Lighting With a Purpose

To say light is essential for photography is to be so obvious as to be unnecessary. Whether the photons are reacting with chemicals on a film or with the sensors of a digital device, the light that passes through the aperture is the origin of a photograph.

The degree to which photographers understand light and use it determines how effective their photos will be. Rather than "getting lucky" sometimes and snapping a nice image, understanding light helps a photographer plan images to have the greatest impact, whether that is to inspire someone to buy a product or to induce a feeling or emotion.

Because of the wide availability for automatic, high-quality, camera phones, this discussion will focus on natural lighting. The use of flashes and strobes opens up a huge array of options to photographers who have access to such. However, topics related to artificial lighting will be reserved for another time.

Natural Indoor Lighting If you can see something, it is because there is lig…

Composition: The Rule of Thirds

If someone new to photography asks, "How can I take better pictures," it is inevitable that a discussion on composition will move to the rule of thirds. Before panicking and refusing to submit your art to a set of rules (especially one that sounds like math), take a deep breath, go on Instagram or Google images, and find pictures you think are stunning examples of what you want to take. Chances are in many cases, some compliance to the rule of thirds was followed.

Note, however, that photography is not math and that rules act more as guidelines than mandates. Further, there are types of images where the rule of thirds simply fails.

But by and large, rather than just pointing and shooting, composing your image into the rule of thirds will usually improve the appeal of your pictures.

So, what is this rule?

Divide your view into parts like a tic-tac-toe board. You end up with a grid having nine boxes, like in the image that follows:

Apply the rule of thirds this way:
Put the mos…

What's the Point?

Photography is different from any other type of art that I can think of. For years, I have urged writers, poets, and lyricist to know what they wanted to do before they began with the blank canvas on which they would express their ideas through art. I have argued vehemently that to do otherwise risked pouring long periods of time into what might end up being a vapid collection of letters, notes, or words. I have further extrapolated my belief that artists must necessarily begin with the end in mind to painting and sculpture, though my experience with those is casual at best.

But photography is different. Though it is possible to go looking for a picture that carries a particular message or makes a particular point, that is, in my experience, the exception to the rule. The canvas of a photographer is rarely blank to start with. Barring studio work or exacting "on location" set-ups, the photographer usually is finding meaning in what is already there.

More than once, I have s…