and use light to convey a definite mood. If you backlight your subject and it is your only light source. picking up textures and using shadows creatively as part of your composition. a piece of glass can make a very visually interesting addition to your photograph by making a mirror image of your subject. For this product setup. professional finish to your photo.finished! (Hic!) The last thing I want to mention. and this works for other subjects. Easy enough? Remember to have fun! Wow me with your creativity! Jodie Coston: Lesson 9 .it really gives a using a piece of glass as a base to set your subject on.Tying It All Together 95 . taking care to avoid distracting reflections. too . is it assignment time already? Okay. Assignment 3: Photograph a liquid in glass. here we go: Assignment 1: Photograph your subject on either a white or black background.

That's right. Anyone who has done enough photography is familiar with those normal picture sizes. It means that you only put your best pictures out there for people to see. Never. 3. make sure you have detail in both the bright and dark spots of your images. Always strive to get better. accessories. you heard me. and everything in between. and one man who mainly shoots landscapes and scenics for a living made a comment that he can never seem to get his horizons straight and is always having to correct them using editing software. Would a filter make this better? A different lens? Any time you take a photo. too.I mean completely impossible. Every shot you take .the only exception). I'll throw it in once more. This means many things. Be smarter than most people and start using a tripod now before you have to learn the hard way. USE A TRIPOD! Unless you're in a situation where it is just not possible (and I don't mean "inconvenient" . If you overexpose areas of white or underexpose areas of black. It means that you don't "settle" for a shot that turns out to be any less than what you envisioned. I've been there. Hopefully you're sick of hearing this by now. "Something was wrong with this picture!" If you crop an image. you'll lose details that you can never get back. Don't forget way back in lesson one when you moved all around the subject to get different angles. as in "there's a law against it in your state and you'll go to prison for life if you have a tripod with you") to lug a tripod around with you. Never settle for an improperly exposed photograph. (Remember. but I was really floored when the other photographers in the group nodded their heads and said that they. use it. and a cropped photo jumps out at them.every SINGLE time you press your shutter release. rules are meant to be broken. always ask yourself one question. Do this now and you've already got a leg up on many of the "pros" out there. lighting. once-in-a-lifetime picture and having it come back with signs of camera shake for you to learn why I say this. 1. Perhaps an aperture change to make the focus more selective on your subject? Try moving the subject around in the frame. I believe this all goes back to numbers one and two above: take pride in your work and know what you're taking a picture of before you snap the shutter. screaming.) So here we go. you're changing that ratio 96 . basic "rules" that I would suggest sticking to in order to make your photography the best it can be. make sure and consider all of these things. You don't decide that a picture is "good enough" because you've spent all day working at it and there's still a shadow in the wrong spot. you must first KNOW the rules. bracket your shots by shooting _ stop underexposed and _ stop overexposed in addition to what you think is right. 5. If you're not. 2. Overexposed white spots in a photograph subconsciously give the viewer the impression they are looking at a light that hurts their eyes. make sure your tripod has a level built into it and use it! I was involved in a discussion the other day with a group of fellow professional photographers. Composition. but in order to break the rules successfully. When in doubt.. 4. in the last eight lessons we've pretty much covered the basics. Underexposed black areas with no detail at all are boring and naturally push the viewer's eye away (unless it's an interesting-shaped silhouette . Rule five is going to freak a lot of people out: Never crop your images. I was a bit taken aback that a professional landscape photographer would make this sort of mistake on a regular basis. It will only take one incident of having an opportunity to take that perfect. "How can I make this picture better?" Stop and think about all of your options. right? You made sure your picture was perfect in every way? That everything in the frame was essential to the photograph? Cameras are built with only a couple of standard ratios. no matter how much of a whiz you are with photo editing software. You learn from your mistakes and use those experiences to create better photographs. Now its time to put that all together and see what you come up with! Following is a list of ten guidelines to tie all of it together. wound up with uneven horizons on a regular basis. Why would you need to crop? You checked your image before you hit the shutter. the nuts and bolts of how your camera works. just for good measure. On that subject. Take pride in your work.Lesson Nine: Tying It All Together Well. To create that photo that is perfect on every level.. and you will. Believe me.

