Three Important Concepts I Focused on this Summer that can Help you Improve your PhotosAug 29, 2023
Every season here in Alberta, Canada, is beautiful. However, the summer season holds a special place in my heart because I can usually immerse myself in my chosen campground beneath my favourite mountain in the Canadian Rockies. A schedule absent of routine but packed full of family moments, hiking and photography brings me joy. This summer, while immersing myself in photography, I tried to focus on a few specific goals. To help you consider how you can improve your photos, I'm sharing what I focused on this summer as I created my images.
At the beginning of my landscape journey, I neglected to recognize the importance of composition. I thought standing before a beautiful landscape scene and capturing a photo was enough. Today, I've learned that even the most beautiful landscape setting will fall short in an image if the composition is poorly executed.
The image below was created with composition in mind. I purposefully placed the Milky Way in the upper left side of the frame in the hope that this placement would catch my viewer's eye. The placement of the flowers in the bottom right corner forces my viewer to explore the entire frame as the image is read top to bottom, left to right, similar to how a book is read. Further compositional elements include foreground, middle ground and background elements, which infuse depth and a life-like viewing experience.
ISO 1600, 22mm, f4, 180 seconds tracked (sky), ISO 64, 19.5mm, f10, 6 seconds (hoodoos), ISO 400 16mm f9, 0.4 seconds blue hour focus stack (flowers)
Learning and implementing effective composition into a photo takes time and practice. However, you can start improving your photos today by intentionally thinking about placing specific elements in a scene into the visual composition of your image.
2. Envision the result of your photo before you press your shutter
The image below was captured during one of my favourite mornings this summer. Despite frequenting the Canadian Rockies, I have never seen Mountain Goats in person. Upon arrival at this lookout, and to my absolute delight, I realized that off in the distance was a sleeping herd of goats. As sunrise broke, the goats woke from their slumber and began to explore the cliff edges. The presence of the goats was so special to me that I knew I wanted to include them in an image. At that moment, I decided I wanted to composite a telephoto goat photo into a wide-angle capture of the valley. I pulled out my telephoto and began to capture the goats at a distance. Once I was reasonably confident I could work with a few good telephoto shots, I caught the larger wide scene, again with a few goats off in the distance. In post-processing, I brought my vision for this scene, even before I took a single image, to life.
ISO 31, 21.5mm, f9, 1/6 sec (wide angle scene), ISO 800, 200mm, f2.8, 1/160 sec (kid)
You should be excited to infuse your vision for your art into your photos. Don't be afraid to envision the final result for your images before you take a single shot. This will help you create unique photos and reflect who you are as a photographer in your art.
3. Try something new
Photographer friends are the best, aren't they?! My journey as a photographer has not been solo. My photographer friends have shared their knowledge, feedback and critique, and I'm grateful for all the encouraging nudges that have helped me become the photographer I am today. The image below results from the encouragement of a photographer friend who inspires me to challenge my skills and expand my imagination in my photography...because anything is possible.
ISO 64, 20.5mm, f10, 4 seconds
Take the "safe" shot, but don't be afraid to look around your environment and think creatively. Look for opportunities for images outside your go-to style and compositions. If the idea works, that's fantastic. If it doesn't, look for the learning in the experience so that you can always aim to improve your photos.