Study the masters. Learn about photography
and painting and everything in between
that relates to composition storytelling: light,
beauty, form, texture, balance. Some of the simple con-cepts
are the rule of thirds, the rules of symmetry, the
perfect square and on and on. It’s almost always the case
when I read about illustrious photographers that it turns
out they started off as painters, or something that pro-vided
a visual education that gave them an instant frame-work
with composition in photography.
After you have learned the rules, make it a
point to break the rules.
If a shot is giving you a hard time and you
struggle with the composition, one of the
quickest ways to eliminate the problem is to
come in close and focus on the eyes or some detail and
throw everything else out of focus. Think of how many
times we take great photos on the beach only to see blue
trash cans everywhere, or powerlines in the sky — just
move in closer. Which leads to the next tip.
Think about where you place the camera. For
most adults, it’s somewhere between five and
six feet off the ground looking straight at a
subject. What happens, however, if you lay on the ground
and look at that same subject? Or if you climb a tree and
look at that same subject, or if you can get an aerial view
or an underwater view? All of these things can lead to dra-matically
Fall Portrait, Winston-Salem, 2016.
Don’t let the cost of equipment get in the way
of great photography. Digital photography
has been around long enough that now you
can go on eBay or East Coast Film Lab and buy an old
digital camera that takes really great pictures and it can
be much cheaper than what’s new. Or if you buy a new
camera and get a nice lens, don’t worry about all the other
lenses and all the accessories: the flashes, the grips, the
straps, the nonsense that goes along with it. Just think
about how to use it. Forget about other options until you
absolutely have to have it for some visual solution.
Here’s an idea: if you’re bored with your
current camera phone or whatever you do
photography with, go and buy a cheap film
camera and shoot film for a while. The tip is really “try
something different” — do something to mix it up totally,
such as a different time and day, different place, etc.
Staircase, Wrightsville Beach, 2017.
SO TO WRAP UP, the long and the short of
great photography is to do it every day and
make lots of mistakes. And by the way, there
really are no mistakes, they’re just bad pic-tures
that can teach a lesson. So go out and
get excited about something and photograph it.