Sunday, November 28, 2010


Dog Blog Post #162: I don't actually know that much about Photography, but having recently taken my 10,000th picture with my favorite digital camera (plus another 6,000+ with its predecessor) I think I've seen enough of the good, the bad (and especially the ugly) to have formulated an idea of what goes into making a picture that I like..

... and I think it boils down to Clarity, Color/Contrast, Composition/Cropping, and Content.

(My 4 C's of Photography?)

Clarity: With the exception of specialty action shots, I want my pictures to be sharp and clear. When I start looking through a newly shot set, the first thing I do is chuck the blurry ones, unless they have some overriding artistic merit or are applicable to the story/post somehow (like the Zachary "killing the glove" shot!)

I don't have any secrets for taking clear/sharp pictures, other than having a decent camera (which, for me, means auto-focus!) and holding it still. The better the lighting, the less still I need to be.

Tripods can help with stillness, but tripods and dogs can be tricky, because not only do you have get the dogs posed right, you also have make sure they are posed wherever the camera is pointing (or, more likely, the other way around.)

However, tripods plus a timer to delay the picture taking by a few seconds can be extremely useful - especially if you have to be an active participant in the picture taking process (by squeaking a toy just out of range, or holding bait, or...)

Clarity is imporant for the principle subject, but a soft "fuzzy" background adds atmosphere to pictures, which is a plus. It also hides the fact you didn't think ahead and pose the dog away from hoses, garbage cans, and the like (see Composition, below). Some camera's have a "portrait" mode that helps create a "fuzzy" background. You can also get it using "macro" mode (my favorite!) and taking extreme close-ups.

(It has something to do with focal length, I think, but I don't really know that much about photography.)

Color/Contrast: Yes, I know, that's two C's and not one, but in some sense they are the same to me. I either like high contrast (light puppy, dark background) or nice colors (the flower pictures on some of my Weekly Worksheets.) You can have either one or the other (or both, I suppose) but I personally feel you usually need at least one.

The pictures people comment on the most (of mine) are the high contrast ones. Those are actually very easy to take, assuming you can find the right conditions. A light subject, with strong natural lighting from the side coupled with an shadowed background does it every time. It's an exposure thing - the camera sets the exposure for the light subject and everything else goes black.

(That's about all I can say - remember, I don't know that much about photography!)

If you take enough pictures, you start to develop an "eye" for the right conditions, and nothing sends me scampering for my camera faster than when I spot it!

Color is subjective, and as my dogs don't have much, I don't have much to say. In a perfect world, I would find backgrounds that complemented their color. At the moment, they look stunning posed on the fallen leaves of our Bradford pear tree.

Composition/Cropping: Yup, two more C's together. That's because mediocre composition can sometimes be improved by good cropping!

I don't actually worry too much about composition, other than trying to avoid posing the dogs in front or near obviously ugly things (note my failure to do so with that bright blue ball in the background!)

I do know that centering your subject smack dab in the middle of the picture, unless doing a portrait, is boring. Of course, I do it all the time, since that's how you get the auto-focus to focus on what you want, and not the ugly thing you forgot to avoid in the background.

Hint: if you back up a smidge, take the picture, you can then crop it so that it looks like you took it artistically off-centered!

(Hey, didn't I warn you I don't know much about photography!)

When I actually try to create a composition, it usually comes out looking stilted and ugly. Perhaps that's something I'll work on for the new year! I find it better to let the dogs out, follow them around, and then look for creative shots given what they are already doing.

Shots from way down low, up high, and off the side can create really wonderful pictures. I adore extreme close ups, but that could just be an artifact of my camera, which takes lovely close-ups but rather ordinary mid-to-long range shots.

Content: This is all I used to worry about - do I have a dog in the picture? We're good to go! Content can be either irrelevant or all-important, depending on the rest of the pictures. For a high contrast, black background shot, just about anything can be in the frame and it will be lovely.

For a Tender Moment shot, it can be fuzzy, centered, and lacking both color and contrast and it will still be beautiful to me.

Most pictures fall somewhere in the middle, and perfectly ordinary content can sometimes be greatly improved by good composition/cropping.

And that's about all I know when it comes to Photography!

(Sorry, I know these were all "recycled" photographs - but finding, or worse yet taking, new ones just wasn't possible in the amount of time I have. I did take some nice shots of Henry this weekend, which I'm desperately trying to hold off uploading until Wordless Wednesday!)


Prettypics123 said...

I like what you have to say. I took love photography and am without very much formal training but have been taking pictures all my life. I strive for clarity, good composition, interesting color and contrast.

Robin Sallie said...

I am a retired photojournalist. This post is dead on.