Rules of Thumb for Improving My Eye

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A sense of moment.

The Internet has been a real blessing for me, educationally. I’ve learned more about photography in the past nine years of shooting digital and reading blogs than in the previous 30+ years of trial and error. Following are some of the things I’ve read/heard that flit through my mind when I’m wandering with camera in hand:

In a recent video ostensibly promoting the new Nikon DF, Bob Krist says he needs three elements in a good photo: Great composition, Great light, and a sense of moment. I always think about the first two, but thinking about that third element is really helping.

At first I thought of "a sense of moment" only in terms of potential motion, but here I believe we see a moment of light that will quickly pass.

At first I thought of “a sense of moment” only in terms of potential motion, but here I believe we see a moment of light that will quickly pass.

When I’m lighting a scene myself, I fall back on David Hobby’s “Lighting in Layers” AFKA acronym (Aussies Find Kangaroos Attractive), which stands for Ambient, Fill, Key, and Accent. Helps every time.

AFKA in action.

AFKA in action.

When something catches my attention and I raise the camera to my eye, I remember the expression, “First you see what it is, then you see what it could be.” I don’t remember where I heard this, but the sentiment helps me work the scene, trying different angles and exposures to bring out whatever feeling attracted me to the subject.

First you see a glass. Then you see the sky in your water.

First you see a glass. Then you see the sky in your water.

For people shots, I try to “Keep the head and shoulders above the horizon.” Once again, I cannot remember the source of this advice, but I like how it plays out in my images.

Head and shoulders above the horizon, even when the subject is in a wheelchair. Perhaps especially when the subject is in a wheelchair.

Head and shoulders above the horizon, even when the subject is in a wheelchair. Perhaps especially when the subject is in a wheelchair.

One of the most famous bits of photographic advice, and one I struggle to act on, is Robert Capa’s “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” I’m working on it.

Getting close enough to leave no doubt about the true subject of the image.

Getting close enough to leave no doubt about the true subject of the image.

And finally, as I try to move from event and headshot photography to more personal work, I try to take my own advice: “When shooting for yourself, if you like it, it’s good.”

I like it.

I like it.

2 Comments

Filed under Composition, Lighting, Motivation

2 responses to “Rules of Thumb for Improving My Eye

  1. Conroy Judith

    Two items really hit me…thanks for sharing Dean.
    What is the last photo of?

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