Watch Out For That Tree! - 10/8/07
In my day, a slideshow meant the family sat around a darkened living room while grandpa projected Kodachromes of his most recent vacation onto the huge retractable screen he'd purchased for just such occasions. While the venue may have changed, family slideshows today still suffer from two major problems: boredom and bad composition. I can't help with the boredom, but I can shed some light on a big composition issue: nobody watches the background. I should rephrase that: nobody watches the background while they're taking the picture, but everybody watches it once they're looking at the finished shot. These brief moments of hilarity when a palm tree grows out of grandma's head may be the only excitement in a slideshow, but that doesn't make it good policy. Perhaps the biggest newbie mistake is to focus solely on your subject and forget about the background. In real life, it may be easy to distinguish between the two, but once the scene is compressed into two dimensions, that distinction becomes more difficult. So every time you're about to press the shutter, stop for a moment to take a good hard look at the background and how it's relating to your subject. Eventually, it'll not only become second nature and part of your normal process, but also help you avoid embarrassing compositional faux pas that could turn your favorite relative into a tree-headed monster.
Photo by William Sawalich