Here are the key components you’ll need to know:
Exposure: Exposure is a result of 3 main components working together with a light source: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO have a specific balance point for every light condition to produce an image. In its most basic form, exposure is the result of light hitting a light sensitive film or digital sensor. We refer to a good exposure as an image that has details in both the brightest and darkest areas. Essentially for these exercises, you will be seeking to have an image that is neither too bright, nor to dark. If you have a camera that can display a histogram, it is a great tool to see how light and dark is distributed throughout your image. Generally, a histogram reading of a proper exposure has a histogram that looks like a big, wide bell in the center.
Aperture: Aperture refers to the open size of a lens. Thankfully, just like the pupil of a human eye, we can control the aperture of a lens to open it very wide in low light, dark rooms, or close it tightly in a very bright situation such as going outside in the middle of the day.
As a result of this ability to open very wide or close down tightly, aperture also defines the amount of area in the photo that will be in focus, commonly called “depth of field.” For most people new to photography, this two function concept causes a lot of confusion at first, but clears up quickly with a few practice sessions. Basically, a “Wide-open” aperture of f3.5 may only provide a couple of feet of focus area, while f22 can provide an infinite amount of focus are. Watch for this as you complete assignments and you will notice that your distance from the subject as well as the type of lens you use will have a significant effect on depth of field.
Shutter Speed: Shutter Speed controls how much light reaches the film or digital sensor during an exposure. Simply, the faster the shutter speed, the less light is available to create an image and of course, the slower the shutter speed, the more light is able to create an image. For example, if someone had a random collection of objects behind a curtain and gives you a very quick open and close look at the items vs. they give you a few minutes, how many of the objects would you recall?
A second part of shutter speed to consider is intensity of light. If you have a very strong light such as the sun in the middle of the day, you will likely need a fast shutter speed because the light is so intense. On the other hand, the light in the evening in your home is very soft and not very intense; therefore you will likely need a very slow shutter speed.
ISO: ISO is a standard that defines how sensitive film or a digital sensor is to light. Because of technology advances, some digital cameras have ISO sensitive reaching over 125,000, but generally, standard ISOs are between 100 and 1600 for the purposes of 365 Photo King. Most important thing to know is: The lower the light, the higher the ISO needs to be. ISO will be defined in your assignments so you will be able to see the different effects each setting has.
Do keep in mind for your day-to-day photography needs; ISO 100 produces the best quality image bar-none. Higher sensitivity means more grain (little black spots in the image). Grain can be used as an artistic effect, and we will explore higher ISOs as we complete assignments.
Leading Lines: Any lines (Straight or curved) that leads the viewer’s eyes to the subject. Great examples are fences, paths, and rivers.
Framing: Any areas around a subject that completely encompass it to create a frame. Common examples are door frames, but an opening in a tree, a piece of art behind a person, or latterly a person holding an open picture frame in front of them or it.
Repetition: Ever see a row of fence post in a field or parking meters on an empty street? That’s repetition! Depending on the angle you take on the line of objects, they can often serve as an inferred leading line as well! A great practice is to put someone in front of one of that post to break that line, or if there is a missing post, place the subject in what would have been the natural “missing spot” to make an interesting composition.
Rule of Thirds: Probably the most basic and most beloved design element. Thirds refers of course to dividing a scene into thirds both up and down, left and right and then placing your subject on the third you feel most inspired by. In its simplest, everyday use, when photographing something, start with it in the middle of your viewfinder and then shift your camera either a little to the left or right of center and there you have it! Bonus psychology: Objects you place on the left side will have an aggressive, active feel to them. Objects in the center will be neutral, while Objects on the right of the scene will have a relaxed, at rest feel to them. Put this to the test at a museum and you will start to see it everywhere!
Balance: Just like a scale that pivots on a center point, balance is all about finding the same amount on both sides. In a photo, this could be two of the same things. Let’s take a look; if we have two coins where one is on the left third of the scene and the other is on the right third of the scene, we have balance! Now take one away and take the photo. Feels weird doesn’t it? Additionally, balance can also be attained in a photo with a car on one side of the scene and a medium size tree on the other. Pretty easy, but very powerful!
Diagonal: Using diagonals as a design element can produce some very interesting and aggressive images. Simply find a line in a scene and have it run from one corner of the image to the opposite upper or lower corner. A classic woman’s hat with a larger brim that goes from the lower left corner of the image to the upper right is a great example. Additionally, and simply, you can use camera tilt to angle a subject in a diagonal fashion. A person on a diagonal would generally be falling over, so an image of a person on a diagonal is uncomfortable to the viewer and can be very powerful.
Color Harmony: Is about using complementary colors in an image. Blue and Yellow, Green and Magenta, Red and Cyan are all examples to explore.
Reflections: One of my favorite elements, reflections let us see an additional perspective of the same subject. Great examples of reflections are trees on a lake, a bride in a mirror, a child’s image on a glass window.
Free form: This is a free day to do whatever your creativity moves you to do!
Contrast: Black to white, old to new, farm to city, the options are endless. Comparisons of opposites are always a great design element.
Above subject: Simply taking an image of a subject from something other than eye level can have an amazing impact of the image. Paris is very different from the Eiffel Tower then from the street. You don’t need to go that high for every photo, but simply shoot from above the subject.
Below Subject: So what’s the cat’s perspective on all of this? Try taking an image from ground level, what does it look like? Sometime this can be a really refreshing perspective that adds interest to your subject. Food for thought, “can you go under your subject?”