Photo Workout: Flex Your Photographic Skills
Try these five exercises for strengthening your core photo techniques
Workout 2: Edge Mania
Composition is an important part of photography. You can study all sorts of things to help you make better compositions, including concepts like the rule of thirds and classic proportions. The key is to look for ways to use the entire picture area and get your subject out of the middle. There's nothing wrong with having a subject in the middle of the photograph when appropriate, but most of the time, you want to get that subject in other places so your pictures have variety and added interest. Here's an exercise to help you learn to use the entire visual area of your photograph.
Exercise: Work The Edges
What You Need: A camera and your favorite lens. Do this exercise in any convenient setting.
What To Do: Make a series of photographs, at least 20, where every picture keeps the subject out of the middle of the photograph. Don't even use the rule of thirds. Take it so far as to make sure that there's nothing important in the middle of the picture. Put your subject or important parts of your scene out along the edges of the photograph.
Review: Examine your photographs and look at what's happening to them because important parts of the picture are out along the edges. Look at how visual relationships are occurring throughout the image. Notice how your eye moves around the photograph in an interesting way because there's nothing in the middle to cause the eye to stop.
There's a tendency for photographers to put the subject front and center in the frame, but this may not make the most exciting composition. In Workout #2, you'll force yourself to compose shots with the most interesting parts of the scene near the edge of the frame.
Workout 3: Follow The Bouncing Focal Length Zoom lenses are the most common type of lens that photographers use today. There's certainly good reason for that; the ability to change focal length as needed makes it much easier to capture exactly what you want from a scene. You can get a wider view when the scene demands it, or you can zoom in to capture a detail as needed.
Focal lengths can do a lot more. They can change a perspective, alter the mood and expand your picture-taking possibilities beyond wide or narrow views of a scene. This exercise will push you to find new ways of working with your lenses.
Exercise: Zoom The Zoom Lens
What You Need: A camera and a zoom lens. Do this exercise in any convenient setting.
What To Do: For this exercise, you're constantly moving your zoom from its widest to its most telephoto positions. Start out taking a picture with your zoom at its widest position. Find a compelling picture that seems to work with that wide setting. Keep it at the wide setting and move toward or away from your subject until you get the picture you want.
Next, zoom your lens all the way to its maximum focal length and find a new picture. Once again, change your position relative to the subject rather than changing your focal length. This can be interesting to try with the same subject that you shot with the wide zoom setting, or just look for something completely different that seems appropriate to the zoomed-in focal length.
Continue to shoot at least 20 to 30 photographs where you alternate from wide-angle to telephoto perspectives for each photograph. Your picture sequence will be wide, telephoto, wide, telephoto and so on.
Typically, we'll use our zoom lens to make compositional refinements, without paying much attention to the other effects of changing focal length. In Workout #3, you'll explore these effects and get a better understanding of how to use various focal lengths to your creative advantage.
Workout 4: Color Becomes You
Color is an important part of photography because it's such a big part of how we experience our world. Color is all around us, and it's so much a part of our lives, that we often take it for granted. The result is that our color images also take color for granted.
Color itself can be a wonderful part of any photograph. How color appears in the foreground, the background and even the subject itself can greatly affect how we look at an image. When we consciously choose those colors, we can control how the photograph appears to a viewer. This exercise will encourage you to do just that.