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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Breaking the rules - leaving the scene.

Last post I talked about having your subject looking into the frame, and here I go doing everything I told you not to. In this frame the egg seller of the volcano Mt Iozan in the Akan National Park, Hokkaido, Japan is not only looking out of the frame but he's about to walk out of the picture all together.

Do you think he's just arrived to put down a new batch of eggs, or is he just leaving after putting a new batch of eggs in and taking the cooked ones out?

The answer is he's just picking up the already cooked eggs, which he has just replaced with a new batch of eggs, and he's just about to leave. And that's why I put him in the far left hand corner of the frame looking like he's about to leave - because he is!

If I had moved the camera to the left and had him looking into the frame it would look like he had just arrived and was about to put a new box in, but that wasn't the case. So I positioned myself so that you could see the new eggs in the right hand side (to show what was going on and what he was doing on the side of a mountain with a basket of eggs!) and he was in the left hand side.

I then waited for a couple of things. Firstly I waited for him to pick up the cooked basket of eggs to give more of a sense of the action being finished and him getting ready to leave. Leaving the eggs on the ground would have looked like he was waiting for something. The second thing I had to wait for was for his head to come up a bit.

If you have a look at the silhouette of his face you can see the details in it because behind him there is sky. The light background plays against the dark face giving you a clear profile of his face. Until he reached that point, however, his face had the dark mountains behind it. Dark mountains and dark face equals no face. You wouldn't be able to see a thing and his head would just disappear into darkness.

One thing that beginning photographers often fail to notice is separation between objects in the frame. When shooting documentary you need to position yourself, or wait for moments, when the elements of the picture are separated from each other so each one is clear and stands on its own.

When you have two objects blending into one another so that you can't tell what each one is it takes away from the impact of the photo. It's a very subtle difference but if I hadn't waited for his face to be backlit by sky you wouldn't have seen it.

So here is an example of breaking the rules with a specific purpose in mind. As I talked about last post, when you have someone moving out of the frame it makes it look like you missed the shot and the person is leaving. In this case because I wanted to show that he was leaving I deliberately broke the rule of always having a person look into the frame, and put him in the 'wrong' place. As I wrote before, there are many compositional guidelines but you don't have to slavishly stick to them. What do you have to do, though, is know them so that you know what effect you get by sticking to them and what effect you can get by breaking them.


Andrew Griffiths said...

Hey Paul - every time I visit your blog I am more and more impressed. The quality of your images is amazing and your explanations are simple to understand. I think your generosity in sharing your expertise is quite extraordinary.

Thank you!
Andrew Griffiths

Paul Dymond said...

Hey mate,

calm down you're gonna give me a big head! :) Thankyou for the compliments, as always it means a lot. And to tell you the truth I think I get far more out of showing people how I do what I do then the readers do, although hopefully you all get something out of it as well.

Keep on photographing everybody. It's a beautiful world and as photographers we're in the privileged position of being able to show just how beautiful it is.

wide beam canal boats said...

Thanks for good read.I impressed with your post.Thanks for sharing!

Paul Dymond said...

Thankyou for the kind words. I have no idea what a wide beam canal boat is but I'm thinking it would make a great subject for a photo essay. Got any pics you can share with the group?