NEVER explain to someone why their criticism of your photograph is wrong. imbedded in the ground. The picture left them wanting more. brown plastic light at the top of the point of this archway. fine . I entered it in a contest. but it does. every single bit of that space on the emulsion is extremely valuable in terms of your final image quality. if you compose an image with that format in mind. When that fantastic split-second photo opportunity arises. and I enjoy looking at it immensely. bought props and hired models and trained animals. In fact. a square crop is the best way to present your subject.wonderful! Photography is great for that. One exception to this rule is the square crop. is it? If you want to make an enlarged print.and it will stick out like a sore thumb. Think about the size of a 35mm film frame. great! I once took a picture of a beautiful church door. It was painted red and full of texture. etc. I know I did the best I could..those pixels are precious! If you want a panoramic shot. Time and again. The same goes for digital images . the sides of the frame perfectly along the lines in the brick that went up the sides of the door. Tell the person "thank you for your thoughts. as a sort of hobby that gets your mind away from the daily grind of living .work. ugly light would have ruined the picture. Not very big. So secretly. ." And later. 6. invest in a 6x6 camera made specifically for that format of film. surrounded by a beautiful cream-colored brick archway that came to a point at the top. And even if you tell them. But shortly after taking the picture. 8.and get it! The only way to really learn how to do this is to use your camera until it feels like an extension of your body. After looking at fantastic. shoot.. I'm as happy as can be with the picture. If you worked for a month setting up a shot. it will neither make the picture better nor change the fact that the next viewer isn't going to know that. look at the picture and imagine the green rock over on the other side. Not everyone learns this and some learn it sooner than others. because by zooming in or getting closer. then you didn't take enough care in the first place when you composed your picture through your viewfinder. Knowing in your head what each thing does is a lot different than instinctively knowing how to use your equipment. I don't know why it works that way. Sometimes. ugly. all of your different lenses and all of your other accessories. If you really want to do it right. All of the dials and bells and whistles on your camera. and in fact has sold many times over.. Some people simply enjoy clicking the shutter and having captured a moment in time that they can look back on for years to come. I set up my tripod and aligned the bottom of the door just right in my frame.use photo-stitching software and create a large final version. creative work for a while. I got the comment from people that the picture would have been just perfect if I had just gotten just a smidgen more of the tip of that archway. What matters is the final image. I'm at peace with being 97 . Shoot. you can either stop and think about the best way to get the shot or know instinctively what the best way to get the shot is . 7. maybe make some money from it or win photo contests. Ask yourself why you want to take pictures. go ahead and skip on to number nine. you could have done the same thing without cropping your final image. and oh-so-carefully placed that ugly brown light just one hair's width outside of the frame of the picture. It doesn't matter that the green rock was seven feet tall. Become familiar with your camera equipment. The powers-that-be who are in charge of the everyday doings of this church had seen to it to place a really big. that's cool. I buy books and magazines for reference and sometimes just spend an afternoon pouring over them. read on. It's a lovely image." here's what you should do: Count to three. If your goals with photography are a bit loftier than that and you really want to improve and you want other people to enjoy your photography. But don't crop. "Wow. If you want to take pictures to make yourself happy. If you crop an image on both the vertical and horizontal ends so that the frame winds up being the same ratio. If you're happy with it just as it is. even been used on the cover of a book. I take the time to look at some of the best creative photography out there. I have it hanging in my office. bills. And they were right! It made no difference that the big. shoot. Maybe you should have moved that big green rock over to the other side of the elephant. NEVER disregard a critique. my batteries become recharged and my own creativity is increased. booked a location to shoot in and are convinced that it is the most perfect shot you've ever taken and someone looks at your picture and says. If this is your main interest. Number eight is a hard one to learn. weighed seventy tons and was impossible to move. I've said this time and time again in the photo assignments: BE CREATIVE! Sometimes when I get in a rut. or use an actual panoramic camera if you're using film. The viewer doesn't know that.

You'll never learn as much from any course as you will from discussing with other people how they can improve their photographs. (Hopefully the latter. as well as making a living off of them. 10. Learn what makes a good photo. I like to drop everything and just take my camera out and wave it around until something looks good in the viewfinder. Sort of like being in a "Photo Zen" zone. 9.any subject. so here is what I want you to do for this lesson: Assignment 1: Consider this a free study. I encourage everyone to find this place. I encourage you to either learn to do so or keep your photos to yourself for your own personal happiness.. The whole reason I decided to make photography my life's work was that I enjoyed it.either online or a local camera club or some such . focal length and lighting that you used. and reading or hearing critiques that other people make. Show me what you come up with! Explain why you chose the composition. It's hard to create an assignment based on the above. Assignment 2: Spend some time critiquing pictures taken by other photographers. point of view. MorgueFile is a great place to do that. 98 . They need a stunning image for the cover of next month's magazine and they're counting on you to deliver. After you decide what to take your photograph of. ever stop having fun with photography! On days when I can't get my studio lighting just right or I'm so busy with the business end of my photography business that I can't remember the last time I took a picture. Go out and take the best picture that you possibly can . If you can't hear a critique of your work without feeling like you have to defend yourself.somewhere in the middle of taking my pictures to make myself happy and taking them for others to appreciate. Search out photos you like and really study them for what you like about them. At the risk of sounding like a new-age guru-person. Number nine also has to do with critiques.. any theme. Maybe take my dogs for a walk and drag my camera along with me.where you can critique photographs. Next. Have fun! Never. The day I stop enjoying it will either be the day I quit and go back to my old job working for a crazy boss and doing things I hate or the day I die.) I hope that you'll find these general guidelines helpful in your quest for becoming a better photographer. find a place . taking pictures as we go. Look at their compositions and colors. think of it in terms of an assignment from a magazine photo editor.

