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Light, Focus, Composition - The Three Inseparable Amigos For Taking The Perfect Picture

Aug 17, 2007
The meaning of the word photography is a Greek word that means "light writing" or literally - writing with light. Photographers play with light more than anything, along with focus and total composition - the three key features of all memorable photographs. We, as photographers, attempt to control, manipulate, and exploit light. Why? All photographs depend on light more than anything, further enhanced by focus and compositional aspects.

The best source of natural light is the sun, but it is best to avoid taking pictures at noon, when the sun is at its zenith. It throws very short shadows and produces an intense, white light that is not good for taking pictures. The best light is when the sun is lower on the horizon - either in the morning or in the evening. During these hours, light has a soft golden red hue that adds to the colors in the picture. Some photographers suggest taking landscape or outdoor pictures two hours before sunset or two hours after sunrise.

The availability of light becomes even more critical in indoor photography. One way to overcome the scantiness of light is to use a flash. The other is to go for a longer exposure so that the sensor is sufficiently charged. However, when doing so you should use a tripod as it takes away the possibility of the unsteadiness.

Technically, focus is also called an "image point" or "focusing point." The word focus means "fire" or "furnace" in Latin - as a black sheet of paper will burn if sunlight is collected, or focused, in one spot. The image is said to be in focus if the light from object points converge ABOUT as well as IN the image - therefore it is out of focus it the light is not well converged. The "circle of confusion" criterion is the border between these conditions. All of this comes together to make the photograph or picture appeal sharp.

Measuring the distance from the main subject of the photo, and then adjusting the len's focus ring to the appropriate number can set a focus. To shoot the subject at infinity distance, the distance needs to be made between the lens and the film equal to the focal length. What it all boils down to it this - simply changing the distance between the lens and the film. When done, the position of the plane with sharp focus will become altered.

Some of the points that you need to keep in mind while fixing focus are that a small aperture will produce a wider depth of field, which is most suited for landscapes. To narrow the size of the aperture you need to increase the f-stop settings. Also, for portraits or single subjects you need wide aperture. This will reduce the depth of field and the focus will be sharper.

Finally, yet importantly is composition - the ability to make some photographs more appealing than others. How it is done depends a lot on the photographer, and the method chosen. Sometimes a photograph can be put together by the placement of certain objects and they are positioned. Others, shifting the camera until the composition is changed slightly, can also use the point of view; the center of interest should be the most visually appealing.

The other areas of the picture are important also, as they need to complement this center of interest. However, these centers are static unless they are off-center subject placement. Experiment with several pictures, choosing several different positions. Questions need to be asked, such as how much of the subject should be chosen - the whole body, parts of the body, or a close up of a certain aspect. Should it be framed horizontally or vertically? Geometric shapes can be used to help the picture composition. Use triangles, or thirds, to add a strong sense of unity to the photograph.

Composition helps you frame the photograph by removing the extraneous elements from the scene. You can place the subject in the middle of the frame, along the diagonal or in the corner. You can use light falling through a window to make the frame or use a car's rearview mirror to frame the subject.

Your effort should be to get as many different angles of your subject, and then select one that focuses best on the subject. Remember, the best-composed photograph is that which draws your attention immediately to the subject.

Once you have mastered these three -- light, composition, and focus - you can safely say that you have become a good photographer. The character and quality of them can alter all photographs - bringing out the best detail and tonal shading - and are considered the most critical element in photography.
About the Author
Check out http://www.digicamland.org/ for more articles on digital photography camera and digital camera memory.
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