Uncle Dave’s photo tips…

But first…
Dulltown, Europe: Today’s 18th c. English expletive is ‘A bots on you!’ – I suppose the response would be, ‘And a bots on you too – confusion seize you!…’

This is a rehash of an old post from the dark days when I was blogging on something called Myspace.

I know some very bright people, some of them artists, who take surprisingly boring and badly composed pictures. Me, I really do try not to produce boring pictures. Perhaps I could share with you something which occurred to me years ago, something simple which can immediately improve the look of your photos without any effort, learning, or pain and suffering at all.
In the old days photography used to be tricky: f stops, shutter speeds, film speeds, focal lengths, depth of field, developing and printing, and so on. You don’t really need to know all that now (unless you are really keen) we’ve all gone digital and we have our little cameras and our phones; and yes, of course you really can take brilliant pictures with these devices. Great pictures don’t necessarily have to come from expensive equipment; photography is all about ‘looking’ and ‘composing’…
I think the following is how most people take pictures:
‘Hey Arabella! I’m going to take your picture…’
You hold the camera/phone up in front of you. You can see the other person grinning, blinking and sweating there on the little screen…
‘Yay!…’ You press the button…
Now try this:
When you hold the camera out in front of you to take a picture of say, oh, grumpy Uncle Jim, don’t think of it as looking ‘through the camera’ at him, like looking through a keyhole, and having the attitude of, ‘If I can see him on the screen, it must be alright,’ – instead, look at the image on the screen as a ‘picture’. This is the important bit, see the image on the screen as ‘the finished photograph’, look at it all, not just grumpy Uncle Jim snarling at you in the middle, look what else is visible in the shot, look at it as a whole.
Fine, there is Uncle Jim, front and centre, but what else would you like to see in the picture, and what things don’t you want to see in the picture? Do you really want that potted plant looking like it’s growing out of the top of Uncle Jim’s head? Take a moment to look. Try moving the camera around a little – look, there’s Auntie Joan sitting on the sofa playing her new Fender Telecaster, she could be there in the background to the left; look, there’s shiny-faced David Cameron on the TV to the right, he could be in as well. Ah, Uncle Jim is quite tall, why not rotate the camera to take an ‘upright’ shot instead of a ‘landscape’ one? Now, doesn’t that look better? That’s it… get his great grumpy head in at the top of the frame, and yes, his old gnarled tobacco-stained hands in at the bottom… Now… click!… Isn’t that great?…
Oh, I’ve seen so many portraits of people taken with the camera held horizontally, their head dead-centre in the middle, an area of empty sky or ceiling above them, nothing in particular to the left, and nothing in particular to the right. There is your grinning friend’s face surrounded by lots of nothing in particular.
To sum up: See the screen as the finished picture, that is exactly what the photo will be like, you dumb-ass!… If you want a portrait, turn the camera vertical, and above all ‘look’ and ‘compose’… Oh, sorry about the ‘dumb-ass’…

About Dave Whatt

Grumpy old surrealist artist, musician, postcard maker, bluesman, theatre set designer, and debonair man-about-town. My favourite tools are the plectrum and the pencil...
This entry was posted in art, expletives, Grumpiness, history, information, learning, photography, seeing, style, surrealism, thinking, words and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Uncle Dave’s photo tips…

  1. Michael says:

    Too true. I only started thinking about composition when I could see a potential picture on a screen. I took thousands of pics squinting through a viewfinder and 99 percent were cack.

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