I removed all of the color information from the shots. you'll probably be unable to find a spot of white anywhere in the picture. "gray" and "black" are in a photograph. To understand proper exposure. It may seem like an odd combination of subjects. take a look at the following shots. No? You're not alone.) We already discussed in our lessons on aperture and shutter speed that if you set your camera on its "auto" settings and go out and take a picture of a field of snow. See if you can tell me which one is taken of white paper and which one is black paper. leaving them as simple grayscale. Just as an example of what I'm talking about. but I've been making notes as I've been going of areas of special interest from students. In fact. So I had to go 99 . it's important to understand what "white". I didn't believe that he had really taken a picture of a white piece of paper and a black piece of paper. (Trust me. I know how stupid that sounds.Jodie Coston: Lesson 10 . One was taken of a black piece of posterboard and one was taken of a white piece of posterboard. The first time I had a teacher show me this in a photography class. you might be surprised that you don't get a white picture back. and I told the camera to calculate the exposure for me by varying the shutter speed. Exposure Metering Systems I've had a few questions from students wanting a better understanding of why their whites aren't white enough or their blacks aren't black enough when using auto exposure. They were both taken using the same light and same aperture. This is because of "tricks" that your camera's metering system (smart enough to figure out the proper exposure for you 90% of the time) plays. but I'm sure you'll find them of use. This is because your camera's metering system is thinking for you. but hang in there with me.Special Requests Lesson Ten: Special Requests We've now gone over all of the basics that I outlined when I set my course up. to make for easier comparison.

your camera automatically picks out just the center of your shot and uses the information from that area to decide what "middle gray" is and how to expose your photo properly. with few blacks or whites. camera auto metering systems take a spot or two in a photo. The most common metering system that cameras use is "center weighted" metering. and I'll explain them a little better so that you may know in which situations each works best. This works well for most people who shoot snapshots and tend to plunk their subjects smack-dab in the middle of the frame. as above! I encourage everyone reading this to try this themselves. It will definitely leave an impression on you. This type of metering system is fine if most of your frame is close to the same color tone.home and try it out. jumble them up and expose that jumble so that it comes out as something called "middle gray" . however (and all camera manufacturers make theirs work a little differently than the other manufacturers out there). There are several types of metering systems. In this system. not really caring about the backgrounds or areas of brightness or darkness outside the center of the frame. 100 . Generally. The results looked exactly the same.the color you see in the examples. It's really weird when you know you were just staring at white and black pieces of paper and your pictures come out looking the same.

This would be the bottom area of the sky and the top of the roof. 101 . Depending on the type of camera you're using. A metering system like this can come in particularly handy when photographing a highly contrasty situation. so I would choose the brightest area of the photo for the camera to meter against. a matrix metering system can take as many as five to twelve areas and use a very sophisticated mathematical formula to determine what exposure you should use. I don't have any particularly dark areas in the shot that I need to worry about underexposing. In the illustration. The metering system I use most often if I don't have the time or ability to make my own exposure readings is the spot metering system. and it would assure that my sky would not be overexposed. as in the illustration: Then the camera takes the exposure of each of those cells and averages them to determine the correct exposure. The spot metering system lets you pick an area in the grid of your viewfinder to set your metering against.The matrix metering system is more advanced. Your camera will divide your viewfinder into a series of "cells".

but that actually makes the print and the rings stand out that much more. Hopefully I answered everybody's specific questions via e-mail. Okay.Spot metering is also handy if you want to take a picture of a silhouette in your foreground.. Film is made so that when it is exposed to light. but be prepared for a five to twenty second wait in between exposures while your noise reduction feature works its magic on your picture. If you exposed for the water. its colors will be what you expect for the light you are using. you will get the exposure you expect for the aperture and shutter speed you've chosen. Another quick note first. like a cactus in front of a sunset. your camera will work fine. It's useful for situations in which your background is significantly darker or lighter than your subject. it has certain characteristics that you can rely upon.night photography is. The lights were bright and that made the paper of the marriage certificate almost "blow out". if you are using "autofocus" mode on your camera.. Auto spot metering is also very useful in situations where your subject is white and the background is black or very dark. and long shutter speeds tend to equal noise in the world of digital cameras. etc. all details of the bird would get lost and it would come out as a bright white blob on some lovely water. You can use spot metering to set the exposure for your sunset (normally one to two stops underexposed to really bring out the vivid colors) and your foreground object will wind up completely dark. Night Photography Another area of photography I got many questions on over the course of this lesson was night photography. Check to see if your digital camera comes equipped with something called "long exposure noise reduction" or something similar. If it does. but I thought to myself that there are so many fun things you can do with night photography that I should spend a bit of time here talking about the creativity that night can bring to you and your camera! One quick note first . you may have to deal with something called "reciprocity failure". 102 .. when using long exposures and film. the focus was set on the wedding rings and I used the camera's spot metering to set the exposure to keep the rings their natural rich. gold color. you can set your camera's metering system to spot-meter on whichever area the camera focuses on. This is usually called "auto spot meter" or something similar. better served by film photography than digital photography. Along the same lines. But if you focus on the bird and set your metering system to expose for the bird. For example. at this point. or turn quite bright. In this photograph.. you'll wind up with details of all of the bird's feathers and darker water in the background. like if you were photographing a white bird on dark water. Night photography tends to require particularly long shutter speeds.

