Composition is a tricky part of photography, from amateurs, bloggers to pros alike- but nothing is more important when it comes to getting a good picture than HOW you take the picture. Composition means how the picture is set up- how it is staged, at what angle you shoot from, what is in the background, where the lighting is, where lines are, and where your subject is. Composition is your way of arranging your photograph visually.
In this mini-series starting today, I am going to cover my own composition concepts. You’ve probably read a lot of “rules” for composition- which are fabulous- but they can get a bit confusing and hard to work through for a busy blogger. That’s why I have tried to break down a few basic concepts to remember that will help you compose your shots.
The first concept I want to begin with is simplicity. In our hectic, super saturated world of fabulously crafted pictures and design, the best way to get your product photograph to shine is to get to get back to simple, focused, and clear shots where your subject stands out and pulls all the viewers visual interest.
The first part to taking a simply composed shot is the most basic: Focus should always be on your subject! I don’t just mean your camera’s actual focus point, I also mean our eyes should immediately be drawn to your subject, not it’s background.
In these pictures above, it is clear to see that the second one really shows off the beautiful cake pops I served at my little man’s 1st birthday. In the first, even though the cake pops are in focus and the background isn’t, there is so much going on, your eye is drawn all over the picture and there is no clear subject manner. It is visually stressful to look at!
The bottom picture, on the other hand, singles out the beautiful cake pops, their detail, and lets them shine. All I had to do was step a few steps closer and change the angle to get this shot.
So other than “clearing the crap”, what can you do to simplify your shots? I am taking a plain white background (my portable lightbox- which by the way is perfect for mommas on bedrest) with a white vase and a single silk rose to demonstrate even with a simple background, your shot can still be distracting- and how you can fix it to be sleeker and more visually compelling.
While the shot on the left is a nice photograph, there is so much white space, the rose is a bit dwarfed. Now- artistically, the shot on the left is more in line with the rule of thirds (which I am going to cover next week). But for craft, food and other product based photographers, we rely on dramatic photos to bring readers in, especially with sites like pinterest, craft gawker, or link parties where your photos literally sell your blog.
I cropped this image to a square shape- regularly used in such sites (ahhh- the dreaded thumbnail, who warps your lovely work), and took this from a closer angle.
Cropping tip: I like to use my camera’s focus diamond to help me envision a square, and take the picture with my subject matter perfectly inside the square- exactly how I want it focused. I then snap away and crop later- which eliminates the need to blow the size back up and deal with grain. It takes a bit to get used to, but this will help you get better crop results. Cropping can be very damaging to your picture’s quality if it resizes after the crop- be sure you are cropping high resolution pictures with a low ISO- or you will be dealing with a grainy nightmare!
If you don’t like to do a lot of work post-production, and dont want to crop, get used to taking lots of shots at different angles, and experiment changing your depth of field (how much of the background is in focus).
Notice how the back of my ligthbox is visible in the picture on the left? The lines (another topic I am going to cover soon) draw your attention all over the photo- away from your subject. They pull your gaze into the bottom of the picture, and up the side- nowhere near the flower.
By moving in a little closer, the subject becomes more in focus, and the depth of field becomes more shallow. No more distracting background- just a simple, clear and dramatic bloom. (This picture could also easily be cropped to a thumbnail size, as well).
Composition 101 Homework:
Composition can be a really tricky thing to master- but spend this week taking simple, basic shots. Try plain backgrounds, like these pictures backed with white- and then move on to complicated shots. One of the best places to practice is in your garden or yard. Take a picture a couple feet away from any part of your yard. Pick one subject out of the scene- and move yourself around until you can get just that subject to stand out.
You can do the same in a busy playroom, your kitchen, or anywhere there is a lot of clutter (like my entire house right now). Come back and link up your shots to this post or to the Sweet C’s Facebook page! I’d love to see how this tip works for you!
The Rule Of Thirds… on vacation in Scotland. Coming up next week!
Coming up next week in the Composition 101 Mini Series is the Rule of Thirds. Sounds scary, but it is a general way to divide your photographs to make them more visually interesting. It is also a rule people like to break, all the time, which makes it more confusing. But I am going to show you how you can use it to your advantage- even if that means tossing it aside!
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I add new photo tips on Mondays- please let me know if you’d like a specific topic covered!