In my previous post I shared ideas on achieving technical competency with a camera. Once those basics are understood well, a photographer can move onto the next step – artistic competency.
Being technically competent with a camera is like knowing how to strum chords and pick notes on a guitar. Once those skills are understood, a person can start playing music. But being a world-class guitarist involves so much more – the artist has to know what notes to play and when; how to read and respond to an audience, and when to improvise. Think of Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix – both of them went far beyond the skills of picking and strumming to become true artists.
Photography is very much the same way. Once a photographer understands how to capture an image and how to convey a desired look using the camera, the next area of focus is on evaluating what’s out past the end of the camera lens. Fundamentally, photography is about capturing and balancing four things: light, shadow, shapes, and colors/tones. There are some time-tested rules to combining these elements which allow a photographer to make great photographs, not just take snapshots.
The first thing to consider are the rules of composition. Rather than hard and fast “laws”, these rules are really just some simple guidelines that help a photographer arrange the elements of a photo in order to increase its impact. An in-depth tutorial on 20 rules of image composition can be found in this article by Barry O’Carroll. I highly recommend Barry’s article, as it even taught me a new trick or two.
The second thing to consider is what story an image should tell. Any photographer can tell you what an image means to them, but great photographers make images that tell the story themselves. I’ve used one of my images here to illustrate the point.
It’s OK if photos don’t always follow the rules or tell a story. Sometimes, photography is for an audience of one – the photographer themselves. But the images that have lasting impact and that stay in people’s memories are well composed, and tell a story. Anyone can take a picture, but it takes a great artist and photographer to make a picture.
Featured image for blog post created by Flickr user Grand Canyon NPS