Put your camera's shutter speed on "B" for bulb. this will work particularly well. when using long. the ISO sort of "changes" on you. or perhaps use a filter to compensate for the color changes. Make sure you're a good distance away from where the fireworks will be . where you won't be surrounded by a crowd of people. Sometimes very long exposures will create images that appear to be underexposed. trip your camera's shutter. you can go back and refer to this information when you get your photos back and learn from them. try the same experiment and know that you'll need to expose one or two stops more. This is due to reciprocity failure . Keep a log of each frame on your film and what aperture and shutter speed you used. The first tip I recommend for photographing fireworks is to find a good spot ahead of time while it's still light out. have a piece of black posterboard or cardboard handy. That way. You can purchase the same film again. And on top of that. as it assures you won't move the camera at all while you're opening and closing the shutter. Fireworks One of the most fun areas of night photography is photographing fireworks. use that to your advantage and get the reflections of the fireworks in the bottom half of your frame! When it's time to take the pictures. If you're around a body of water or other reflective surface. Since you really can't predict exactly where the fireworks will be in your frame when they go off. you can put your piece of black cardboard 103 .However.meaning that even though you are shooting with ISO 400 film. For that reason. Use a zoom lens that will allow you to vary how much of the sky you have in your viewfinder. bizarre exposures. even though you sat down and calculated exactly what your exposure should be.a view from the side is much more beautiful of a view of fireworks looking straight up. If you have a cable release. sometimes these characteristics of the film will change. If there is a lag time in between each firework. you have to aim your viewfinder in the general direction of them. Watch while the fireworks go off. All films are different. Set up your tripod and leave it there until it's time for the action to begin and you'll have a head start on the other people trying to take photos of fireworks. your color balance can get knocked all out of whack. When you're satisfied. and always looking at night photography as an adventure. I suggest bracketing your exposures when taking long shutter-speed images. It's hard to predict what you'll come up with. so its something that you'll need to play with on your own to get exactly the results you desire with your preferred film.

a shutter speed of between five and thirty seconds will usually be front of your camera's shutter. You'll be amazed at the results you get when you pile multiple fireworks onto one camera frame! Quick side note . While the shutter was open. making it seem to "glow" and then use different colors to create interesting shapes and lines on the background. he walked around the grounds of the estate and used a spotlight that he covered alternately with different colored filters and shined these colors all around the foliage as well as the actual architecture. The photographer set up his camera on a tripod and opened the shutter for several hours at night. he and his equipment wandering around for a minute or two in different areas didn't show up on the final transparency . Depending on the rate of the fireworks display. close your camera's shutter and try again. leaving the shutter open . Painting With Light Painting with light is a term that basically means you open your camera's shutter in darkness and then proceed to use lights that you control to light areas from whichever directions you like to "bring out" specific sections of your photo. Because of the incredibly long exposure time. Commercial photographers use this a lot in the studio with something called a light pen or light wand. Say you had a bottle of beer that you wanted to photograph.make sure you have back up batteries! All those long exposures zap your camera's energy more quickly than what you're used to.this will assure that you don't get any unusual elements in your frame. These tools generally let you change the color and intensity of your light and let you illuminate very specific sections of your subject.but the result was the most amazing "fairy-land" effect I've ever seen. You could place it on a piece of glass in a dark room and proceed to use your light wand to paint sections of alternating yellow and white light on the edges of the bottle. After several fireworks have gone off. 104 . One of the most interesting uses of painting with light that I ever saw was of a castle.

but if you live in a city you'll want to venture far from your city's limits. ruining my image. or you won't get back prints that look anything like what you expect. (I once fell asleep while shooting star trails and unfortunately woke up after dawn. As always. try another for a half hour. Montana this is easy.Star Trails To photograph star trails. But I would start off by setting my focus on infinity. A clear night with no clouds b. opening my aperture all the way. make a final shot of an hour or more. and taking a shot for 15 minutes. Haze and moisture in the atmosphere can catch ambient light and affect your exposure. Other essential elements include: a. A shooting location with no ambient light . It can be fun to put a land object in your foreground when making these kinds of photographs. A tree "painted" by a flashlight during your exposure can be breathtaking. d.the ambient light will mess with your exposure c.) The longer the shutter speed. just like in the fireworks section. put it in the center of your photograph and your stair trails will make circles around it. No moon visible in the sky . If you live where you can see the north star. A bridge or building can make an interesting silhouette against this type of dramatic sky. A film camera and a fast film . If you use negative film. I always use the fastest slide film that I can find when photographing star trails. you'll want to again use your camera's "bulb" setting. A tripod (of course!) e. so it's difficult to give you a hard and fast "use this aperture setting for this amount of time" rule. make SURE to take it to a professional photo finisher and tell them that you took night photos of star trails. use your imagination and have fun! The Moon 105 . the longer your star trails will be.ISO 400 or faster Shutter speeds for star trail images are very long. anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours. Next.

