2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 33: Get Close!

This week’s theme is very simple: Get close to your subject! Doing so is a great way to emphasize your subject, and to help make your photos even more dramatic and interesting. World renowned photographer Robert Capa famously said, “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

Let’s start with a simple before and after example:

cat_closeup

Above are a couple of quick photos I took of our cat, while she sat on her favorite spot. While neither is likely to win a Pulitzer Prize, the second, close-up photo is certainly more interesting and memorable. Not only can you better see Gisel’s expression, but it also helps to reduce some of the distracting elements of the first photo, such as the chairs, the reflections on the floor, etc.

This example comes from a previous “Fill the Frame” challenge:

book_closeupFILL THE FRAME – Shelah

By filling the entire frame with the books, Shelah turns an everyday object into a great photo.

Portraits are also a great opportunity for getting close:

eye_closeupUntitled – Mònica Vidal

I love how this portrait focuses on just one eye, allowing you to see every little bit in great detail. It’s a composition you don’t see every day, helping make a more striking photo.

Naturally, macro shots are a great way to get close:

dandelion_closeupDandelion – Eric Minbiole

It’s hard to imagine a more mundane subject than a weed. However, getting so close to the subject, as with this macro shot of a dandelion, can turn an everyday object into an interesting, memorable photo.

This week, you can shoot most anything that you like– portraits, nature, macro, everyday objects, etc. The only requirement is that you get close to your subject. Get your camera, be creative, and enjoy!

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 28: Unusual Perspectives

This week’s challenge is to photograph something from a unique, fun, or interesting perspective. The goal is to take an otherwise normal subject, and photograph it in an unusual way, helping make your photos much more interesting and memorable. This week’s challenge isn’t about technical rules or requirements; instead, it’s purely about being creative, and having fun with your composition.

Here are a few examples of photographs with interesting, unusual perspectives:

portrait_smChin-Up – Josh Puetz

baby_smWaking up – fensterbme

Portraits are normally taken at eye level. Instead, the above two portraits show the subject from directly below or directly above, making them much more interesting and memorable.

Macro shots are also a great way to show unusual perspectives:

dill_smSunny Dill – Susan Roy Nelson

This is a tiny dill stalk, shot from below. I love this shot, as it shows us what the world might look like to a small bug, walking in the grass. This is a view that we never get to experience in real life, making for a great, memorable photo.

You can also experiment with size, making big things look small, or small things look big:

tiny_planet_smTiny Planet – Eric Minbiole

spider_smJumping Spider – Eric Minbiole

The first shot, from a previous “Tiny Planet” challenge, makes an entire planet look small. Conversely, the second photo allows us to see eye to eye with a tiny spider that would normally be too small to see.

As before, this week is all about finding fun and creative ways to photograph your subject. The subject itself can be very ordinary, but the way that it’s photographed should be extraodinary and memorable. Get your camera, be creative, and enjoy!

 

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 21: Leading Lines

This week, we’ll focus on a classic composition technique: Leading Lines. Using leading lines is a fantastic way to help highlight the subject of your photo, and help direct the viewer to the areas of the photo that you think are most interesting or important.

launchpad_smjsc2007e050763 – NASA/Bill Ingalls

In the image above, the railroad tracks lead towards a launch pad, used for the International Space Station. What I love most about this photo is that the launch pad comprises a very small portion of the overall picture– it’s just a tiny bit in the background. However, the train tracks pull your eyes into the photo, and lead them directly towards the subject. Without the leading lines, you might not even notice the launch pad.

Leading lines can also add additional interest to a photo:

dock_smLeading Lines – Eadie Minbiole

Just like with the train tracks in the first photo, the railings on the dock help lead you to the subject of the photo. In addition, the leading lines add additional interest to the photo: Had this just been a pic of someone standing in the middle of the frame, it might not have been particularly interesting. However, the leading lines of the railings not only help lead the viewer to the subject, they also provide great framing for the subject. (Remember Week 10!) As such, the leading lines help provide a much more interesting, memorable photo.

