Photography Information
Tips for Photographers

The Following information is for Vancouver Photographers aspiring to advance their photography skills.

Part 1. Composition

One of the most fundamentally challenging aspects of photography to the beginner photographer is composition. Poorly composed photographs subconsciously leave the viewer feeling uncomfortable and apprehensive. Finding the perfect photographic crop placement is a skill that is developed over time and can be honed with conscious effort and practice.

It is difficult to define the shape of our vision but we can usually assume that the outer confines our ocular window can be defined as two horizontal ovals overlapping and spreading across approximately 180 degrees of view. To roll ones eyes from side to side trying to define the exact shape can be frustrating. Since we are born and live within the confines of our field of vision we rarely notice it. If by chance we were born with a long cardboard tube attached to our eyes revealing a narrow circular field of view, it would be unlikely that we could imagine having our vision any other way. On the contrary if our vision was transmitted though a perfect sphere on the top of our heads enabling a fully 360 angle of view we would feel pity for those who only could see directly in front of themselves with a 180 degree angle of vision as we do.

This leads to the main problem with photographic composition. Our natural field of view enables us to take in large scenes with relatively no distortion. Our eyes dance from element to element while continually taking in the entire scene as a whole. When we capture a scene though a lens we are cutting out a large portion of the field of view. Yes we could use a super wide angle lens to encompass the full 180 degrees yet we would be introducing an unacceptable and unreal element of distortion. Also by using a 180 degree lens we would be diminishing the importance of any singular element that in life we would zero in on.

To compose properly one must be conscious of the selection of view to be captured in the frame. To view and interpret a scene with your eyes and then simply take a photo would be novice. to understand What will be captured composition wise in the final image one must truly look through the viewfinder with a new intensity and focus.

Think to yourself:

"What is the subject and how can I lead the viewer to it?"

"Is this really how I want the photo to look in the end on paper?"

"Are there any conflicting elements?"

"Am I using Rule of Thirds or Dynamic symmetry?"

"Are there any leading lines to my subject"

"Are the corners of the frame free from distracting elements?

One other point about the challenge of realistic composition is the fact that we have two eyes. Viewing a scene in stereoscopic vision as we do can dazzle the eye and make a scene appear to be more interesting in person than on captured photograph. One way to combat this deception is to evaluate a scene with one eye closed. This will remove the stereoscopic sensation and help to judge the scene in a more photographic manner.

As well we are printing on to a perfectly rectangular paper which is not conducive to the natural way we see things. It is the translation of how we see in everyday life and what is selected to be revealed in the photo which defines the art of composure.


Study famous and popular photographs and be aware of their composition. How did they place the subject in relation to borders of the photograph? Did they lead into the subject with an element? There are really only so many places one can place a subject in a frame that will result in a pleasing outcome. Study the rule of thirds , dynamic symmetry and the golden ratio. Try to be aware of how your are taking a rectangular slice out of our view and placing into a photograph.

Part 2. Dynamic Range

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range is a much misunderstood and often overlooked element of professional looking photographs. Dynamic Range in regards to photography is classified as the total range of viewable tones in a given image ( the amount of brightness or darkness that the camera can reproduce). When we look at a given scene with our natural eyes we can resolve both dark and light points quite easily and effortlessly. In the realm of the camera it is not so easy. The total range of lightness and darkness that we can see and interpret exceeds that of the ability of the camera.

Lets say we are outside on a sunny day and looking into a single car garage. We see beautiful dark blue jaguar glimmering inside the garage. Outside on the ledge of the garage window is a flower pot overflowing with bright flowers. When we look our eyes naturally and unconsciously strain to make out the detail in the darker areas of the scene, while still being able to make out the light as well. So we would be able to see the bright flowers sitting on the window ledge as well as make out most of the detail on the car.

To take a photograph of this scene your would be disappointed in results. Since the current state of photographic technology (film or digital) will not allow you to display both the dark car and light flowers outside. You would have to make a choice and sacrifice one element of the scene.

So if we exposed for the car the flowers outside would look far too overexposed and be barely visible. If we exposed for the flowers outside , we would not be able to see the car at all because the car section would be underexposed.

Thus is the problem with the limiting dynamic range of cameras.

What to do?

(a) Do not try to shoot the scene.

In most cased this is the easiest and most efficiency way to take excellent and tonally pleasing photographs. Seek out scenes that fill up but do not exceed the dynamic range of your camera or film. Find an area that does not have so much contrast and shoot it. If you are shooting digital, Check the histogram on the back of your camera after shooting. Is there a nice "mound" of dynamic information or is the histogram clipping at both ends?
In most cases for portrait and general photography this is really the best way to shoot. Have you ever noticed that your most tonally pleasing shots are those that have nice full ranges slope in the levels histogram in photoshop?

(b) Bring Light to the Dark Areas (or shade the light)

By Blasting the interior of the garage with a strobe light you will balance out the tonality of the scene and your camera will be better enabled to resolve the information in both parts of the image.
Alternatively you could shade the bright outside of the garage, bringing the flowers to the same amount of shade of the inside of the garage. In this case this would be somewhat impractical but for other applications it can work well.

(c) Double exposure

You could also take two photographs from a tripod exposing for each element separately. So you would take one shot to expose the car and once more to get the proper exposure for the flowers outside. You would later sandwich the files together and mask out the images separately to reveal an even tone . As well there are HDR (high dynamic range) programs out there that can maker this process easier for the less experienced. Shooting is Raw format as opposed to jpeg will help you with more revealing more range in a given image.The Future of Dynamic Range in Digital Cameras.

In the mean time, I would suggest finding scenes that make good use of your dynamic range while not exceeding it. Study your histogram and learn which histogram results yield the best looking photographs.

Part 3. Digital Processing and Retouching

Initial Concepts to contemplate:

• Try not to shoot with retouching in mind. Do everything in your ability to capture the best possible image. Pay attention to details while shooting to save time in post production.
• Make sure your digital work flow is comprehensive in respects to colour and display. Use icc pinter profiles. Use a CRT monitor or very high quality lcd monitor to retouch your photos. Laptop screens will yield poor and unpredictable results.
• Make as many adjustments as possible in the Raw conversion stage of processing. The raw file is more flexible and more susceptible to density and colour manipulation than tiff or psd files. Personal Processing Procedure

Raw Conversion Stage:

• assess what needs to be done to the image. Is it under or overexposed, too flat or contrasty? Is the colour true?

Adjust the following in the raw conversion program:

• Exposure
• Colour Balance
• Curves
• Levels
• Dynamic range
• Sharpness Convert the Raw to a Tiff file.

Photoshop Stage:

Determine what needs to be done to the image
• Smooth out skin (use the long and tedious clone tool method)
• Brighten eyes (remove red from the whites)
• Brighten teeth (remove yellow)
• Clean up the hair - Remove stray hairs or out of place hairs
• Lessen the bags under the eyes
• Remove any distracting elements
• Deal with the overall density - Complete vignetting or compositing.

Photoshop tips:

If cutting out images use the polygon lasso tool, it takes longer but will yield more convincing results.
Feather selections to soften the edge.
Use adjustment layers to complete non destructive edits.
Use layer masks and quick masks instead of cutting or erasing parts of a layer.
Use keyboard shortcuts to save time,effort and confusion.
Use dual monitors to increase screen real estate and save time.
Use actions and batch processing to deal with repetitive tasks.
Do multiple passes on your images. Sometimes a sleep between looking at the image will reveal more issues that can be retouched.

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