some may be landscapes. peeking over a wall. 1. Well. in a gladiator costume from the local costume shop or anything a bit offbeat can bring your photography to life and make your creativity take off! 2. Use dramatic lighting and twenty or thirty things ranging from dead leaves to potatoes to burlap and old baseballs can create quite an interesting. 3. I hope you all have had as much fun as I have with these. especially if they‟re willing to take direction. and I can‟t take them if I‟m sitting around in my office. other than by color theme.naturally beautiful examples of architecture. divide that number by 100 and it will tell you in millimeters approximately how large the moon will appear on your film. overexposed white disc in the dark sky. children on the first day of school. moody shot.) B . Find someone to model for you. Examples: A . Keep in mind that the moon will always look much smaller in your photo than it does to your naked eye.Archways (Go out looking for archways .) C . a new plant springing to life. When I get in such a rut. 4.. When I‟m done.then come up with a subject or concept for each of them.Beginnings (A new baby. this exercise will get you to really look at the things around you in a new way. The letters of the alphabet. I go back and look through for the best shot from each day. So you'll want to use at least a 200 mm lens . Assemble a multitude of objects that are unrelated. Color. It‟s enough to keep you busy for a month. A new model you‟ve never photographed before can be inspirational. It spurs my creativity to know that there are photos out there just waiting to be taken. A "standard" 50 mm lens will give you a moon that is about a half of a millimeter on your film. etc. and use those as an assignment. It‟s sometimes fun to sit down and write out the letters of the alphabet . sunrise. that brings us to the end of our lessons. Use your camera's spot metering system that we talked about in the first part of this lesson to make sure that your camera captures details of the moon. Maybe you can use some of my past ideas to help yourself out of a similar situation. A picture a day for a month. not just a huge. fun.Calendar Photos (Landscapes and Nature) You get the idea. I try and spend an entire month going out and walking around in different places. A telephoto lens will make your moon appear particularly large and dramatic.hopefully fifteen or so of which are “keepers”. Capturing a person jumping in midair. I've enjoyed seeing your photographs through these lessons and watching so many of you improve with leaps and bounds! 106 . I give myself assignments.And last: Don't forget the moon! Adding a full moon or beautiful crescent moon to your photography can really enhance a night city or landscape shot. but you don't know where to start. Some shots may be details. If nothing else. the sky or even weather phenomena. A good thing to remember is if you take the length of the lens you're using. Photographer's Block My last area of instruction is on what to do when you're experiencing the photographer's version of writer's block. Usually once a season. and I have a wonderful portfolio.. My goal is to shoot at least twenty photos a day . looking for photographs that emphasize the beauty of that season.a 500 mm lens or telescope will give you fantastic moon shots. You know you WANT to go out and take pictures.

the famous French art and architecture school influenced by classical aesthetic principals. So forget technology for a moment.. 107 . auto lightmetering. A free study of sorts. The primary visual art was. the list of benefits we get from today's technology is practically limitless. the world of culture was in a very different place.. such as L'ecole des Beaux Arts. And vast educational systems were in place to teach students the art and craft of making pictures. painting. SOFTWARE FOR YOUR MIND Back when photography was in its infancy.Your homework for this last lesson is similar to that of lesson nine. and treated metal plates. but I'd encourage you all to try and take at least one photo per day (taking into consideration that I know you all have kids to take to football practice or school or jobs that constrain your time). without any of the rest of our modern conveniences? Some of the Old Timers of Photography made masterpieces using equipment that would be indistinguishable from junk today. have fun and BE CREATIVE! Meaning in Composition by Kevin Ferrara I. If you don't have time this week. And it's easy to get caught up in their promise. try it at a later time when you have the opportunity to put some effort into it. Auto-focus.Without erase. Just wood boxes with pinholes in them.. Important and fresh art instruction was occurring all over: At schools of popular illustration. Technology will take care of itself. How else can we explain all the top-notch lens work done long before the invention of the microchip -. There's lots to learn about good picture-making that technology has nothing to do with. obviously taking a great photo is about much more than great technology. advertising agencies. rather than just one for the week. like those of the Futurists or the Bauhaus. This exercise will definitely stir your creativity by really getting you in the mindset of photography and making you focus on it. while all that digital assistance (plus the seemingly endless ability to manipulate our images once they get to hard drive) has certainly been a boon to today's shutterbugs. image stabilization. and in master-apprentice situations in ateliers worldwide. and had been for some time. But. infinite deletes. correspondence courses in poster design. These teachings didn't just happen at prestigious institutions. without image stabilization. without autofocus. at hothouses of visual radicalism.. INTRODUCTION Today digital photography holds out the promise of instant mastery. And as always.

So I'm going to leave pure beauty for beauty's sake out of the equation for the moment. I agree that the will to capture the beauty of the world is often a prime imperative for many photographers. I'm going to narrow my focus to one aspect of compositional aesthetics that I feel is very important. Anybody who's spent any time researching art theory knows you can stock an entire library with just art theory books alone. advice. to be sure. namely draughtsmanship. The main point of it all was to create professional. And they did. Consequently. Jodie Coston has already given us a great primer on the basics of composing beautiful photographs on this site. And now there's no reason why we can't take the same vast aesthetic erudition into the digital age. And subject matter. posters and advertisements to exhibit at galleries. which is one of the classic genres of political art. but it's also something most photographers already have a strong instinct for. meaningful and harmonious arrangments of the elements of a picture. when popular photography took its earliest breaths (Around the time when George Eastman first brought to market his portable box camera and durable film stock in 1889) pioneer photographers were well placed to reap the benefits of the aesthetic erudition surrounding them.And these teachings didn't just concentrate on the more provincial and academic skills associated with easel painting. color theory and the like. were produced. exciting. 108 . (collectively known as Visual Composition). not to mention some significant training in. By "meaningful composition" I mean a composition that is "abstractly informative in a psychological or symbolic way". and on walls throughout the world. philosophy and diagrams related to the exciting. especially political-charged subject matter. is a whole other topic. Nor am I talking about beauty. WHAT I MEAN BY MEANING So what do I mean by "meaningful composition". saleable pictures. So. yet is often neglected by today's serious visual artists. is about subject matter mostly. in magazines. WHAT I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT Now. brush technique. And that is the Encoding of Meaning into a picture using Graphic Design. beautiful. Social Realism. great volumes of thought. And in fact. by "Meaning" I'm not talking about political meaning. So rather than choke everybody with information. NARROWING OUR FOCUS Of course past visual masters have so much to offer us in the way of compositional theory that we have to be very careful not to bite off more than we can chew.