Naturally, the leading lines don’t need to be straight lines; They can be curved, wavy, or more abstract.

stairs_smBelleveue Staircase – Eric Minbiole

In the sample above, the curved handrail leads towards the desk in the bottom center. (Perhaps not the best example, as the desk itself isn’t terribly interesting; the photo might have been better had there been someone sitting at the desk.)

manhattan_smLeading to Manhattan – ashokboghani

For this week’s challenge, I want everyone to take a photo that features leading lines. Ideally, your leading lines lead the viewer towards a prominent or interesting part of the photo. As above, the lines can be obvious, subtle, straight, curved, landscape, or macro– it’s all up to you, and what you find interesting. As always, be as creative as you like!

As with all my challenges, I’m happy to help offer any assistance or suggestions– feel free to ask. Get your camera, and have fun!

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 16: Simple, Clean Backgrounds

This week, we’ll focus on one of my favorite techniques: creating a Simple, Clean Background. I absolutely love this technique as it can help turn an otherwise boring subject into a more memorable, professional looking image. Let’s look at some examples:

dice_1a_smDice – Eric Minbiole

The image above was taken by placing a few dice on a piece of white plastic. Notice how beautifully the dice stand out against the minimal background. (The subtle reflection is a nice bonus, too.) In contrast, imagine that the same dice were placed on a wooden table– the photo wouldn’t have nearly the same impact. It’s not the dice that are interesting (they’re not!) but it’s the fact that the dice are shown against a beautiful, clean background that really makes for a memorable, professional looking image.

Choosing a Clean Background

In many cases (especially in still life or macro shots), you have complete control over your arrangement. In that case, you have lots of great choices for background: A piece of dark cloth, a sheet of bright white paper, a piece of acrylic plastic, a clear blue sky, etc. I’ve even had great luck using a bathtub. The main goal is to find something plain and simple that won’t distract from the actual subject.

Let’s start with an example:

HummelBackground

Both images above were taken with the same camera, the same settings, and similar processing. The image on the left was taken on a kitchen counter. The background is messy and distracting, making for a rather poor photograph– your eye spends more time looking at the crumbs on the counter then at the figurine. In contrast, the image on the right is much more pleasing, and allows you to focus on the subject. The setup is incredibly simple: A piece of white poster board, sitting on a chair, lit with sunlight:

setup_sm

Using a Narrow Depth of Field

The background doesn’t have to be perfectly white or black to be clean and simple. Another option is to use a narrow depth of field so that your subject is in crisp focus, while the background is blurred. This technique is especially useful in portraits or street photography, where you don’t necessarily have control over the background itself. As before, let’s look at an example:

HummelDoF

The two photographs above were taken with the exact same setup, just seconds apart. The only difference is that the top image uses a wide depth of field (small aperture), where most everything is in focus– including the background. Notice how distracting the trees and bushes are. In contrast, the bottom image uses a narrow depth of field (wider aperture) to help blur the background, and help the figurines stand out better.

To best blur the background, you want to keep the background as far away as possible– the farther away, the more blurred it will be. In addition, you should use a wide aperture, which helps to further blur the foreground and/or background. (Above, I used a rather basic, inexpensive lens that could only go to f/5.6; If you have a “faster” lens, perhaps f/4 or f/2.8, you can get even better results.)

dutch_3_smDutch Masters – Eric Minbiole

For this week’s challenge, I want everyone to try to capture an image with a clean, non-distracting background. You have lots of options: You can use a plain backdrop, such as a piece of paper, cloth, or plastic. Alternatively, if you want to use a more natural or real-world background, you can use a narrow depth of field to keep your subject in focus, but blur everything else. As always, be as creative as you like!

Optional Twist: For this week’s optional twist, try taking a second shot where you intentionally break the rules, and create a messy background. (Ideally, use the same subject as your main image.) Have fun with this– show people what not to do. This will allow everyone to compare your clean and messy images, and see why a clean background is so important. As always, the twist is completely optional. If you do choose to participate, your “good” image should be your main submission, and your “messy” image should be in the comments.

