Lesson Two - Choose, Focus on and Place Your Subject
There are three basic steps always involved in good photo making. Without following these steps, you will end up with less dramatic and possibly even bad pictures.
1. Choose the subject
2. Focus Attention on the Subject
3. Eliminate Distractions
Choose the subject
It would seem rather obvious that photographs should have a subject. Most likely all do at the time of their exposure, but after the fact, due to various over-sights, it can become confusing as to what the photographer actually wanted us to see. These over-sights include (but are not limited to), poor focusing, poor placement, and less than ideal orientation.
What is it that you really want to capture from the scene before you? What do you want other people to see when they look at your photograph? Is it all the animals in a group? Or just the one that is closest to you? Is it the whole souvenir market or just one exceptional stand? You can include the whole group of animals or the whole market in your photograph while still maintaining the importance of your subject.
Most cameras today have a function called Auto Focus Lock (AFL). Through the viewfinder you place a focus point (or points over your intended subject and press the shutter release button 1A way to activate AFL. Until you press fully to take the photo or release the button to cancel, the focus is locked on this subject. Without taking this step, your subject and perhaps your entire photograph may be out of focus.
Place your subject
After locking focus, it is best not to fully depress the shutter release button - yet. Before you do so, whilst still holding the button down l/2, reposition your subject in the frame away from the center. To some people this suggestion is "old shoe", to others it may seem ridiculous. "You want me to move the camera before I have finished taking the picture?" Yes. For whatever reason, centered subjects, in general are less engaging for the viewer than those that follow the "Rule of Thirds". When looking through your viewfinder, imagine that you have a tic-tac-toe frame overlaid on the scene. Each of the intersections on this frame is a point of thirds. These points are where you should try to place your subject.
Okay, you have your subject chosen and you have locked your focus on it. Now which of these points should you use for your subject? The answer to that is as variable as what you can see through a viewfinder.
Here are some general guidelines to help:
A) If your subject is a person facing sideways, leave some space for him to look into rather than looking straight out of the frame.
B) Place your subject on a point that also eliminates some distracting background element.
C) Avoid lines leading the viewer's eyes out of the frame like arms with cut off hands and steps leading away from your subject.
D) Balance other objects in your photograph off your subject.
E) Keep the horizon either above or below the center of the photo, and keep it straight.
F) If you are capturing a distant scene (landscapes), place something in the foreground to give the photo a sense of perspective.
Exceptions to the Rule?
Of course! Any rule should be taken as a guide, rather than an unbreakable rule. There are plenty of photos waiting to be captured with the subject right in the center. Macro shots and portraits are two perfect examples.
Orientation - Horizontal or Vertical?
What if you can't seem to find a suitable position in the frame to express your scene powerfully enough? Try turning your camera sideways and photographing the scene in the vertical. Horizontal photographs project a calm feeling and vertical images are more dynamic. Image a photo of a sleeping lion cub. Are you imagining it in horizontal orientation? More than likely so. What about a person screaming in fury - vertical, right?
Most portraits are vertical because that eliminates the wasted space (and distracting elements) to the left and right of your subject, and most landscape photographs are horizontal. Try shooting in both directions to add creativity and variety to your photographs.