Monday, April 19, 2010

Are You a Better Shooter Than a 13-yr-old?

On a photo forum I frequent, a member posted a quite good landscape pic his 13-yr-old daughter snapped. His daughter, he said, has very little experience with photography and used his Nikon d200, for the first time, to snap the photo. The Dad explained that he did insist his daughter read the camera's manual. (+1 for that.)

What made the girl's image notable and interesting--it's a shot of a weather vane atop a tower--were its compositional elements: Interesting angle, leading lines, diagonals via a Dutch angle, negative space, a nod to Rule of Thirds.

The Dad later asked his daughter how she went about composing the image, i.e, what was going through her head and did she think about the diagonal lines and such?

His daughter looked at him quizzically, shrugged, and responded that she composed it in such a way that it "looked neat."

As impossible as it might be to get into the head of a 13-yr-old girl, or a 30-yr-old woman for that matter, I'm going to assume looking "neat" means it looked balanced and right, artistically right, and in an interesting and evocative way.

Which is exactly how her photo of an otherwise less-than-exciting subject looked.

Composition might be the hardest thing to teach/learn. Some people, whether they're young or old, seem to have a natural, intuitive, eye for it. Others have to consciously work to develop their composing eye, using rules and conventions to pave the way. Still others, unfortunately, struggle with composition; sometimes remaining relatively clueless in spite of occasionally and accidentally stumbling their way to snapping a well composed shot.

It's not enough to capture technically good images. Exposure and that stuff, i.e., the things that fall under the heading of the Science of Photography, are important aspects of the craft. But the artistic aspects, composition among them, are equally important and can take your photography from the Realms of Good to the Pantheons of Great!

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating. Good use of composition doesn't automatically mean your images reach a lofty status, but good and interesting composition will certainly make most any photograph more appealing and appreciated by viewers.

So next time your lining up that pretty girl in your viewfinder (or anything else for that matter) and working the angles and composing the shot, think to yourself, before you snap the shutter, "Does this look neat?"

The monochromatic eye-candy at the top is Aurora from a few years ago, snapped in a friend's studio. The background is crumpled black foil.

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