Discover Photography: The Art of the Image
Since the time of Stone Age Man, when images of the animals and men hunting were first used to decorate the walls of cave, we have been fascinated by the captured image. Although it was not until the invention of photography that truly made this fascination into an art form that everyone could enjoy regardless of artistic ability. People all over the world take pictures of themselves, relatives and friends, pets and landscapes whether or not there is a particular circumstance or reason for doing so. But how much do we actually know when it comes to photography? Below are some of the different kinds of photography that will help us learn more about the different ways of taking photographs.
Amateur Photography has grown in recent years with the advent of cheep digital cameras and this digital photography that has become easily accessible to the amateur due to the low cost of both equipment and reproduction of the images, that we will have a brief look at in this article.
Black and White or Monochrome Photography
The first are to consider is black and white or monochrome photography. This is not simply presenting an image in black and white. Black and white photography explores the contour and character, tone and texture, the aesthetic art and beauty of the subject. The two components of black and white photography that give depth and feeling to the image are the shadows and highlights, if we learn to use them then we can create great images.
Colour sometimes obscures the texture and form of subjects, it draws our attention the way flowers attract insects and birds, and ripe fruit catches your eye on a tree. Sometimes that’s what we want, but black and white can emphasise the texture of the subject.
The variety of ways that different colours convert to different greys means that you can have quite fine control over just what parts of your picture will be light and dark, in addition to lighting levels. The absence of light can be as important as the highlights. Good deep shadows can give a depth and solidity to an image. It allows us to separate out the effects of colour and luminosity, put another way black and white photography allows us to use colour more effectively.
Action Photography may be where the photographer takes pictures of sporting event, or of children playing, anything intact where there is movement. Either set the shutter speed to freeze the action or try a slower shutter speed to blur the movement. This blur effect can create the sense of drama and movement. If the subject is moving across the frame try to track the subject, this is called panning, the effect once perfected is the subject is sharp but the background has the movement blur giving the impression of speed.
Shooting Action Shots of Athletes, people and animals in motion, and other moving objects create wonderful photo opportunities. However, capturing fast action on a digital camera can be challenging.
Certain settings on many digital cameras allow photographers to photograph action in a point-and-shoot mode specifically designed for moving subjects. Other times it is up to the photographer to manipulate the digital camera to achieve the best possible photos.
Digital cameras with less shutter lag capture better action shots. Regardless of your camera’s specifications, you can further minimize shutter lag by pre-focusing before you snap the picture. To do this, hold down the shutter button halfway and then once the camera has focused; press it down all the way to take the shot.
Fast shutter speed allows photographers to capture great shots of moving subjects. If your digital camera supports a slower shutter speed, it is still possible for you to shoot some wonderful action shots. It may take some practice, but try panning the camera, keeping the lens on the subject’s action.
Shoot in continuous mode if it is available to you. You might feel like the paparazzi when you first get started, but you will love how this quick mode doesn’t let you miss a shot! Digital cameras that support continuous shooting work nicely for action shots because they are able to write all the photos to memory at the same time instead of one by one.
Anticipate the action and position yourself accordingly. If you are shooting sports, camp out by the goal line or find a good location where you can get clear shots of the athletes.
Invest in a good lens. Many action shots will benefit most from a digital camera with a 200mm lens, though you can interchange lenses for different effects. Zoom lenses work wonders for sports action shots.
Aerial Photography is best if you want to photograph a landscape or cityscape. Sadly we can’t all afford to have our own helicopter, but great effects can be achieved from the top of tall buildings, bridges or mountains. So although true aerial photography may be out of reach, we can still have the illusion of aerial photography.
Travel Photography is not just about your holiday snaps. It is about capturing something of the feel, the emotion, the essence of a place. It is about telling the story of the people and the landscape; it captures the mood and the setting. But you don’t need expensive foreign holidays; travel photography can be your record of the next town or city or even neighbourhood. As a is an exciting local city for me to explore, but with the added advantage that it is not far to travel to.
When photographing people in their local context there are a number of techniques that I try to use but keep in mind the principle of treating people with respect.
I’ve already talked about making shots contextual but one great way to do this is to think about what’s in the background behind the people you’re photographing. Ideally you want something that’s not too distracting but that adds to the context of the place you’re shooting in. Another technique for shooting shots of people that ignores the ‘contextual’ rule is to find a brightly lit position with a dark background. This can really help the face you’re shooting to pop out and capture the viewer’s attention.
Some of the best shots I’ve taken of people while traveling have been where I’ve tightly frames people’s faces. This means either getting in close to the person or having and using a good zoom lens.
Go for natural (un-posed shots) – While sometimes the posed shots can work quite well they can also lack a certain authenticity. Photograph your subject doing something from their normal daily life, at work, the marketplace, home, or just crossing the street etc.
Most of the shots I’ve taken of people over the years while traveling have been of single subjects alone in the shot. This is partly just my style but is something I’ve become quite aware of in the last few months. Adding a second person into an image takes a photo into a different place. No longer is the shot just about a person and their environment but it somehow becomes relational. The viewer of the photo begins to wonder about the relationship and a new layer is added to your image.
Quite often it’s the shots of people dressed in national costume that tend to attract photographers when traveling. While these shots can be very effective I wonder if they are always really representative of a culture. Quite often these people have dressed up especially for a show or tourist attraction and the majority of people in that country look quite different. Mix up the types, gender and ages of the people you take photos of and you can end up with a very effective collage of faces of a country.
It goes against the nature of most travel photography which is usually very fast and spontaneous, but if you can spend time with people, if you have the opportunity to sit with a person for a longer period of time and photograph them in a more extended manner this enables you to tell the story of the individual and can lead to some wonderful sequences of shots using different photographic techniques, lenses and situations, while the person becomes more relaxed around the camera.
Keep your camera to the eye for taking those spontaneous shots between the more posed ones. It’s amazing what images that you can find when the person isn’t ‘ready’ for you to shoot. These shots often include people interacting with others or expressing true emotion. I find setting my camera to continuous shooting mode often leads to some wonderful candid shots. If conditions permit don’t replace your lens cap until you pack your camera away.
When it comes to choosing lens, I find that a focal length between 24mm and 135mm is a good range to work with. Going for wide angle lenses can also produce interesting shots but you will often find that they do distort your subject’s face a little. Choosing a longer focal length can be useful for putting your subjects a little more at ease.
Underwater Photography has become more accessible with the advent of cheep underwater cameras. Whether you intend to take photograph in a pool, lake, river, or the sea underwater photography can be one of the most exciting and rewarding things to do.
The difficulties you encounter when in shooting underwater can be summed up in one word, “limitation.” Communication and travel below the surface are limited. Natural light and visibility are limited. How you tackle these limitations depends on your skill underwater and your photographic equipment.
However the most important advice you can receive has little to do with photography, and everything to do with your safety. A watery environment can be a dangerous one, even if it is a swimming pool. No photograph is worth your life. Depending on the type of underwater photography you wish to practise, you must first acquire the appropriate specialised knowledge and training, and obtain certification from a qualified instructor. This applies to every aspect of underwater activity, from basic swimming skills to advanced sub aqua diving techniques.