109 . it is actually difficult to take a picture of an Egyptian Pyramid and not have a triangular shape as the basis for the composition. A pyramid is strong and triangular.So what elements of a composition can be "abstractly informative in a psychological or symbolic way"? In short. I'd like to concentrate solely on the meanings Graphic Shapes bring to visual compositions. This is the "unity of thought" or "unity of purpose" that artists have sought in their work at least since the time of Aristotle. not abstract. End of story. the justaposition of elements. which is real or "concrete". I'm going to narrow my focus. this unity is a simple matter. For example. just about anything related to the craft of composing pictures: The Shapes. Nevertheless. Everything except the subject matter. For some pictures. subject and composition alike. the Lines. II. And since Pyramids are strong and stable (In fact pyramids are one of the strongest structures known in engineering) there is an automatic unity present: Triangle equals strength. that's quite a list. And we all understand that the triangle is a known abstract symbol which connotes strength and stability. so again. one clear idea that seems to tie the whole image together. the framing. THE MEANING OF ABSTRACT SHAPES THE TRIANGLE Good pictures tend to have a strong central theme. the Colors. For this lesson. and on and on.

Just like a Pyramid. long line of tar that stretches for thousands of miles. It is both at once. long lines of tar along the way. But does it have a similar meaning to the Pyramid picture? We know a road is not triangular-shaped. But the information we are receiving is neither triangle in isolation nor road in isolation. So how do we "read" this synthesis of Road and Triangle? Let's re-state the facts: A Road is a Path on which one Journeys. 110 . The way is certain. Thus the synthesis of Road and Pyramid in the picture is about Certainty. what does it mean to be journeying on a path that is strong and stable? That heads straight for the horizon without wavering? If we were on that road right now.But what about a picture of a straight road heading off to the horizon? Same pyramid shape. interconnecting with other long. Well. a fusion. It's one long. A Triangle means Strength and Stability. But in the photo. while we see that road as plain as day. So here's an instance where the dominant two dimensional shape of the composition (triangle) does not "equal" the subject portrayed (line). that core graphic shape is still resonant. graphically speaking. We still subconsciously "get" the stability and strength of the triangle as we look at the shot of the road. Right? And there it is: The road is certain for the forseeable future: Strong and Stable. we would know exactly where our journey was heading for a very long time.

it is our destination. more subtle meaning. Now let's move from the triangle to another primary shape.) But we aren't done with this picture yet. And the picture might then signal dark possibilities in the future. That seems reasonable. we see it is essentially a great block balancing on the top of the pyramid. rather than bright ones. and the future is open and bright with possibility. So. we can say. "Reading" a picture is always a melding of the meaning of the graphic design with the actual content pictured. (And there lies the power of symbolic shapes in pictures. because there is also that huge rectangle of sky hovering over the horizon. obviously the meaning would change. It's a significant part of the composition. The horizon is where the road "touches" the sky. I might add. Let's analyze further. And "the future" is "balanced" on the point of the triangle. We also can't fail to notice how bright and blue the sky is. 111 . is "the future" (symbolically speaking).Our perception of the road as simultaneously a road and a pyramid has created a new. We can't ignore it. right? If instead the sky was dark and foreboding. that our subconsciousness probably figured out long before we were able to analyze it in words. A meaning. What can the idea of that balance mean to the overall composition? Back to the facts: The road leads to the horizon. the circle. It is where we are going. maybe we can read the picture this way: the path is certain. nor how fluffy and harmless the clouds look. If we look at the sky mass graphically. So the sky.

let's look at it in terms of all the associations a circle has on the subconsciousness. What we have here is another synthesis. the abstract meaning of the underlying shape (circle) synthesizes with the actual subject portrayed (softball) to convey a new compound idea to the viewer (the world as baseball). But the first trigger is the dominant circle shape in a field of cool color. Moon = circle. completeness. Nothing is left out. And the purple backdrop is reminiscent of a night sky or a cosmic backdrop. unity. The idea of the circle as representing "a world". All these things add up. automatic. It's a big circle. Of course the close cropping helps too. is fused with a softball. again. a whole world. The unity in this case is. Possible meanings: "The world is a softball" or alternately "The world of softball". But how is it a world? Of course it could be just a picture of a softball and have no association with the idea of a world. Representative generally of wholeness. We get almost the same total equality of subject and composition when we look at this shot: The softball is circular like the moon.THE CIRCLE The circle. We can see the whole magilla. including that of a celestial body. As if the softball were so large it couldn't fit in the viewfinder. But instructive. A very simple synthesis. a whole world. But for the sake of the lesson. As in the road/pyramid example. 112 . Here's the second most commonly experienced circle shape. Nothing is hidden.

