It’s Been Framed!

posted on 8th of october, 2008

Continuous advances in cameras, especially digital ones have made the science easier, so in theory anyone should be able to catch that perfect picture! I have to admit I was upset when digital cameras first came out and thought it would destroy the soul of photography. All of our special exclusive film club knowledge would be obliterated, as our prehistoric knowledge would now only be read about on some obscure museum wall.

However, now we have low quality .jpg and .gif files and pixel artifacts everywhere, clearly there’s a science to digital too. Light is still king… will I get the gamma right, do I need that flash, can I paint with a series of colored flashlights? Will my light be diffused, from the front, top, back, will it be very bright, what is my vision?

Thankfully, digital photography also still requires art - an eye for how the picture is framed. Not the wood kind of frame… the compositional mechanics of your photographic art. That art is the same for both film and digital, knowing how to present your subject in a new light, avoiding photographic clichés and knowing what it takes to make it leap off the page. How compelling is the interplay of the negative space and your object? There is no such thing as background, all areas of the photo contribute to a successful framing. How many elements appear? Will I use basic composition principles like the “Rule of Thirds”? Will you stretch how things really appear and juxtapose seemingly disparate objects, will your image push the limits of reality, most importantly, as in all art, what emotional response are you trying to get from the photo? This kind of framing your image is much more important than the physical frame you choose.

One can argue that how you frame the picture is much more important than knowing the science of the camera, because you could accidentally get the exposure right by experimentation. So put away your F-stops, and 3 Megapixel shots – film or digital, and get framed. Can that be learned? It can certainly be helped along. All photographers should take a course on composition, or read up on design elements. Remember, however… every good design/composition rule has at one point been broken by a truly great work of art. Step-by-step instructions can make a decent picture - but it’s the photographer’s vision of purpose and emotional response that makes that photo truly art.

Here are some great resources (prehistoric & new):

•Seeing With the Mind's Eye: The History, Techniques, and Uses of Visualization (1975) Authors: Mike Samuels & Nancy Samuels

•The Simple Secret to Better Painting: How to Immediately Improve Your Work with the One Rule of Composition, Author: Greg Albert

•Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (1989) Author: Betty Edwards

•Black & White Photography: A Basic Manual (2005) Author: Henry Horenstein

•Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images (2005) Author: Berrett

•Real World Digital Photography (2003) Authors: Katrin Eismann, Sean Duggan, & Tim Grey

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Photo credits: Laurie Larson.

About me

Laurie was born an only child in Kalispell, Montana. She received her first telescope at age eight and began a love of the night sky. No matter where her parents moved, South Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Colorado and New Mexico the stars of the Northern Hemisphere were her constant companions. Her first successful photograph was of the Comet Hale Bopp over the red cliffs in Sedona, Arizona. With that photograph, she met one of the men who discovered the comet, Tom Bopp. He said it was one of his all time favorite photos of the comet. She was also invited to show her photography at Astrono... [Read more]

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