Idea, design and composition

We agreed that design and composition are the hallmarks of photography .. and without them you end up with record photos or worthless photos.

I think that we tend to confuse three things .. ideas, design and composition .. where idea is the story, design is how to tell it, while composition is how to tell it well ..

So I have an idea .. I may be reading about the artistic effects of using perspective, driving across the country and see a scene that stops me, or I want to do a study about poverty .. the list is endless, from the mundane to the abstract .. I would then have to design how to tell the story .. still life, street photography, studio work, and so on .. and based on this choice I would choose my equipment .. and the last bit would be the composition .. i.e. shooting the scene using the equipment and technique most suitable ..

So for example .. the other day I wanted to photograph a historic site, that is always full of people, especially at the time of the day when the light was most appropriate for photographing it. I wanted an angled frontal shot with perspective that would show the glory and tell the story of the place, with no or very few or blurred people .. I decided to shoot just before sunset (site front is west facing), using long shutter speeds to ghost out the moving people (I needed a -8 or more ND filter), a tripod, and a shutter release. I set my tripod and camera at a place where I could get these angled frontal shots with perspective, using a wide angle lens. I took some shots on a clear day, with hard low sunlight, producing some harsh shadows. I also shot others on an overcast day, with diffuse light and little or no shadows. I used different shutter speeds and apertures to get as many shots as I can, so I can later choose the best ones .. Some shots (20-30 seconds) showed no people (completely ghosted out) and others had people in slow motion.

Studying what I did carefully you realise that the first step was the idea: photographing the site front, angled and with a perspective (ideally without people, few people, or blurred people) .. then the design: long stutter speed with ND filters and tripod and a wide angle .. then the composition: frontal with perspective using a wide angle lens and different shooting angles and positions, and different shutter speeds and apertures .. At the end of the day I chose only one photograph that I felt was good and fulfilled my idea and vision .. it was what I saw in my mind to start with, and was then physically produced, for me and others to see ..

So have a story, decide how to tell it, and tell it well .. Idea, design and composition

That’s how you make a good photo

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Flash Aperture Distance ISO and Shutter Speed

This must sound like a very long winded subject header .. and it is

I never understood how Flash lights work .. I almost always ended up with a very over or under-exposed shot .. and after a while I started firing several test shots before I started using the flash to work out the best combination of the above without really understanding how it worked ..

It wasn’t till I read a book : Understanding Flash Photography: How to Shoot Great Photographs Using Electronic Flash by Bryan Peterson  (Aug 30, 2011) .. that I realised that shutter speed makes very little difference to shots with flash .. it is more about how far the subject (double the distance you get 1/4 the light or the inverse square law), what ISO and most importantly what aperture .. while shutter speed only alters how the ambient light is captured .. there are loads of posts on the web about flash photography in full detail ..

So next time you use a flash .. decide whether you want to capture the ambient light or not by setting your shutter and ISO .. then either use the flash with TTL metering i.e. set to automatic or set things manually .. vary the FEV or flash exposure value compensation, flash intensity, aperture and most importantly stand at the right distance .. and try first and second curtain sync for special effects ..

I still never get it 100% .. but using a bouncing flash and/or off camera flash and maybe a second and even a third flash or more can all help get your shot right .. there is also a place for playing with on or off-flash reflectors/diffusers and coloured gels .. and now there are LED continuous flash units that are weaker but easier to use as they become part of the ambient light and makes the camera work much easier .. and also ring flash units for macro photography ..

Hope this helped to start you off on a search and a new project .. get the flash photography right