Lesson 1 - Composition

Who Will Say Kaddish? ďCenter your subject in the viewfinder - and shoot!Ē This is how I started out photographing, but it was probably due to the fact that whenever my mother took photos if she didnít cut off your head you were lucky. The safest way to avoid this seemed to be by centering everything. But that gets boring! If you are looking to not only capture your subject, but to make it look pleasing and interesting, there is much more to it. You might start off with your subject in the center, but realize that you have the ability to ďplaceĒ the subject(s) anywhere in the viewfinder, and ultimately the photograph, that you want. Try to get an interesting angle or point of view. Crouch down--stand up on a step--how does it look? Place the subject on the far left--far right-- near right. Tilt the camera a little bit--tilt it more--how does it look?

Who Will Say Kaddish?

Hereís a great one: If the personís body is leaning, tilt the camera just enough so it looks as if they are not leaning. Now the subject will look straight and the background will look tilted. I guarantee you will like it. Try many different things on the same shot and see what you like.

For this image the subjects were standing on a hill an leaning a bit to the left. I tilted the camera with them, a bit to the left. This made the subjects appear more erect but it accentuated the angle of the bridge

Once you think you have a good angle look for distractions and remove them. Is there a tree growing out of the personís head? Move the camera slightly so it is more off to the side. Fine tune your composition at this point looking for displeasing things that you want to change or eliminate. Third, when you review your pictures, examine them closely and critique them. What worked and what did not work? Make 3 piles: pictures that you like, ones you donít like, and ones youíre not sure of. Try to repeat and practice with the things you like. Try to not do again the things you donít like. Re-examine the maybes and try to place them in one of the two other piles. Donít be afraid to continually move pictures from pile to pile. Youíll probably learn more from look at the bad ones than any others. Learning good composition takes a long time but you can improve your photos right from the start. Just think more and ask yourself many of these questions while youíre looking through that viewfinder. You might try an art book about composition for more formal rules. Remember - Film is cheap, and digital is cheaper - try the same photo a few different ways and study the results. Youíll be surprised at how much you can learn by really looking and truly seeing.
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