The Personality of Your Photographs July 31 2008, 0 Comments

When does a snapshot cross the line and become a photograph? How do you determine the personality of a photograph? Photographers follow basic rules of photography much like painters, sculptors and other artists. While we cannot outline here years of text and theory, we can provide you with some photographic basics. The following outline is a beginning to help you move from snapshot to photograph.

As you choose a subject for your photograph, decide what you want to include in the image. Ask yourself, does the shot look “busy”? Can someone looking at your photo identify the subject easily? In a snapshot there is often irrelevant content in the picture, things or people that don’t make sense to the subject. Fill your view finder with your subject. Another difference between a snapshot and a photograph is, that, often in a snapshot the subject is the smallest thing in the photo!

Decide if you are photographing the part or the whole. Some photographs are interesting when taken as a part of a scene. As I recently photographed Enchanted Rock, in the Hill Country of Texas, some of its rock formations made wonderful subject matter. I did not need to photograph the whole scene.

Framing your photograph is a part of setting up the image before you shoot. Should it be a horizontal or vertical image? Sometimes this will depend on the lines in the photograph. Landscapes for example may look better as a horizontal photograph.

Check for background noise and watch out for people and cars that enter into your image as you are getting ready to shoot. Check your subject. If you are photographing people, be sure that there is nothing distracting behind them or growing out of their heads! Outdoor shots can be great but I can’t tell you how many portraits I have seen that have a fence, or tree limb growing out of someone’s body or head!!

On the more technical side, choosing the right color temperature and exposure are essential. In June, I explained how color temperature works on your digital camera. That would be a great article to review. Exposure, how much light you are letting into your camera, is what taking a photograph is all about. Digital cameras generally have a “P”, Program setting that allows your camera to take an average light reading and expose accordingly. But knowing how to set your own exposure, known as an “F-Stop” separates the snapshots from the photographs. Ansel Adams has a wonderful series of books, easy to understand, in which he discusses in great detail all of the topics I have mentioned here.