Throughout your career as a designer you will be required to use a camera at some stage so it is vital you know how to use one, and at the very least, know the basics principles & elements of photography. So I present to you photography tips for designers.
6 Elements of Photography:
Colour, Form, Texture, Pattern, Line, Repetition
6 Principles of Photography:
Light, Subject, Focus, Background, Exposure, Composition
Elements of Photography
There are six main elements that create a picture and you can use a variety of these to create stunning photography.
If you’re shooting for colour, make sure that the colours compliment each other. If they don’t, change up the wardrobe, the setting, etc… until they do. Painters don’t choose random colors for their paintings. Why should photographers allow outside forces to dictate color choices?
Form is the structure of the shapes that comprise the photo. It gives it a 3rd dimension to the photo. Form is constructed by the use of light and shadow and makes a photo ‘pop’ off the page.
Photographs are two dimensional, which makes it challenging to get a good sense of texture. The best way to play it up is to use strong shapes, composition, and light angles that compliment the textures in the scene.
Pattern is the use of repeating elements in a photography, thus creating a pattern.
Line is the way that a person looks at a photograph. It is how a persons eye looks at a photograph, what lines does the persons eye follow?
Principles of Photography
Eric Hamilton Photography has outlined the 6 principles of photography below. These aspects differentiate art between photography. The first, third, fourth and fifth photos are by Eric Hamilton.
Light is the single most important aspect of photography!
STOP right now, and read that back again and again until it sinks in. After all, the essence of the photographic art is the process of capturing light from the scene in order to create an artistic rendering. In a very real sense, photography is painting with light.
Long before photography and flashes were invented, classical painters posed their subjects next to large windows that acted like big soft boxes in order to create the right light to capture the mood they wanted to paint. Always pay attention to the light, and go to whatever lengths you need to (scheduling, rescheduling, adding light, etc…) in order to make sure you get the light right.
If you can’t get great light, don’t even bother clicking the shutter release — your photo is just going to look like every other amateur with a point and shoot camera, otherwise.
You absolutely must have light to make a photograph, which is why it got top billing. It is absolutely the foundation of photography, but equally important is the subject. A strong subject is more than a good looking model. The setting, clothing, props, accessories, pose, and emotional expression all work together to tell a story. It’s up to the photographer to make sure it’s a story worth telling.
Focus isn’t just about what to focus on, it’s also about how much depth of field to show in the portrait. How much do you want to blur out background/foreground elements? How much of the subject really needs a sharp focus? With the right set of lenses, you can really have a lot of control over that aspect, and it makes a significant difference in the resulting images!
Also, don’t discount the possibilities with regards to alternative points of focus. Generally, it’s good to concentrate on eyes, but I often focus on lips, and sometimes create dramatic tension by having the primary subject out of focus, and instead focus on things like hands, or some object being held by the model. In one of my favourite shots, I focussed on a chess board with a very shallow depth of field, and lit up the subject’s face so much that the highlights are all blown out.
For backgrounds, the general rule is to keep it simple. It is possible to do nice environmental portraits, but it’s very easy for backgrounds to clash and distract from the focus of your image. One thing to watch out for when you’re just starting out is mergers — background and foreground images have a tendency to seem to merge together in a photograph, so, for example, watch out that it doesn’t look like trees are growing from the subject’s head, and so on.
One key difference between an amateur shot, and a professional shot is composition. A great portrait photographer considers shapes, lines, framing, angles, negative space, where to place the point of focus in the frame for maximum impact, and so on.
Exposure isn’t just about getting a proper exposure to record the scene. In especially high contrast scenes, for example, you have choices. You can get a proper exposure for shadows, or propper exposure for bright areas, but often, not both, and that can be a good thing. You can choose to take a high-key or low-key approach, and expose to emphasize certain areas of an image over others.
Keep in mind that you can use color, texture, and exposure to emphasize shapes in your compositions.
When you can use a camera, coordinate all of these things, and get them working in harmony, that’s when magic starts to happen. Like music, visual arts rely on harmony (shape, colour, exposure), rhythm (texture), and plot elements to tell a story (setting, model).
Next time you point a camera at somebody or your next subject consider some of these ideas. Are you taking a snapshot, or creating art?
Have you got any other tips you would like to share?