one main shape will usually dominate. And that's a good thing because it's hard to have a unity of thought when two or more ideas are competing for equal attention in the same picture. one shape (or one graphic idea) seems to dominate. There are 113 . The primary shapes are so recognizable and strong and iconic that we are always courting cliche when we use them in our compositions. a master shape can dominate a picture in a quite subtle way. the picture is almost like a shot from a detective movie. So let's be inventive and aware enough to prevent that pitfall. the pyramid shape in this picture doesn't seem to mean strength and stability in the same way as in the previous examples." And there is no real base to the bottom of the triangle either. Although. For one thing. The triangle itself is just more asphalt. Thus. one psychological theme tends to dominate. When interpreted in this way. in a strong composition. yes. So. In almost all strong compositions. But there's a downside to this dominance too. Instead of looking at an object as being strong and stable. But the shape doesn't have to be as obvious as in the previous examples.DOMINANT SHAPES SAY THE MOST You'll notice in these simple cases that one main shape dominates the composition. Which leads me to think of the triangle shape in this picture not as a pyramid but as an an arrow. Essentially the triangle is made of "nothing. it's the edges of the triangle that are being emphasized. In fact. we are being directed.

(Director Roman Polanski is famous for using a similar visual strategy in his classic detective film. the fact that the picture seems entirely composed of triangles is very interesting too. Analogie is an effective way to unify or harmonize a picture around a single graphic theme. And because we can't see what's beyond the picture. by proliferating that theme thoughout the picture in various sizes and placements and with varying degrees of perceptibility. as if to say. As Dominant. we are slighly frustrated in our attempts to understand what is going on. In fact. meaning self-similarity. "there beyond the picture lies the answer to the mystery". with the Dominant theme providing most of the graphic meaning. And there is the loose sneaker. the mass of arrows point us forward and out of the picture via the top right hand corner. in this case the directing arrow. We can look at these shapes in the same way we look at colors in a color scheme. is not capricious. are not 114 . Subdominant and Accents. There is a floormat from a car and what looks to be some wiring that can also be from a car. in the early 1970s. Chinatown. on the other hand. Has there been an accident? There are many arrows pointing us forward to investigate further. The meanings of shapes. Sometimes. ON INTERPRETATION I'd like to just take a moment to explain that this process of analyzing shapes although fun.) By the way. Its a visual situation the Greeks called Analogie. while open to interpretation to a certain degree. as we would expect. there are different recognizeable shapes scattered throughout the composition.clues on the ground which seem to be related somewhat.

Verticals travel from the earth to the sky and thus they seem to reach towards greater things. a church spire. There is no people on earth that have not seen the sun or moon or a triangular-shaped mountain. that the moon in the sky is clearly a whole. because it comes out of the facts of our world. the symbolic shapes of which we speak are a sort of universal and primal language. Thus. all the meanings associated with the basic shapes are based on human experience of the world. the Washington monument. Mostly. Greek columns. Because of this fact. Horizontals tend to be associated with calmness and tranquility: A still lake. VERTICALS AND HORIZONTALS Verticals tend to have associations of dignity and awe: A tall man. Now I'd like to go through some more common shapes and their associated meanings. The meaning of a triangle as symbolizing strength and stability is a very old association. etc. I believe. Not guess work. in the case of the circle shape. Or. Though I'll start with a few basic thoughts on line. again like triangles and circles. that mountains are triangularly-shaped and are strong and stable. COMMON SHAPES and their associated meanings Okay. So you see.arbitrarily assigned. An upright triangle shape can't just be interpreted in any old way. I think we see the basics of how shapes work in conjunction with the content of pictures. the most common shapes. For instance. the unchanging horizon. self-contained world somewhere beyond ours. a sleeping person. 115 . aspiring to something. have a real common currency among all people of all nations.

As in this very formal and classic portrait of a Hollstein cow. verticals and horizontals lend an air of formality and calm dignity. some obvious. since Squares don't readily appear in nature. some less so. Thus Squares tend to have similar associations to their component lines. SQUARE Verticals and Horizontals can also combine to form Squares. So they are associated with Order and Precision as well as with Measurement and Demarcation.When combined in a picture. But they also have an association of being man made. The combined meaning of the Calf wobbling forward and the order imposed by the Squares leads to various speculations about possible meanings. Here's a picture of a calf that uses squares as its motif. 116 . But let's leave deep interpretation alone for a moment and just concentrate on identifying various shapes and their associations.

They are associated with Mystery (as in Spiralling Towards the Truth) and they also have associations with whirlpools and hurricanes. Here's a graphic that shows the iconic version of the Spiral and then a slightly modified version of it. lastly. a graphic version of how a Spiral might appear in a real-world situation in a photograph. The effect is almost that of vertigo. This picture would normally be a simple picture of a tranquil forest road. and the idea of evolution or transformation. And then. 117 . but the spirals lend an element of mystery and a slight feeling that we are being drawn into the forest.SPIRAL Spirals are hypnotic.

Pinwheels and Spirals provide the graphic foundation for most action pictures. Lightning bolts can also be visualized as zig-zags. In fact. In this photograph the pinwheel effect is very pronounced and the eye actively swirls around the picture. And like real lightning. 118 . The eye tends to move around the wheel following the curve of its arms rather than towards the center as in a spiral. Here's a graphic that shows three iconic versions of the Pinwheel shape. the lightning bolt symbol is also very exciting visually.PINWHEEL Pinwheels are similar to spirals in that they are somewhat hypnotic. But they are more about Continuous Action than about Mystery. there are several pinwheels underlying this picture. LIGHTNING BOLT A Lightning bolt is a great graphic symbol for energy. only one of which has been isolated in the overlay. Again the feeling is that of vertigo as we look down the side of this mountain. pure energy. Lightning Bolt shapes.

