Monday, June 25, 2012

Tools to improve your pictures: Colour, composition, subject placement, depth of field

I would never have noticed this picture if it hadn't been for my 33-month-old granddaughter messing about with my hens and chicks. When I got down to her level, in order to get her away from my plants, I saw the view that had drawn her there.

The tall stalk is the first sign of a flower forming. The pink top is clearly the centre of interest of my picture. I carefully positioned the pointy, pink tip in front of darker, brown gap in the solid mat of hens and chicks. This hid the gap and took advantage of the contrast, making the pink tip "pop" free of the image. Try to actively position the subject of your pictures. To accomplish this, shift the camera position. Always note how the foreground relates to the background. This is important. Remember, you have a lot of control --- use it!

Using the rule of thirds, the pink tip is approximately placed at one of the intersection points. This is an example of classic placement of a centre of interest. It's a classic approach because it works.

Another trick used to attract the eye while making the subject jump out from the image is the use of a shallow depth field. The foliage in the background is gently out-of-focus. Personally, I often find it distracting when backgrounds are too far out-of-focus. I don't want to obscure what is present in the background, I just want to divert attention from the background to the foreground.

Of course, colour and tone are also used here to attract the eye. The bright pink is a natural for attracting the eye, especially when placed on a green background of just about the opposite shade on the colour wheel. The bright highlights on the edges of the developing blossom also work to attract and hold the viewer's attention.

Lastly, keeping the subject, the pink-tipped stalk, large in the image underlines the subject's importance. When composing a picture, always consider image size in the final image. Getting close to the subject, as I did, makes the subject relatively large compared to the other stuff in your image. The subject doesn't always have to be the biggest thing in your pictures. Just keep in mind that, to a great extent, you control the size of your subject through the choice of lens (wide angle or telephoto) and the shooting distance you choose when positioning the subject in front of your lens.

This is a simple picture but I like it. It captures the beauty of a spreading patch of hens and chicks --- a beauty that goes unnoticed all too often. Now, grab your camera and head out to the garden; I am.