Yesterday was my daughter's first-ever gymnastics lesson. Gush. I can't tell you that this post isn't a great excuse to tell you how proud I am that we may have found an outlet for our super-active chatterbox (after our *ahem* interesting experience with ballet), or how entertained I am by her fearlessness. But if I'm going down the emotional rabbit trail of my parenting experience, I need to disclose that it was a real nail-biter.
Ah, the push and pull of parenting. Let go. Stay close. Hide in the bleachers so you're there for the inevitable potty break, but
This part of composition is really quite simple - but very crucial to taking pictures with artistic appeal. If we all spent a day in art school, the concept of positive and negative space would definitely be one we'd spend some time on. Quite simply, your subject is the positive space - everything else is the negative space.
Okay, great, well what does THAT help us do?
It's just a different way of looking at your frame to help you make creative decisions. Have a hard time deciding if the background is cluttered? Pretend that pretty little face isn't there anymore - now what are you left with? Is it clean? Does it tell a story? Does it take away or add to your subject?
This driveway creates a perfect canvas of negative space for Sydney to take her doll for a walk. It's almost as if it transports you into the imaginary world of a two-year-old going into the great beyond. Even more perfect - the subtle ray of light pointing in the direction beyond.
And how's this for negative space? The dark curtains behind leave nothing to focus on but the sweet sensation of getting valentine candy.
Now lets contrast this to a picture with negative spce that's a little more complicated.
While our rocking princess is as cute as can be - there are elements in this picture competing for her crown. It's not so much that the rocking chair is busy - that's really still part of our positive space since it's part of our focal point. Look at the negative space (everything outside of the rocking chair). It's pierced by harsh lighting differences that subtly distract from our subject. Is this a horrible picture? No. But do we wish the negative space wasn't so dappled? Yes.
Really - understanding positive and negative space is just another way to make sure that your subject is the center of attention. It's the more studied version of Brand Spankin' New's Lose The Clutter lesson. Plus, it makes you sound really smart around all the art people (*wink*)
Before you think we suffer from short-term memory loss, we know that we say this often, but we can't say it enough. Everything that you choose to include or not include in the frame of your picture has the power to turn your picture from just ho-hum to wow wow super wow. And the background you choose sets the scene for not just visual impact (or lack thereof), but storytelling as well.
Backgrounds - we're not talking the painted kind that you stood in front of for prom - (though bonus points if you can make something like that work). We mean a living background. Everything that sets the stage behind your child as he or she zooms through their great big world.
It's hard to lay out definitive rules when choosing a background because the options are endless and ever-changing - but here are some things that we find helpful to look for when setting the scene for our little one.
LOOK FOR CONTRAST
Here we see Sydney with her blonde hair and bright white outfit practically jumping off of the screen in front of a wall of dark green shrubbery.
The same thing goes for Chloe - only in reverse. Her raven curls and cafe-au lait complexion command your eye against the blown-out path ahead. It's also worth mentioning that the brigade practically leads your eye smack to this incredible moment between daddy and daughter.
LOOK FOR FRAMING
Under the Camelias and dreaming, the canopy of brush around, overhead and the petals leading to Sydney frames her naturally. Don't see what we mean? Squint your eyes and look how everything around her is dark while she alone glows.
LOOK FOR STORY
Sure, at first glance this graffiti's wall may look too busy to be a good backdrop, but it's the perfect setting for this super dope daddy and his cutie-attitudie.
Bottom line - we can't tell you the rules, because you'll find limitless scenarios when it comes to backdrops. But look for opportunities to practice the examples we've given, and your eye will begin to instinctively see what will put your little star on center stage.
Now that we've turned off the flash and found our pocket of light, let's deal with what's going on behind, in front of, or maybe even all around your subject. Is there a visual obstacle course cluttering up your images? If so, clean it up!Start by taking note of everything around you... make a mental list. Toys, cabinets, poles, telephones, furniture, blankets, laundry, fence lines, literally everything. It's amazing the stuff we visually "tune out" that come back to haunt us in print.
Once you've made your list, ask yourself - does this thing add to the story I'm telling with this picture? Does this thing compete for attention with the star of the show?
For portraits (that is, intentionally posed pictures) the surroundings should never take away from your subject. Every item should only enhance it, or help tell your story.
Here is what seems like an extreme example of background clutter, but believe it or not when taking this photo Krista didn't notice ANY of it. She couldn't see past those sweet brown eyes!
Now look at this shot, while the background isn't jumping out at you like the above example, notice how the crib frame goes right through her sweet little head cutting it in half? This is a big no no, and a very common thing that takes you training your eye to notice.
For action shots, you want your background to give context, but not be so cluttered that it competes. (photo examples of good and bad)
Since we've limited your surrounding to your pocket of light, lets start by making sure all of the clutter is removed from the picture. Take a test shot. Chairs, phonebooks, grandma's spoon collection - if it's showing up and distracting from those baby blues, ix-nay from the icture-pay.
If your background still isn't working, don't be afraid of some heavy lifting! What's a little redecorating in light of a lifetime of fabulous pictures? (Hint - when furniture looks good in pictures, it usually looks even better in real life!)
Down the road we will talk about how to create backgrounds using props, papers, and other fun fabulous things, but for now, we are going to keep it simple and teach you how to work with what you have. Here's a fun fact - Krista has never used a manufactured background in a picture. When she wants a blank canvas, she either clears the furniture off of a living room wall, or uses somethi ng neutral like the front of a building.
Here is one in her living room, she moved a love seat over so that Chloë could sit in front of one of the only clear walls in the house.
Like learning to read light, it may take some time to develop your new eye - but once you start "seeing" the clutter in your surroundings, you'll never take pictures quite the same way again!
We said it before in Brand Spankin' New, but we will say it again, because it is worth repeating! Learning to master composition is one of the single most powerful ways to transform your photographs! Learning how to tell a story, by what you do or don't put into a frame is an art form! And one that can be mastered no matter what kind of equipment you have, seriously, even an iphone! In the coming sections we will go in detail into some areas of composition that well make a big difference fast! But like everything in photography the best way to master it is PRACTICE, so snap to it!
In this section we will explore:
Angles- A look at how your vantage point can completely change your story
Rule of Thirds- A tried and true photography imperative
Backgrounds- Learning what to do, not to do, and what to watch for
Positive and Negative Space- Understanding the story that perspective tells
What NOT to do with props!- Come laugh with us on the do's and don'ts