Yesterday I went to the zoo with a list of things I've learned to look for in a good photo, determined to use as many of them as I could. I have done all of them a number of times, and yet, I forget. I wanted to put them all in one place intentionally so I could remember. Who knows? Maybe they will jog someone else's memory too.
1. Look for the light. (More about that here.)
Day 1 of Photography 101. It was a cloudy day, but these icicles had no trouble capturing the light for me.
2. Find natural frames. (Great tutorial here.)
This "frame" came with bonus silhouettes, which I love!
The bears' den has the perfect opportunity for framing through the window. I could have cropped in closer to get even more of the sweet exchange between bear and boy--but with the stark contrast between snow and shadows, the detail isn't great, and the upper rock really completes the photo with a dark frame.
Since I was looking for frames, I noticed this cool door and door handle and shot through it.
3. Zoom in
Also known as filling your frame. I am constantly amazed by what people leave out of their photos, but it makes what they leave in so intriguing!
I really want to work on this one!
4. Shoot from a variety of angles.
At their level...
...this really goes for humans too!
(Expert help on that here.)
(Expert help on that here.)
Tilt your camera a bit in different directions to see which angle incorporates the most interesting details. Don't over think it. Take photos from several different angles if you can't decide. (Here is a post that really helped me get this concept, and here is a post of my own where I really practiced it.)
5. Slow down and notice the details.
This is a drain cover in a wide open walkway. I must have walked right by it at least a dozen times before. Probably even stepped on it. There are a lot of beautiful designs and textures that show up in completely unexpected places.
6. Shoot with your camera out of focus. (My favorite example ever here and my replication of it here.)
There are patterns and light that really pop out at you when your camera is out of focus. If you have a DSLR camera, you just put your lens on manual focus, and then set it out of focus. Just remember to put it back on auto-focus when you are done. Trust me on that!!
If you have a point and shoot camera, you can do this too. If you have a macro ("flower") setting, try using that. Focus your camera first on something much closer than your subject, like your hand. Press the shutter down halfway, and then while keeping the shutter pressed (focus lock), aim the camera back at your subject and press the rest of the way to take your picture. Another way to do it is to focus on something you plan to keep in the foreground. Here is an example of mine. I'll leave more details on that for another post.
This was a bunch of chairs that were stacked and stored under an awning for the winter.
This one took no effort whatsoever. My lens was on auto-focus, and it noticed all of the water on the glass and assumed that was its subject. I thought about trying to refocus on the bear, but decided to go ahead and snap the picture first. I was so glad! I have taken many out of focus shots that I have loved, and yet it's the one I often think of only after the fact.
7. Use "leading lines" to draw attention to your subject.
This photo came about quite by accident. I was trying to use this wall to create negative space (which will need to be demonstrated some other time), when I saw this mom and daughter, all by themselves, or so they thought. See them way up ahead of me? They were just having a great, relaxing time together. I decided to quickly take advantage of that wall, and let it pull the viewer's eye right up to them. They were downhill from me, so I also got down low to elevate them a little in the photo. The lines on the wall, along with the line of snow and the direction of the trail, plus the fence from the right all converge on the two unsuspecting zoo guests, drawing your eyes straight to them immediately. I tried to take another one with them in focus instead of the wall, but they disappeared out of sight just that fast. Too bad I didn't get there about ten seconds sooner.
I loved the way it turned out though--can't you just picture an intentional subject(s) in focus right there where the path begins to widen?
No really, that's it. Wait for it. It just takes patience to let the photo come to you. Sometimes you have a vision of what it will look like, and other times you have no idea. In the sea otter's case, he was doing laps. So I focused on the spot where he was usually most visible, and locked in there until he passed through again. Click! It was worth the wait.
There are a few other things well worth mentioning that I didn't actually accomplish on this trip. Aw, too bad! I guess I'll have to go again.