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Thread: How do you compose yourself for a photo session?

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    Member michaellxv's Avatar
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    Question How do you compose yourself for a photo session?

    Today I spent a very pleasant afternoon at the beach with my wife and while photography was not the primary objective of the day I came away with nothing better than blury, poorly exposed and composed happy snaps that I am trying to get away from.

    So the question is, how do you compose yourself so that you think through the process and take a better photo?

    In hindsight looking at the results I see I have rushed and only considered one or two specific elements before I took the shot. Is it just a matter of practice and experience or do you use a checklist?

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    At the beginner level, I would say follow some rules.

    Now whilst your post laments your happy snaps results, you do not tell us what you were photographing. The view, your family? Differing 'rules' apply depending on the genre you are shooting.

    Take seascapes/landscapes. Use the rule of thirds to compose, make sure there is some foreground interest, focus about 2/3 of the way into the scene, use a high f-stop, shoot early or late in the day for the best light.

    For portraiture, use the rule of thirds whilst learning, focus on the subject's eyes, use a large f-stop (low aperture number) to blur the background well. Best to shoot under some cloud, bright sunny days means harsh shadows and squinting eyes.

    Perhaps post some of the photos in the CC forums and say you are having trouble and get some advice directly on your results.
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

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    In addition to Rick's advice, start out with Aperture Priority mode (if you have it) and let the camera make judgements about ISO and shutter speed. That way you can practice getting the focus spot on. Later you can progress to fixing your ISO setting and finally going full manual mode to set your shutter speed as well. The important thing is to start learning how to "see" the scene without worrying too much about what settings you have on the camera. Keep at it. We all started there, believe me!
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    When I first started out I use to do the same as you - rushing and not thinking.
    I ended up writing my procedure down on a flash card and I would look at it before I took a photo and mentally tick off each little point in my head. Eventually I had that little list in my head and it just became seond nature to me to follow it every time I took a photo.
    I also had flash cards of settings for each genre of photography that I could refer to if needed. Try it !
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    It's all about the Light!
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    regards, Kym Gallery Honest & Direct Constructive Critique Appreciated! ©
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    Quote Originally Posted by ricktas View Post
    At the beginner level, I would say follow some rules.

    Now whilst your post laments your happy snaps results, you do not tell us what you were photographing. The view, your family? Differing 'rules' apply depending on the genre you are shooting.

    Take seascapes/landscapes. Use the rule of thirds to compose, make sure there is some foreground interest, focus about 2/3 of the way into the scene, use a high f-stop, shoot early or late in the day for the best light.

    For portraiture, use the rule of thirds whilst learning, focus on the subject's eyes, use a large f-stop (low aperture number) to blur the background well. Best to shoot under some cloud, bright sunny days means harsh shadows and squinting eyes.

    Perhaps post some of the photos in the CC forums and say you are having trouble and get some advice directly on your results.
    Thanks Rick, I have put a couple of shots up for comment here.

    Quote Originally Posted by WhoDo View Post
    In addition to Rick's advice, start out with Aperture Priority mode (if you have it) and let the camera make judgements about ISO and shutter speed. That way you can practice getting the focus spot on. Later you can progress to fixing your ISO setting and finally going full manual mode to set your shutter speed as well. The important thing is to start learning how to "see" the scene without worrying too much about what settings you have on the camera. Keep at it. We all started there, believe me!
    I think I have been doing too much reading recently and then forget which things are important for the given situation when I do get out with the camera.

    Quote Originally Posted by NikonNellie View Post
    When I first started out I use to do the same as you - rushing and not thinking.
    I ended up writing my procedure down on a flash card and I would look at it before I took a photo and mentally tick off each little point in my head. Eventually I had that little list in my head and it just became seond nature to me to follow it every time I took a photo.
    I also had flash cards of settings for each genre of photography that I could refer to if needed. Try it !
    Thanks Nellie, that sounds like a good idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kym View Post
    That looks like just what I want to slow me down.

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    Quote Originally Posted by michaellxv View Post
    I think I have been doing too much reading recently and then forget which things are important for the given situation when I do get out with the camera.
    I think reading up on a lot of new things and trying to implement everything at once can be distracting and cause what you have described. Try just practising a couple of new things at a time and once you become comfortable with them then move on to something new, and so on. Trying to do too much at once will just overload your brain and you'll end up not thinking things through properly. Photography is the same as everything else, you can't go from beginner to master in one step, you need to take baby steps and slowly improve, and enjoy the journey!

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    The way I see it...

    Most beginners when starting think in this order:

    What > How > Why

    Most know what they want to shoot, or at least desire to. They might know a bit about how to shoot (settings, composition etc), but very few know why they want to shoot. So they find themselves shooting a lot, but not really keeping many images...they might fluke a few, but for the most part they will delete.

    To succeed I feel you need to reverse the order;

    Why > How > What

    I find when I reversed the order, the amount of shots slowed down dramatically, to the point where I won't pick up the camera for a long time, however the quality output increased and I kept more photos.

  9. #9
    It's all about the Light!
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    Quote Originally Posted by AVALANCHE View Post
    The way I see it...
    Most beginners when starting think in this order:
    What > How > Why
    <snip>
    I'd say the What (subject) is the most important element of an image.
    Eg. A noisy OOF happy snap of a grand child is highly valued by the grand parent because of the subject.

    Once the subject is decided, it's then up to the photographer to work out how to capture the image most creatively.

    As for why? Great question! It depends on who I'm expecting to view the image.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kym View Post
    I'd say the What (subject) is the most important element of an image.
    Eg. A noisy OOF happy snap of a grand child is highly valued by the grand parent because of the subject.

    Once the subject is decided, it's then up to the photographer to work out how to capture the image most creatively.

    As for why? Great question! It depends on who I'm expecting to view the image.
    Your example only proves my statement correct.


    The 'Why' is because the Grandparents wanted a photo of their Grand Child, there is a need for this image to be created. The 'How' is from poor execution from the Photographer with their camera (the Grandparent themselves maybe), and the 'What' is the child itself.


    With the need from the Grandparents to have a photo of the Child, the image has CONTEXT and is of VALUE to the Grandparents.


    Let's reverse the situation...


    The 'What' (child) is shot at random via. the 'How' (poor execution) and then the Grandparents look at the result handed to them and are not as thrilled with the unsolicited image (eg - Someone takes photo of the child and hands its over to Grandparents) due to the quality. Even in good quality, the response might still be 'Oh that is nice' rather than something cherished.



    Shooting with the 'Why' at the front of every image you do draws an audience of believers to what you, the Photographer believes...and that is how Photographers get famous I feel.

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    nude on a chaise lounge

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    Quote Originally Posted by sunny6teen View Post
    nude on a chaise lounge
    Why would anyone want to see me nude on a chaise lounge ?


    Getting back to the What > How > Why vs Why > How > What

    The Why for the day was really just practice. Maybe this is not a strong enough why and does not represent the emotional why you describe which is why they were all throw aways. This does promote the what to the front of thinking at the actual time of taking the photo.

    As opposed to my recent owl shot. The why was 'there's an owl in the tree', never seen one close up before let alone in our backyard with an opportunity to get a photo. The what is the owl. I then set about the how and fortunately the subject stayed put while I annoyed it.

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