Choosing the right Camera
Have you dreamed about becoming the next Anne Geddes, Irving Penn or Annie Leibovitz? When you think of some of the most famous photographers, you realize that there is more to portrait photography than just freezing the right frame. Every month I will guide you through the steps to achieve great portraits of your children and family or Sizzles your pet sausage dog! I will show you techniques to avoid common mistakes and how to improve your overall performance to ensure you capture the images you love. In this edition we will guide you to purchasing the right camera.
Equipment – a guide to purchasing a camera
When it comes to purchasing camera equipment your purchase should be tailored to suit your experience. If you are a novice and haven’t had much exposure (excuse the pun) with a digital camera or portrait photography then you would be wise to purchase a model that is easy to use. With careful research you can purchase a great DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera body, lenses and accessories for a fraction of the price they were 2-3 years ago and even cheaper if you are purchasing second hand. When making your purchase decision, make sure you only buy what you need – it’s not necessary to spend up big on the pretence that it will make you an instant professional – it won’t. Whether it’s landscapes, weddings or portraiture, purchase the basics and practice, practice, practice!
For the beginner, purchase an easy to use DSLR kit. Entry level prices usually begin from $900, even cheaper if you do your research, and come with the camera body and lens suitable for portraits, landscapes and general photography. For the intermediate camera buff you can purchase a great kit from just under $2000. For the serious armature, who can’t resist the temptation to splash out, you can purchase a beautiful whiz bang, full frame 35mm body, 24mm, 50mm and a 70-200mm lens for a little over $5000.
Purchasing second hand
If you are considering purchasing second hand camera and equipment test the equipment first, particularly the lens. A very simple lens test can avoid unnecessary difficulties and save you time and money. Often amateur sellers stipulate that the lens is “clean and oil-free” and very often these amateurs who use these words actually have no idea what they mean. They have heard the terminology and think it sounds good and parrot these words. To understand the meaning of the phrase “clean and oil-free “, you should know the basics about the aperture diaphragm and how it functions. Put simply the aperture controls the amount of light that passes through the lens to eventually pass through the shutter onto the digital image sensor in a DSLR or onto the film with an SLR. Anyone who is selling or buying a used camera lens needs to know if the aperture is working or not working properly. So, when you are purchasing second hand, contact the manufacturer or search online on how to adequately test the equipment. This simple test can save you a costly mistake.
In our cutting edge world of the DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras, which do ‘everything’ for us, often the biggest difference between a good photograph and a mediocre one is the composition.
When we capture an image, we decide where the boundaries of that photograph begin and end, this is called cropping or the image viewpoint. When we are taking pictures we have the opportunity to arrange them into an order that’s pleasing to the eye. An example of good composition is expressed by how the viewers eye rests on the subject within the image. When you are viewing an image your eye should naturally focus on the subject. Your eye may briefly wander away from the subject to view the remaining content and afterward your eye should bring you back to the subject matter where your eye naturally rests.
If you are shooting landscapes or other static objects, move freely around the environment and decide where to place your camera so the main point of interest in your picture is composed in such a manner that the surrounds compliment your image. You do not want anything that distracts the viewers eye away from your chosen point(s) of interest.
I have been fortunate enough to have an innate understand of the cropping rules. If you struggle with composition the one rule to take a closer look at is the popular Rule of Thirds.
The Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is one of the most important rules for subject composition. From landscape to portraiture it works well for many forms of subject matter.
The principle behind the rule of thirds is a basic one. Imagine breaking an image down horizontally and vertically into thirds, so you have 9 parts of an image.
The rule of thirds now identifies four important elements of the image. You should consider placing your points of interest at these points when you frame your image through the viewfinder.
It also gives you four lines. These ‘lines’ are what draw the subjects eye to the subject matter.
The Golden Mean is also basic, just a tad more obscure. Mentally, draw a line from one corner to the other corner of your frame. Then draw a line from the opposite corners to the line. The subject should lie at the intersection of these two lines. Note the green intersections in the diagram below.
The golden mean and the rule of thirds are very similar. I’ll focus on the rule of thirds for the sake of clarity. These basic rules are the basic building blocks of composition.
The aim here is to create a visually compelling photograph, something that captures the attention of the viewer. The rule of thirds and the Golden Mean, aim to create a photograph that leads the eye of the viewer around the image so as to tell a story. The trick is to arrange those elements to tell the story as the photographer would like it to be told. It is true that a photograph is worth a thousand words and photographers are the ones that write them.
Other Composition Factors
1. Find a Clear Centre of Interest
This is self explanatory. Find something that captures your eye and avoid distracting objects, bright highlights or shadows.
2. Fill the Frame
Get the subject matter into the frame so there can be no doubt what the photograph is saying to the viewer.
3. Present a Clear Message
Avoid anything that would distract people from your main subject. Focus on the subject and the subject only. Then before you press the shutter, check the edges of the frame for anything that would distract the viewers eye away from the main subject.
4. Compose Boldly
Have fun with your subject. Look for repetition or patterns, keep your eye out for diagonals and scan for contrasting colours and shapes.
5. Create Depth
Use the aperture to create depth. Make objects in front or behind your subject a little out of focus. This will provide the effect that isolates the subject from the background so the viewers eye focuses on the subject.
6. Light and Dark
Put simply, light tones advance while dark tones retreat. Most people look at the lighter elements of a image first.
Avoid vertical and horizontal lines. Diagonal lines are perfect. Diagonal images are visually more interesting that vertical and horizontal.
This is composition basics. Framing is the use of elements around the foreground that frame the object.
Vertical lines emphasise power, strength, and height.
Horizontal lines express stability and width.
Diagonal lines express dynamic energy.
Curving lines express sensuality.