2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 43: Negative Space

This week, we’re going to experiment with Negative Space. Put simply, negative space is the area around your subject, rather than the subject itself. By creatively controlling this empty space around your subject, you can create some very dramatic effects: Adding vast space around your subject can help create beautifully minimalist images; controlling the space can help convey a desired tone or emotion; space can also be used to create interesting, unusual, or memorable compositions. When working with negative space, what’s not there can be just as important as what is there.

As always, let’s look at some examples:

the_sky_is_the_limit_smThe Sky is the limit – Kathrin & Stefan Marks

One of the most common uses of negative space is to create a minimalist image. In the shot above, the clouds (negative space) take up the vast majority of the image, yet the the actual subject itself (the bird) is comparatively small. Note how your eye instantly focuses on the bird– because the background is mostly empty and non-distracting, the bird is the first thing to capture the viewer’s attention. As well, having so much negative space makes for an interesting, memorable photo. (Much more-so than if it were an ordinary picture of a bird.)

 

blue_solo_smBlue Solo – Marcus Dumoulin

Negative space can also contribute to the mood of the image. In this shot, the negative space of the water and sky contribute to the overall feeling of solitude and isolation.

 

negative_space_smnegative space meeting – abby chicken

I quite like this photo. Though the two figures are the main subject, it’s the vast, empty separation between them that makes for a very interesting image.

 

cross_roads_smCross roads – Stef Lewandowski

Another technique is to use surrounding objects to shape the negative space into something interesting. In this shot, aptly named “Cross roads”, the buildings create a cross within the (empty) sky.

 

at_the_seaside_sm
At the seaside – Trevor Wintle

Finally, landscapes are a very common (and easy) way to use negative space. One common method is to place the horizon just slightly above the bottom of the picture, for a fun, interesting composition. This often works well with a lone tree.

For this week’s challenge, everyone should use negative space to help enhance your overall image. Exactly how you use this negative space is up to you: The space can be big or small; it can form an interesting shape; it can help set the overall mood; or it can just be something fun and unusual. As always, I encourage creativity, or any out of the box ideas you may have. 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.
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2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 40: Reflections

This week, we’re looking to create photos that have fun, interesting reflections. By photographing a reflection of your subject, you can often create a more interesting, memorable image than if you’d photographed the same subject directly. By including a reflection, your viewer will spend more time looking at your image, helping it better stand out. This week’s challenge is wide open to creativity– I want everyone to have fun, and photograph a reflection that you find interesting.

Reflections can be found all around us. Let’s look at some examples:

snowscape_smSnowy Lake – Eric Minbiole

Water is one of the most common places to find reflections. A lake or a puddle on a calm day can give an almost mirror-like finish, as in the example shot above. I love the symmetry of the image– had it been flipped upside down, you might not even notice the difference.

 

building_smreflections – 55Laney69

Man-made objects, such as buildings, cars, etc, can provide great reflective surfaces. In the above image, the reflections in the windows let us see behind the camera, and get a better look at the rest of the architecture.

 

sunglasses_smBaseball Reflection – MudflapDC

Photographing sunglasses often makes for a fun image– not only can you see the person, but also get a glimpse of what they’re looking at. I love this shot, as you can see how much fun the woman is having as she watches the baseball game.

 

subway_smreflection – sinkdd

Street photography is another great option, as with the example above. While this is a fantastic photograph even without the reflection, the mirror-like wall makes the image even more memorable.

 

coffee_sm
Coffee Portrait – Eric Minbiole

And, of course, your shot can be a bit silly or unusual if you like, as with this self portrait.

This week, your goal is to take a photograph that has a fun and interesting reflection. Everyone has lots of room for creativity this week: The reflection can be big or small, and can use whatever reflective surface you like. As always, I encourage creativity, or any out of the box ideas you may have. 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 37: Minimalism – Repeating Patterns

This week, we continue with the Minimalism theme, by looking for subjects that have  repeating patterns. The goal this week is to find a subject that not only has an interesting (and hopefully visually pleasing) pattern, but also tries to keep the photo as simple and clean as possible, excluding anything else that might be distracting. In other words, your photo should ideally focus primarily on the pattern, and exclude anything else.

Let’s start with an example:

wires_smPuente de los Tirantes – Diego Charlón Sánchez

I love this image: The support cables of the bridge make a great, repeating pattern, yet there is plenty of negative space to give a very minimalist look. Note how there is almost nothing else in the image to distract you from the patterns made by the cables.

Minimalist patterns can be found all around us. Minimalist patterns can be found in Architecture:

windows_smHead Over to Denver – Thomas Hawk

In this image, an almost endless sea of windows makes for a wonderful repeating pattern. Because the windows fill the entire frame, there is nothing else in the image, aside from the pattern. (I.e., no other distracting elements.) As well, the high-key exposure also adds to the minimalist feel.

Minimalist patterns can also be found in Landscapes:

sand_smEndless – CEBImagery

What could be more visually simple than a large expanse of sand? That certainly gives the image a clean, minimal look. As well, the ridges in the sand give a great pattern and texture to the image.

Minimalist patterns can also be found in Nature:

spiderweb_smToile – Anne

The spiderweb and the water droplets both form beautiful, repeating patterns. (I love how the droplets look on the delicate web.) As well, keeping with the minimalist theme, there is nothing else in the image to distract you from the beautiful, natural patterns.

Minimalist patterns can also be found in Everyday Objects:

blinds_sm
Vertical Blinds – Craig Sunter

 

This is one of my favorite examples: The vertical blinds form a wonderful repeating pattern, transitioning from dark to light, and back again. As well, the image is undeniably minimalist — there’s nothing else in the photo but these smooth transitions of light.

This week, your goal is to find and photograph a subject that has an interesting, repeating pattern, and also has a clean, simple, minimalist look. I suggest that you use the previous techniques of “Filling the Frame” or “Get Close” (Week 33) to help focus on just the pattern itself, leaving out any other distracting elements. The choice of subjects is up to you — Architecture, Nature, Macro, Everyday Items, etc. As always, I encourage creativity, or any out of the box ideas you may have. 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 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.