Great Photography Is About 30% Camera

Guest post by Kayla Lamoreaux

I am excited to be a guest author today here on Scraps of Mind. With Karen on vacation it seems I can talk about whatever I want, right? Well I suppose since you all are used to excellent content I better be on my best behavior. I thought I would share with you a few ideas to think about the next time you pull your camera out to shoot a photo.

First things first – a great camera doesn’t guarantee a great photo. I feel so sad when I visit online photography forums and people write messages something akin to this – “I just can’t wait to get my digital SLR – then my photos will be great.” As if the secret to a great photo is hidden inside the nearest SLR. Believe me, it isn’t and I have plenty of bad photos to prove it! There are definitely some advantages to an SLR – but aside from a larger lens aperture and camera release the differences between an SLR and your point and shoot can be minimal if you learn to compose your photos artistically.

One of the most important things to look at when shooting a photo is composition. The more you practice at it, no matter what camera you use, the better and more instinctive you will become – eventually it will become second nature. There are a few things to remember – and sometimes they are best evaluated by looking at photos so I will share a few of my good and not so good shots to illustrate my point…

When shooting landscape scenes – many a photo is shot with the horizon level dead center – case in point….

Photo by Kayla Lamoreaux

In this photo I was trying to capture the lens flare and trail of our boat in the water. The problem? My horizon ended up dead center in the photo. When the horizon is dead center, the eye looks at the photo and doesn’t really know where to go – you lose the focal point!

The fix? If you want the focus on the sky (sunset shots, clouds, etc.) Move the horizon down. If you want the focus on the ground – move the horizon up. You can see in this shot I have redeemed myself somewhat (still wish it was a clearer day…) I wanted to focus on the lens flare and clouds so I moved the horizon down to draw the eye upward in the photo.

Photo by Kayla Lamoreaux

The Rule of Thirds is one of the most basic rules in photography. It is always worth a review – basically it says that we should divide our photos into thirds vertically and horizontally (think tic-tac-toe). The intersection of the two horizontal dividing lines and the two vertical lines create four points – each of which is a good location for a center of interest in a photo. For you visual people like me – here is an illustration –

Photo by Kayla Lamoreaux

You can see that the baby’s face (where I want the eye to go to the focal point) is dead-on for the rule of thirds. But what about the photos that aren’t? There is an alternative way to place your center of interest and that is by dividing the photo into four equal quadrants and then finding the center of each. Here is an example with the same photo – you can see they are similar but a little different…

Photo by Kayla Lamoreaux

Both of these composition rules give you a focal point that is dead off-center. So if the rule of thirds or quadrants seem too technical, just remember not to center your photo – and don’t be afraid of quiet space in a photo! Also, some of your cameras may have a grid option for the viewfinders so as you are composing the photo, you can put your focal point right where it needs to be….

The last thing I want to touch on today is the importance of color value contrast in a photo. This is why many a good photographer captures their best photos early in the morning or later in the afternoon in the hours just before sunset. The sun casts a golden light over everything that is really beautiful. Another great time to shoot is after a rainstorm in the early or evening hours – the water in the air picks up more blues and greens, making landscapes seem more vivid.

I learned this lesson the hard way a few weeks ago while on an airboat trip – I was surrounded by thousands of American Avocet birds – and because the water was gray, the mountains in the distance were brown and the sky was hazy – my photos are really dull. (Getting on an airboat in the wildlife management area was a treat – and I didn’t get to pick my time of day – so I really shouldn’t complain – but knowing the photo that could have been…)

Photo by Kayla Lamoreaux

Here is the same type of bird – in the early morning hours – from left to right you have a marbled avocet, American avocets, and an American pelican. The vividness of the colors in this photo really gives it more impact. This is why the school photographers tell us to have our children wear vivid colors on school picture day – it really does help to make the photo look better!

Photo by Kayla Lamoreaux

I hope these tips have been helpful. I want to thank Karen for letting me guest write. If you would like more photography tips and tutorials, check out my blog at The Legacy Lady

Scraps of Mind would like to sincerely thank Kayla for this Guest Post. Kayla writes The Legacy Lady blog where she shares her great photography tips and her passion for leaving a scrapbooking legacy.

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10 Responses to Great Photography Is About 30% Camera

  1. Olga October 5, 2007 at 2:53 am #

    It’s a great article about photography and actually I didn’t know about the quadrants rule. I was just wondering is there a difference between the two of them? You do notice that the focal points are at different places and there might be some kind of rule relating to which one would be best regarding the photo’s composition.

    Thanks so much for the article and best wishes. :O)

  2. Hannah October 5, 2007 at 5:13 am #

    Kayla, it helps so much to hear that camera is only 30% of the equation!! This is hope for me yet!!

    (but … I still REALLY want a digital SLR … LOL)

  3. Kayla October 5, 2007 at 6:14 am #

    The main rule to remember is that you don’t want a subject dead center – unless you pretty much fill the frame with it! I believe both are good rules of thumb – one thing a person could do is take two 4×6 transparencies and draw the two grids on them and then place them over your photos – if your photo matches up with one of them – it is all good.

    Another thing to remember – sometimes it is good to break the rules… :) Thanks for the kind comments on the article. :)

  4. Tink October 5, 2007 at 7:00 am #

    Thanks Kayla. No matter how many pictures I take, I could always use a reminder.

  5. Antoinette October 5, 2007 at 11:25 am #

    LOL – and here I am, always trying to get the subject dead center, how wrong I was! Thanks Kayla, I will remember that, next time!

  6. Brooke - in Oregon October 5, 2007 at 1:39 pm #

    Great post Kayla!! I keep trying to improve, I think it is a case of practice, practice, practice!! :)

  7. karooch October 6, 2007 at 6:11 pm #

    Yay Kayla thanks a lot for doing this article. The advice is great and it looks terrific in Greece.

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