Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pictures vs. Photographs (Part 1)

What's the difference between a picture and a photograph? It's difficult for me to explain the subtleties, but I know it when I see it. Over the next few entries I am going to talk about some of the things you can do to take better photographs.

In this entry I'll talk about perspective. Often times when I am out shooting I will meet other photographers. The first thing I do...I admit look to see what type of camera and lenses they are using. That's a given and probably an unwritten rule (or at least a guideline) among photographers. With that formality out of the way, the next thing I look at is his/her knees. A photographer's knees should be dirty, the pants should be worn and even better if grass-stained. If this photographer with whom I have crossed paths has a dirty and/or grass stained shirt... even better!. This phenomena is due to what I like to refer to as the "Get Down" factor.

When photographing, you should "Get Down" on the subject's level. Regardless if it is a person, your family pet or some inanimate object, the perspective from which you shoot should be on the level of the subject and not from your comfortable standing position.

© David Toczko

Take the above photo of my dog Sam for example. Get in close, fill the frame with that image and get down on one knee or crouch to get eye level. It will make the image more intimate and interesting., revealing more detail and capturing the personality of the subject. This really helps when photographing animals in the wild. It may make you appear less threatening or at least less noticeable.

This photo of a baby goat was taken lying down. Yes, the grass was wet with morning dew, but it gives the viewer a better idea of scale when compared to the boards of the fence and really captures that "cuteness factor". The second photo shows dew drops on the bottom side of the rail and just how damp it was that morning. Had I taken those from a standing position I would not have been able to capture those types of details not to mention his interesting expression. You will also avoid stretching or distorting the subject, making it's head appear twice as big as the rest of it's body for example. We've all seen those types of pictures and while they may be amusing, they can be avoided. All cameras from point-and-shoot to high end DSLRs will distort an image to some degree. How much depends on the photographer just as much as the equipment. Camera lenses are capturing three dimensional images and converting them to two dimensions. They don't "see" things the way our eyes do. I'll expand on that more in a future entry.

The main point to take away is to be aware of what makes the subject you are photographing cute, or pretty or interesting and emphasize that in the image you capture. The dirt on the nose of the ground hog in the image below is yet another example. Had I taken the photo from a standing position I would not have been able to "see" that and his ears would have gotten lost in the fur of his head. His body would have blended into the grass and we would have lost that sense of scale relative to the log in the background.

© David Toczko

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