As with all my challenges, I’m happy to help offer any assistance or suggestions– feel free to ask. Get your camera, and have fun!

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 10: Frame Your Subject

For this week’s composition challenge, we’ll explore creative ways to Frame Your Subject. Framing uses foreground objects to surround the main subject in the background. Doing so draws your eye into the photo, right to the subject. This is a great technique to help create more interesting, memorable photos.

phillytunnel_sm

Philadelphia Tunnel – Eric Minbiole

The shot above uses the tunnel as a frame for the landscape. Not only does it help lead the eye towards the clouds and the landscape, it also gives the picture a much better sense of depth. If this had simply been a picture of the clouds, you might not give it a second look. However, by adding the framing, the photo becomes much more interesting and memorable.

cupcakes_sm

New Year’s Resolutions – Tonya Bender

The photo above is one of my favorite examples of framing. While the cupcakes themselves are beautifully arranged and photographed, it’s the combination of the cupcakes and the surrounding pan that really make this a fantastic photograph.

The framing can be virtually anything. It can be a bit more subtle, like the branches around this deer:

deer_sm

Peek-a-Boo – Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero

… Or the framing can be more “obvious”, like the literal frame, below:

frameframe_sm

frame – Mario Mancuso

For this week’s challenge, you should frame your subject in an interesting, unusual, or fun way. Your framing can be most anything that you want– Natural, man-made, subtle, or obvious. You are encouraged to get creative and have fun with it!

Optional Twist: As I noted last time, my challenges will include an optional twist. This week’s twist is “Splash of Color“. (Last week, we focused on images that were predominantly red; this week’s twist is the opposite– add a splash of color to an otherwise muted image.) As before, the twist is completely optional. Regardless of whether or not you follow the twist, your photo should still use framing as part of your composition.

Get your camera, and have fun!

Banner Photo: Into the Woods – Eadie Minbiole

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 4: Rule of Thirds / Toys & Games

I’m very excited to join the PhotoChallenge team! My theme for this year is “Composition and Technique”, which will focus on some of the fundamentals of photography. I hope that the challenges will be enjoyable for beginners and advanced photographers alike. To that end, if anyone has any suggestions or feedback, I’m happy to listen!

This week’s topic is the Rule of Thirds. In a nutshell, the Rule of Thirds suggests that you should place your subject off-center (approximately 1/3 from any corner or edge), which results in a balanced, pleasing composition. Let’s dive in to some examples:

crop_coffeeSteaming Coffee – Eric Minbiole

The images above show the same subject, with two different compositions: The upper image has the coffee cup in the center of the image. Note that the composition seems a bit awkward– the steam is cut off on the top, and there’s too much empty space at the bottom. In contrast, the lower image follows the Rule of Thirds, and feels much more balanced: The steam has plenty of space to rise, and the overall image has a more pleasing composition.

Another benefit of the Rule of Thirds is that it can help clarify the subject, especially in case of a landscape shot:

crop_water

The upper image shows a centered horizon. While the water and the sky are both reasonably interesting, it’s hard to tell which is the intended subject of the photo, as both are given the same amount of space in the image. In contrast, the lower image better follows the Rule of Thirds, placing the horizon at the lower third of the image. This helps make it more clear that the sky and clouds are the main focus of the image, since they are given a larger portion (2/3) of the space.

crop_longwood

Longwood Home – Eric Minbiole

Certainly, the Rule of Thirds is not a hard and fast rule. Just like any rule of thumb, there are plenty of times that you can (and should) break it. However, it’s often a very good starting point when composing a subject, and is a technique that every photographer should at least be familiar with. As such, this week’s challenge is to create a photograph that follows the Rule of Thirds.

Optional Twist: Each week, I’ll add an optional twist to the challenge. As the name implies, these are completely optional, and are intended for those looking for a bit of extra difficulty. (Some twists may be harder than others.) This week’s twist is “Toys and Games” — feel free to interpret this in any creative way that you like. Regardless of whether or not you follow the twist, your composition should follow the Rule of Thirds.

Get your camera, and have fun!

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • The posted image should be an animated still image and not a video.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.