Photography Principles - 01 Introduction
With Sitepoint's new book, Photography for the Web, just released, and on the heels of the Great Photography Competition, I'm doing a small series of quick photography tutorial threads.
These will be basic stuff, mostly definitions, and will give everyone some insight of what Paul Duncanson wrote about in Sitepoint's new release. As much as possible, I'd publish one a week (on the weekends), and hope to touch on all of the suggestions and questions asked in this thread in General Chat.
The first few weeks, starting today, will be straight definitions. After those, I'll pick up a compact camera and re-shoot all of the Great Photography Competition assignments myself, with explanations of how I planned it, how I shot it, what is good and what could be better in my own photos. It's a learning experience for myself, as every new assignment is.
NOTE: The principles I'll type about here and in future, applies to ALL cameras. These are the principles of ALL photography, no matter what you're shooting, what you're shooting with, where you're from. Your iPhone or your compact-cam, your old film cam. It doesn't matter.
So that said, let's begin!
Photography, as the name would imply, is recording with light. "Photo" meaning "light" and "graphos" from the Greek for "writing".
Light is THE most important aspect of photography. It's too easy to get caught up in cameras and gear, and let's face it, the cameras and gear are AWESOME! But the best camera in the world can't help you if you can't spot (or plan for) good light.
Beyond that, there's of course a creative aspect to your light recordings. The creativity comes in how you compose your shot;
- How you prepare + position the subject you're photographing,
- how you light the subject,
- how you angle your camera to record your subject,
- how you frame the subject inside your camera,
- and how you use the tools of your camera to make the image you'd like to make.
I'll get to all of these in time.
What makes a good photograph?
Well... That's a hell of a question, with a hell of a lot of answers these days. My answer is two-part. Part one would be, "It depends."
A good photograph is one that achieves its required objective. And those objectives vary, therefore each field will have different criteria.
For example, for a journalist or a wedding photographer, his objective is to tell a story with his image (or series of images). We've all seen images like these. BBC or National Geographic.
For some of us who sell products online, the objective is to show off the features of the product, make the product look as attractive as possible, and get the thing sold!
On your Sunday BBQ, the objective might be to just record the event; Who was there, what trouble was got up to, what fun was had.
In food photography, you're trying to appeal to the senses and make the viewer hungry!
Beyond the objectives, the second part of my answer is, "It's interesting."
Notice I didn't say, "attractive." An interesting photo doesn't necessarily have to be "attractive". How many of us have seen that infamous photo from Sudan of the starving child and vulture. Or that one of a Vietnamese police chief executing a prisoner suspected of being Viet Cong.
BUT, there are objective rules applied to those interesting, albeit disturbing, subjects that make the final photo even more interesting to look at. More on that in a moment (and in coming weeks)...
What makes a good photographer?
As with web-design, what makes a good photographer is consistency. He or she always gets the result. Always completes the objective. Whether the condition. Whether the camera. Whatever zany objective is needed. (Within reason, of course.) A person who can be relied on to get the job done.
Anyone can get lucky. All happy-snappers have those one or two images they shot over the years that make lookers stunned. But the aim is to not depend on luck; Instead to know how those lucky shots happened, what went right those times, and recreate them as often as possible. That comes with practice and knowledge.
Let's take a look at two product photos quickly before I end this week's introduction.
Both of these are of the same product. One jumps out at you, and the other, not so much.
What makes them different?
Look at the points above ^, and apply them here.
- "Does it complete the objective? - Do I know what the product is?"
- "Is it interesting to look at?"
- "What's different about how the subject is prepared?"
- "What's different about the light?"
- "What's different about the angle?"
- "What's different about the background?"
- "What's different about the framing, and the distance?"
Answer those questions on your own; They should be immediately obvious. (For help, check out Sitepoint's book.) Feel free to type the differences you observe in a reply below, so we can get a discussion going. We have lots of great photographers on Sitepoint already.
That's it for now. I hope I've been interesting myself, and I look forward to typing to you guys next week about;
- Focal length
Definitions of each, how those tools work, and when to use them.
Please post in the replies below what you think, and give me some feedback on what you'd like in future threads.
Thanks for reading!