Category Archives: Tips for Pics

Some tips about amateur photography and an occasional tale of what it is to be an art director on a company prestige calendar – and tails told by professionals.

Pictures, not snaps: 5

Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 11.56.30

If your subject is moving across your frame, leave more space in front of the subject, so that he/she/they appear to be moving into the picture, and not out. Think of it like this: the guy needs space to move into. Or imagine you’re the one who’s running. Would you like to have a stone wall a few inches in front of you?

If you just don’t get it, have a look at this version of the same picture.Figure running

See what I mean? All wrong, isn’t it.

Pictures, not snaps: 4

Leaning image

Hold the camera straight. A picture that’s leaning sideways a bit is thumbing its nose at whoever’s viewing it. Of course, if you’re shooting an ‘atmosphere’ picture for special effect, hold it as crookedly as your fancy demands.

Straightening the camera takes only one second longer. Even if you are pointing the camera slightly upwards or downwards, so that things go fan-shaped, spend that second in straightening the camera.

And, by the way, that goes for snaps, too.

Pictures, not snaps: 3

Jane Dubai2003
Photo by Jane Clapp

What makes this magnificent shot a picture and not just a haphazard snapshot? If you had caught only a quick glimpse of this one, could you have walked past and ignored it? OK, if you had severe toothache and were hurrying to the dentist, quite possibly. Otherwise? I don’t think so. You’d go back and gaze at it.

What makes it a picture and not a snap?

It’s been ‘framed’. The photographer has seen the possibility and taken time to move back into the cave so that the mouth of the cave becomes a frame. It does exactly the same job as the frames round the pictures on your walls. Of course, this shot takes the frame principle to its limit. But the principle can be applied using, not just the immediate foreground, as here, but objects in the middle distance and background as well. A tree can be shifted to one edge of your picture by moving sideways a little, and it will form one side of the frame. Another slight change of position (keeping the tree in roughly the same place) might bring a previously unnoticed distant form – a cloud, a building, a distant steep hillside – into shot. and you have your frame.

Not all pictures need frames, of course. Single objects or groups of objects can usually stand alone, unframed, unsupported. A great many of my own are like that. But the scenic picture, with a great many points of interest dotted about – these are the ones that can benefit by being ’rounded-up’, given a frame.

Pictures, not Snaps: 1

 Turn your snaps into pictures

ApplesA few rules that really work.

A kitchen table, late Autumn afternoon sun from window.  I’d just walked in to make a cup of tea – and there it was. A ready-made snap. But I cleared some odds and ends away from the dish, crouched down to get a good balance of foreground and dark background, collected the camera and turned the snap into a picture.


More soon.

Small, dark church

Small Dark church 4

Photography can get you into trouble. It can put you in places you’d ordinarily never think of entering. It does things to you that have nothing at all to do with the camera. It can make you look an idiot. It can make you feel good. Consider the day that found me in near darkness inside a tiny Greek hillside church.

There are many churches in Greece but this one had a particular appeal for the photographer I had commissioned. And I had learned long ago that whenever the photographer wanted to shoot something it was always wise to agree. It produces better results. This time the photographer was the great Adam Woolfit. If ever you’ve opened The National Geographic you have seen his work. We knocked on the low, double doors.

A small, smiling and very bent old woman with a beautiful deeply-creased face let us in to the darkness. She stood for a moment and then disappeared into some back room.

It was very dark. The sunlight struggled in through the open doors, but it was sucked up and swallowed by the darkness until it barely existed. We waited for our eyes to become dark-adapted, but even then we could see only the dim glimmerings of ancient gold leaf and mere shadowy suggestions of colour.

Adam rubbed his hands together. ‘This I must do,’ he said.

He was now possessed, in the way that you are when something suggests itself and you see a way of actually achieving it. He opened the bigger of the two aluminium cases which came with us wherever we went, and pulled out a silver-coated roll of fabric sheeting, about five feet wide. He laid it on the ground outside the doors, silver side up, then unrolled it backwards into the church, half of it outside, half inside.

It was the standard reflector that every photographer carries on this kind of job. But what it did was extraordinary.

The Aegean sun bounced from it and flooded up into the dark church and it was as if a thousand spirits with candles had flown round the walls, lighting up every sparkling decoration, every silver, gold, red, blue, green glowing ikon. Every last piece of carved and polished wood shone as though with its own self-generated light.

Adam had just finished straightening it out to get full value of the sunlight when the back room door opened and the bent old lady re-appeared. She took one step in, then stopped. We watched her. Surprise is too mild a word to describe her reaction. Her jaw fell. She looked slowly up round the glowing ceiling, down the bright walls and ikons and eventually at us. We gathered later that she had spent nearly all her seventy-five years in caring for that church, cleaning, polishing, letting people in, locking up at night. Now, she stood still, caught in the middle of taking another step towards us. Then her face broke into a smile, crumpled into tears and she came to us, arms outstretched.

It was the first time she had seen sunlight in her church.