Jay Sousa: Photography

November 5, 2011

Jay Sousa: Composition -- Find the picture within the picture

Photography is both an art and a science. If the science is making a good exposure, then the art is making a good composition.

Many factors make a great photograph. Good subject matter, sharp focus and a good exposure are all very important.

None of these matter, though, if our composition isn't good. Composition means arrangement, so it is important that we take the time to arrange our subject matter in our camera's viewfinder in a way that will lead the viewer of the image around the photograph. On a very basic level, you want to make sure that you don't have telephone poles, trees or other objects growing out of your subjects' heads.

You will need to pay close attention to what you are seeing as you look through your viewfinder. Look at the edges of the image to see if you have cut off something important. Look at all key elements of the image.

Remember that composition is the arrangement of an object within the picture format by using the space most effectively. By using good composition, you can lead the viewer to what you, the photographer, deem important.

One of the beginner's biggest mistakes is including too many elements in photographs. By doing this, you make a busy, hard-to-look-at image.

Simplify, move in closer, or as I tell my students, "Look for the picture within the picture."

The No. 1 mistake that most inexperienced photographers make is having the subject matter too far away. My old friend and great photographer Eric Luse once told me, "If it is not good enough, you are not close enough."

Try this neat trick to see the picture within the picture: When you are checking out the just-captured image on the monitor on your camera, use the zoom feature and scroll around the image to look carefully at your zoomed-in image. Maybe there's a small part of that overall image that's an even better shot. If so, move in closer and reshoot, concentrating on that newly found image.

Remember, compose using your camera; don't rely on cropping during the post-production work, as you will lose image quality if you crop too deeply into an image.

Try to show your viewers something they have not seen before, or show them something familiar in a way that is new and fresh.

One way to do that is shoot from a different perspective. Get down on your stomach, climb a tree, get on a ladder, anything to give a look that puts that "wow" factor in your images. Ansel Adams had a platform built on the roof of a station wagon to shoot from.

Your assignment this week is to find something in your home that you see or use on a daily basis. Photograph it in a way that you or your family and friends have never seen before. I'd love to see your images from this assignment. You can e-mail me one small jpg to jay.sousa@sbcglobal. I can't promise to respond to each of you, but I'll try.

I am pleased to announce a great new photographic show by Merced resident Frank Baudino in my Gallery on the Square in downtown Merced. "Portraits ... A Photo-graphic Narrative" is a collection of black-and- white images. The opening reception is Friday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The Gallery is at 1636 Canal St.

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