I haven’t posted one of our weekly newsletters as an actual blog post before – but this one was so much fun (drawing on photos!) and a little informative as far as what’s in our heads when we take photos – so here you go in case you haven’t signed up for our newsletter! (Which you can do Right Here.)
Lines, Shapes, and Composition
I know. Composition. Again – but look! This time we have drawings - sort of ðŸ™‚
We both take photos, but Mark is a natural at “seeing” the shot he wants. Leah – not so much. But composition can be learned. So once we realized this difference between us, we decided Mark should teach y’all some of his inner workings.
This is how Mark sees the world – even when he doesn’t have his camera:
Basically – straight lines framing or accenting/contrasting/stressing the shape of curved human bodies. I first started seeing things like this when I took an art history class and saw this painting by Parmigianino:
In my current Art History book – it says this about the painting: Parmigianino spent six years working on this painting. The length and slenderness of all the limbs is exaggerated but it is the Madonna’s neck, likened to the ivory-colored column behind her, that gives the picture its expressive power.
And yeah, it’s kind of a weird painting – but then I started seeing other paintings differently – like this famous one by Diego Velasquez: Las Meninas
Of course – there is more than one way to view any piece of art:
Now it’s one thing to compose a shot when you have time – but it’s another thing to be able to do it on-the-fly, during an event, when people keep moving:
The thing with lines is that you can’t just depend on them to frame things – you actually have to MOVE into a position where the lines work for you and your shot. If you examine our photos – we like people to be flat-on facing us.
Rarely do we take shots that are just ‘off to the side’ or at some weak diagonal angle. We’re very big on getting in position to get THE SHOT. Sometimes it’s just a foot to the left, sometimes we need to move across the room – but we rarely ‘settle’ for a shot due to our position. When we enter a room – we see the space, the lines and the available shapes (yes, even Leah can do this now – it just took some more practice for her). They stand out to us. Then we see people and where they’re moving within the space and the lines.
If you know where the lines are in a room – then you’ll know when to take your shot as people move about the space. If something is happening across the room – you’re able to size-up and frame the shot without blinking, and then you can focus on the action that’s going on. Because you might not have another chance to get the shot you want so you’d better be quick and know what you’re doing (or at least know what you’re trying to do.)
We try to always ‘ground’ our photos of people with strong lines and shapes. That’s the most simple way I can put it. It’s a formula we use – but people aren’t formulaic – so it works. They’re not static, even when our ‘framing’ IS static, and when you combine them, you tend to end up with strong photos that just ‘work’ – even if you don’t really know why, or spend the time to wax poetic and draw red lines all over them.
Now, go through your own photos – do you have strong lines that direct the viewer to your subjects? Or framing lines? Are the lines distracting and pulling your eye away from the subject? Do your lines contrast or emphasize what’s going on in your photos? Do you have a lot of diagonal lines showing frenetic excitement or energy? Do you have strong straight lines keeping everything stable and holding it all together? Do you have them both present, balancing out your composition?
Knowing your lines and shapes, and using them to effectively direct the viewer and balance out your composition, will help differentiate you from everyone else with an expensive camera. Look at the whole picture.
We get a lot of questions about our photos. How do you take them? Where is the light? What type of camera do you use?
Sadly, people don’t realize that when they ask us a photography question, they’re in for an excited stream of consciousness flow where we tell them everything we can in the span of 2 minutes.
We have a light here! And Here! And over there! We had to slow the shutter speed down to 1/30th and f/1.8 because man, the light in there sucked. Oh, and I had to use a tracking maneuver + the McNally kung fu grip because they kept moving AND it was dark in there!
So yeah. You could say we like making photos. A lot. Times Infinity.
But we can’t keep what we know to ourselves ’cause that’s no fun and we want our friends (you!) to have as much fun as we do.
So we’re starting Email by LeahAndMark.com – it’s our weekly email where we send out tips and tricks and other ideas. Basically – things that are rolling around in our heads that somehow help us make our photos – and that we would otherwise keep to ourselves for fear of embarrassment. I mean really – there’s a huge section in my head devoted just to DIY photography gear made from parts of things from IKEA. If you’ve ever thought that your gear was pretty low-tech and even ghetto – I’m pretty sure that I’ve made and USED something way, way worse – in public, and for an event. Trust me. Very few things stop me from trying/doing whatever I think it takes to get the photo I have in my head.
Those were just a few of the sessions we photographed during our 10 hour photo shoot last Tuesday while we were in Phoenix.
Even from this short video you can tell that our setup isn’t fancy. We have some $10 flashes from ebay (they pretty much have two settings – On and Off), an umbrella, and then models who’ll struggle through my not so great posing ideas until we get to something pretty awesome. Couple that with some know-how-to-use-my-camera stuff and you’re pretty set.
Of course – that’s all gear talk.
You probably don’t have ‘gear’. You might not even have a DSLR. It doesn’t matter – because according to the stats office, something like 98% of DSLR owners never get off the automatic setting.
Automatic is where mediocre lives and if you’re using it – it’s one of the reasons why your photos aren’t exciting.
And Leah and I are all about making photos that we find exciting.
Honestly? Our learning curve was pretty steep. It wasn’t until last year that we seriously picked up our cameras and ever since then we’ve been running. Hard. We know a lot and there’s still so much to learn. We’d like you to sign up for our weekly Email so we can give you a few of the things we’ve picked up, and throw some random ideas at you – because we’re ALL ABOUT IDEAS – and we’re even more all about fun ideas.
Our first email will go out this coming Monday, March 22nd. Although we’ll continue to post pictures and stories to our blog – our Email will tell you how we really made the photo, what we were thinking – but more importantly, some methods you can actually use – no matter what camera you have.