Picture Perfect - Page 3
CLEAN THE CLUTTER__Junky photos with power lines, gear strewn on the ground and other visual detritus don’t hack it. Eliminate clutter and you’ll draw the viewer’s eye to your subject, which is the point of shooting in the first place. Usually, this is as simple as looking through the viewfinder, recognizing clutter and adjusting your position or composition to crop it out. Or, it can be as difficult as shooting at a shallow depth of field with a medium-length lens, say an 80mm at f/2.8 and blurring out the background and/or foreground. Some of the junk can be cloned out in Photoshop, but it’s best to get it right to begin with.
DON THE DUDS__Runners love to show off their glistening pecs, but pearly white skin against a stunning backdrop is unappetizing. Make your runners pop by dressing them in bright, contrasting shirts and shorts. Light blue, red and yellow stand out in almost all situations. Keep clothing of each color in your pack and force feed it to your subjects. White garb can work, but brown, grey, black and all natural tones are often duds. Colorful knit caps add another good color splash, but brimmed caps shade the eyes—don’t allow them.
NAP AT NOON__Amateur (and lazy professional) photographers shoot midday, when the sun is highest and the light is brightest. Unless you have overcast skies to soften the light and bring out the colors, you are wasting your time. Bright sunlight washes out colors and produces harsh, distracting shadows—especially on faces. Shoot at sunrise and sunset, when the low slant of light brings out the colors and adds a nice golden hue. However, don’t just shoot at these hours. The couple of hours after sunrise and before sunset can be great as well, and photos taken in full but bright shade, say on the northern side of a hill, can be snappy.
ARTIFICIAL LIGHTING__Using an on-camera fill flash spells death to any photo. They just look fake and, since most cameras will shoot at the fastest at 1/250th of a second shutter speed, shots taken with your camera’s flash are destined to be blurry.
RUTHLESSLY EDIT__Ripping off a thousand digi images is one thing, but then what? Edit, baby, edit. View your work on your camera display and delete the ones that are obviously junk. Copy the survivors to your computer, then view them in JPEG mode. Photo-management software such as Lightroom 2 or Photo Mechanic are great tools.
Once you have your photos selected, it’s time to dress them up in post-production software such as Photoshop. Go hog wild if the photos are for your own use, but use a light touch if you are sending them to a publisher. Editors prefer to do the color correcting and sharpening themselves, as they are familiar with their printing process and paper. And their monitor is calibrated to SWOP print standards, while yours likely isn’t, meaning the colors you behold are different from the ones an editor will see. Some basic capture sharpening and color correction is fine, but leave the big strokes for an editor. Be sure to include your name and caption info in meta data for each photo.
NOW, FORGET EVERYTHING__The works of abstract and impressionist painters may look like a child’s hand painting, but if you ever look at these master’s early works you’ll realize that they learned the rules, then chose to break them. Photography is the same way. Get a solid foundation by knowing how you are supposed to do it, then do it your way. Anyone can press a camera’s button and adhere to the rule of thirds, but only a true artist can bring a vision to life. n