" is the most commonly known 119 .. ELLIPSIS An ellipsis is a three-dot-in-a-row mark (. And then. therefore to mark the omission of some information.. lastly.Here's a graphic that shows the iconic version of the Lightning Bolt and then a slightly modified version of it.) used in written language to denote the passage of time and. a graphic version of how a Lightning Bolt might appear in a real-world situation in a photograph. "Once upon a time... Here's a few photograph showing how the lightning bolt or zig-zag shapes lend graphic excitement to two very different scenes.

. The ellipsis is indicating that information is forthcoming. Dot. nothing is happening.. "Bill went to the store. That time is passing.and they lived happily ever after. And not much is changing on the ground. Time is clearly passing in this picture.. Dot. and was arrested" and they also can lead into a sentence as in ". The picture below has three structures in the classic Ellipsis configuration that are almost identical.usage of an ellipsis.." The ellipsis has a counterpart in visual art that means essentially the same thing. Think of it as you would three panels of a comic book that are all the same. The same three dots are used to indicate missing words in the middle of a quoted passage. Dot. but doesn't specify what it is. Time passes. 120 .

It is a graphic representation of puffs of smoke that expand into a cloud over time.THOUGHT BALLOON A Thought Balloon is sort of a modified ellipsis. As when a small idea leads to the unfolding of a grand theory. I suppose the cloud aspect of it refers to the fact that when we look at clouds in the sky. The picture below is almost a dead ringer for the icon of the thought balloon. and thus fire our imaginations. Something is "taking shape" in the imagination. their amorphous shapes often suggest recognizable forms to us. 121 .

Its worth looking back at. larger. because those shapes definitely enrich the picture's meaning. But now I've emphasized the clouds overtop. a similar series of thought-balloon clouds appear in the sky in the photograph of the triangular road. And also how taken together the three clouds create a similar. (By the way. In terms of meaning. this is called Analogie. version of a thought balloon. Again.) 122 .Here's the same picture from before that contains the near iconic version of the ellipsis. presented earlier. Notice how each cloud is a thought balloon unto itself. we have thoughts within thoughts floating above stillness. Its a very interesting and powerful image.

a patchwork quilt is an apt metaphor: There's a Unity of Thought in that too. where every shape you can think of is mixed together and no shapes dominate. But that can be a kind of meaning in its own right. they become far more obvious to us. even unconsciously. and thus the symbolics that much more difficult to isolate and examine. Certainly the graphic design of a photo can get a lot more complex than has been shown here.COMPLEXITY Of course we've stayed fairly "close to shore" in the pictures we've analyzed so far. Alphonse Mucha. And when we're talking about the teeming mass of connected humanity and commerce of a busy city. 123 . we might now find ourselves bothered when we see rather slapdash uses of primary shapes in others' compositions. Maybe the shapes of a picture look like a haphazard patchwork quilt. nothing too radical or difficult to parse. LAST THOUGHTS Once we become sensitized to the master shapes buried in compositions. Especially since getting "caught being clever" is a prime artistic no no. if a primary shape is just too bold or obvious. the point of using meaningful graphic undercurrents in a picture is to enhance the subject matter. For instance. A patchwork quilt of shapes is probably something of a patchwork quilt of a picture. And we become better able to frame them at will in our work. Or if a shape screams "Symbol!" Remember. And that's why I'd like to impart this bit of artistic wisdom from one of the true graphics masters. And I'm sure that often the tangle of shapes we capture in a picture is so confused and intermingled that the "meaning" of the image simply can't be parsed piece by piece. He told his students the following: HIDE YOUR ARTISTRY Great advice no matter what medium you're working in. Basic shapes. In fact.

CONCLUSIONS I've always found it interesting that there is more than one level of information going on in a work of visual art. And maybe this lesson will be a small step towards a more direct usage of the symbols of the primal language of shapes to enrich our compositions. Thus. Thus every image we view and every image we create is probably both more meaningful and more complex than we had previously thought.And beyond that. a synthesis of form and content happens every time we snap the shutter. Unless a ironic statement is intended. And hopefully our awareness about this topic has increased. THE END All materials are copyright Jodie Coston 2009-2010. are streaming through the content of a picture and into our subconscious minds. those shapes and meanings and associations will still be present. 124 . affecting us at a very primal level. All along. And these shapes. and its contributors. Sponsored by Jodie Coston. But even if we decide to ignore the undergirding graphic designs of our photographs. this disconnect can ruin a picture. the greatest benefit of hiding your artistry is to ensure that the symbols you encode in your work won't be visible to a viewer's critical faculties. they'll zip right past the eyes. I think we've seen enough examples now to appreciate just how some of these meanings arise. the MorgueFile. strong shapes have lurked below the surface. directly into the subconsciousness. A QUICK NOTE ABOUT IRONY Another issue we might begin to notice is that in some compositions the graphic meaning seems to work counter to the content of the photo. That makes for a powerful emotional reaction in the viewer. There's no way around it. at any given moment.

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