6 Photo Tips Gleaned from the 365 Full Frame Project

It has been five months since I started the 365 Full Frame project. Here are six lessons learned from my immersive photography experience to date:

1) Framing is Everything

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You can edit a photo all you want, but it’s much easier to produce a good photo when your original capture is solid. Find your story and focus on it.

In some settings there can be many eye catching things to include in your photograph, but these can distract the viewer away from your message. Whenever possible try to frame your photo so that it focuses on your subject. Leave out as many distractions as you can. If you cannot frame the photo while capturing it, crop and if necessary (or possible), edit out distractions.

2) Don’t Take the Rule of Thirds Literally

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The rule of thirds is very helpful to new photographers. For those that don’t know, the rule of thirds suggests framing your picture by dividing the frame in thirds vertically and horizontally. You then frame your subject in the middle square and capture the shot.

At the same time if taken literally, the rule of thirds can create formulaic photos with every subject in the dead center of the image. Over the past couple of months I have tried to break away from perfectly centered images. So long as my subject touches the primary center — even if it just grazes the rectangle — then I am good.

3) Edit Your Photos

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There are purists who say photos shouldn’t be “photoshopped” or edited. They are wrong. Some of the most iconic film photos of yesterday were significantly altered in the darkroom. If the no filter crowd likes bad photos then God bless them, but the more time you invest in processing quality shots, the better they will look.

4) A Take-Away from the Minimalist Crowd

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That being said, some photos can be overproduced. And God knows sometimes I intentionally create light intense photos because that’s the look I want. This Capitol Building shot is one where I did that to emphasize the scaffolding and the lighting.

Minimalists like images that are edited as a touch up only, instead focusing on the capture. They edit in LightRoom, but just enough to make clean, crisp photographs. My thoughts are make a great image, and when possible, do so with as little editing as possible.

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This dawn image features very little editing. Per the minimalist link, 80% of the work was in the Basic Light Room panel. I opened the shadows and reduced the highlights. I sharpened the image and punched up the color contrast. Then I enabled lens correction. And that was it. The same is true of the Frosty, the Snowman image that opens this post.

Do only what you think is necessary to create a good image. Follow your heart. Every photo doesn’t have to be an over-wrought 500 Pixels gem.

5) Sunsets and Sunrises are Like Bait

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I stopped taking as many sunset and sunrise shots recently. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that I have found them to be less challenging as of late, in large part because I have shot all the local vistas in my immediate neighborhood. While sunrises and sunsets are photo bait for likes and what most people seem to enjoy, it’s not necessarily the most challenging subject.

There are a couple of short trips that may yield an opportunity this month. But I will likely revisit sunrise and sunset pictures in earnest this January when the earth’s tones are muted by the dead of winter. The harshness of the land in this light interests me and presents a challenge. The soft oranges, pinks and reds are less of a challenge these days.

6) People Are Difficult Subjects

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Photographing people is hard. I am not talking abut the smiley pics you see on Facebook. In many ways those are easy, but they don’t strike me as good or sincere. In fact, I see most smiling pics as fake, unless they are in the moment.

Capturing people’s spirit, their true essence, is the challenge, and it’s one that I fail at often. Every month, I rent some studio time and photograph someone, usually a friend who volunteers. There is much to learn with retouching here, but I hope to get better at photographing people over the next seven months.

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What tips would you add? Or, what are your thoughts on the 365 Full Frame Project to date?

7 Replies to “6 Photo Tips Gleaned from the 365 Full Frame Project”

  1. No the rule of thirds means you frame the item of interest at one of the four points where the imaginary vertical and horizontal dividing lines meet. Oh dear.

  2. Geoff, I’m still struggling to use my SLR camera as often as I’d like :-) The iPhone doesn’t take the best quality, I know, I know. But it’s always in my pocket.

    On your point of framing, I couldn’t agree more. Here’s something I often do. I take a photo with my phone and, if it’s not framed as I would like, I then enlarge it on my phones screen and position it within the phone’s frame. Then I take a screen shot of that. It might not be a work of art, but it’s a better pic once re-framed.

    You’ve motivated me to take better photos and use them in many of my posts. Thanks!

  3. I find what you say about the rule of thirds and how taking it literately can create formulaic photos an interesting topic.

    I was reading this article http://www.geofflawrence.com/rule_of_thirds.html on why some rules such as the ‘rule of thirds’ are made to be broken.

    In this case the author mentions reflections and how at times splitting up the photo in half does work.

    I was wondering what your opinion on the matter is? As a keen armature photographer, I personally would like to know (in general) when this rule can be broken…. Do you have any other examples or photos that can be shared that answers this question (time permitting of course as I am sure you are busy)?

    The reason for my interest is because it appears (at least in my opinion) that many eye catching photos do not follow the rule of thirds exactly, maybe because they are too formulaic as you say?

    P.s. The Inspiring Generosity (2011-2012) link on the side bar of this site is broken.

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