A Gift for You
December 17, 2022
A New Year’s Message from the Under World
December 29, 2022


Photo by Ivan Obolensky

Since many people have commented on my recent albums of photographs, here are a few ideas that I’ve found to be helpful in taking them.

My first is simple: always have a camera to hand. Smartphones have terrific cameras these days. For myself, I prefer a digital camera with a viewfinder. When I wander through the world, I look for patterns and images of color and light. I focus on what interests me and move everything else out of the frame. The best photographs have only the good parts.

Here are some other points:

  1. Use dramatic lighting. Those moments are usually found at the beginning and toward the end of the day. The light is slightly redder (warmer) and a scene will have many highlights and shadows. One can light the subject dramatically with the highlights and keep the rest dark. Rembrandt used that technique to great effect, so it’s worth considering.
  2. Turn on the vivid or expressive function to enhance color and keep it on. Most digital cameras have this feature. Note many people abhor pre-filters and post-editing. I admit it took me awhile to get rid of that idea myself. The clincher was that the colors we see are artificially generated by the processing units of the eye, optic nerve, and the brain. Colors don’t really exist. To put it more succinctly, we all have a built-in filtering function and a post-production team inside our heads. It’s constantly working, so feel free to adjust your photographs before and after you take them.
  3. Use the viewfinder to compose a picture, never the little screen at the back of the camera. That other screen is best used to check if what you captured was what you wanted. The rule for me is: if it looks good in the viewfinder, then it will look even better on a screen. The viewfinder, by restricting the view, forces better composition and more attention to color. The acid test of any photograph is not by looking at the back of the camera, but on a large computer screen at home. Note: on a big screen, colors will look less bright and the contrast will be less, which is why the original image must be dramatic to begin with.
  4. Use the spot-metering exposure setting in your camera exclusively. This simple trick can make a world of difference. Most exposure settings take the average of the light and dark of a scene. This makes the image properly exposed but less dramatic. If you look through the viewfinder that shows the tiny plus sign of the spot metering function, and pan over the scene you wish to capture, from highlight to shadow and back again, the image will change in unexpected ways. Take the picture when the image looks suitably dramatic, and the colors are the richest. Try this out. It really works.
  5. Underexpose for richer color. Most cameras have a setting for doing this. This rule was known by film photographers and still works. Color that has too much light (white) in it will appear washed out. Using big lenses or high magnification will also wash out your color. Both reduce contrast. This can be compensated for by using natural dramatic lighting, which points back to sunrise and sunset (or within a few hours) as being the best times of the day to take pictures.
  6. Lastly, read the directions for your device, and that includes your smartphone camera. There are many features buried in them that people don’t know exist. If it’s too much information, take one feature of the camera at a time and experiment with it, then take the next. The greatest boon to the photographer was the digital image. You can take hundreds of photographs at little cost, see the image immediately, and not have to wait for the film to be processed. How wonderful is that?

Lastly, there’s a beautiful world out there. I mean really amazing. Working to capture it in pictures can only help to develop our ability to appreciate it more. For myself, I love taking pictures as well as seeing the photographs by others. There is so much beauty all around us. Let’s share it.

Happy Holidays!

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