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How to Achieve Balance with your Photography

Hello!

And once again welcome to the weekly newsletter: photo of the week and lesson. This week’s lesson was inspired by a photo from Ambient Exposure Photography. I love the old film look of AE’s picture here, but even more than the classic film look it demonstrates more than one example of how to use proper balance in a photo. Balancing a picture is a rather basic skill, however, there are many subtleties to it that are easy to forget, or if you are self trained, easy to gloss over. Even seasoned professionals can always learn more about balance. Please take a moment to enjoy this photo before going on to the lesson itself and look at the balance this picture portrays.

Photo of the week by Ambient Exposure Photography
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Again I’ve tried to make this lesson applicable to everyone from beginner to advanced photographers so that no one is left out. So beginners feel free to start from the very beginning, Intermediates start from the middle and advanced users can skip to final section. So without further explanation let’s begin the discussion on balancing a photo.

WHAT IS BALANCE

Balance is a bit of a hard thing to define, but it is an essential tool to photography composition. Many beginners assume that it means symmetry, but balance is so much more than that. Over the years I’ve heard dozens of definitions of balance, but what it really means it so spread out points of interest in the photo so that the entire picture contains visual interest.

HOW TO ACHIEVE BALANCE

When I focus on balance, the first thing I think about is grid lines. The lines that make up the rule of thirds, and lines that divide the picture into quarters through the center. By dividing important elements upon based on these lines I start to create a balance in the picture. This is an easy way to think about balance, and as you get more practiced, can be done in a split second. The basic balance you will get out of this is called formal balance.

Formal balance often places a subject in the middle and uses empty space placed equally on all sides to isolate the subject. This is used very often in portraits. But often when we are shooting in less controlled circumstances we will opt for informal balance.

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Informal balance is a bit different from formal balance in that is uses multiple objects spread across the image to achieve equilibrium. And again this can utilize both the rule of thirds and quartering of the photo. The picture below uses a bush to balance out the picture of the house. Either element alone would make the picture seem empty and sparse, but by combining them the image becomes balanced.

OTHER ASPECTS OF BALANCE

We have talked about using balance between space and empty space so far, but there are other aspects of balance as well. One huge flaw in any definition of balance that I’ve seen is that it doesn’t really discuss the interaction between elements in the picture. I think a good balance should compliment the other elements of the photo. There are different ways that this can be done, but the most common would be contrast. Not just between different colors either, there are many different types of contrast that can be done with image elements. Below is a list.

Colors: If a photo is composed mostly of neutral colors making a few colors more vibrant will add balance to the photo. Some photographers opt to convert entire photos to grayscale except for certain colors.

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Brightness: A picture that is mostly white can easily be balanced by adding a little black. The same thing can be done by adding grey, but as grey contrasts less there will need to be larger area to balance the photo. The same technique will work in reverse as well. Normally I would call this an example of color contrast, however, it can be done using light as well. If the picture of the week had been taken on a clearer day this would have been a great example, but instead it offers another example: texture.

Texture: Having differing textures in an image can create balance; perhaps half the image is a solid wood grain while the other is a polished metal or in the case of our photo of the week there is a cloudy sky balanced with the cityscape.

Space: I’ve seen plenty of images with a single side filled with one or more objects and the other side is completely empty. This too can be balance. Our photo of the week does that admirably by creating a foreground, a midground, and a background. The foreground is the metal sphere; the midground being the buildings and the background is the sky.

Size: sometimes having one subject very close to the camera and the other further away can create balance, other times the actual size of the objects creates the balance.

Utilizing the above list you can create more interesting and elaborate balances to your photos. I hope that while reading this people not only get inspiration for future photos, but have come to a better understanding of balance in general.

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POSING AT A GLANCE

Hello,

I am pleased to present our weekly newsletter: photo of the week and lesson.

The lesson this week is on posing and was inspired by this amazing photo from Vicki. Vicki you should be proud, posing may be the hardest part of portrait photography to learn, and this portrait here looks amazing. In this portrait Vicky did several things correctly and we will examine a few of them, and explain why they are correct. As we discuss the art of portraiture feel free to look back at this picture as an example.

Photo of the week by Vicki
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This newsletter lesson is laid out in a way that attempts to be useful to photographers of every caliber. It’s laid out into three sections for your conveyance. The first section is aimed at beginners, if you haven’t done much portrait photography you should start here. But keep reading because everything will be useful. The second section is for the intermediates to begin at, and the third is for people who are experts, or close to it.

There is actually a lot to posing. It is an expression of the person in the picture. It’s their way to communicate who they are thorough the medium of photography. At the same time the photographer is also expressing him/herself through the image. I don’t want to lie to you, it can take years to become an expert at posing, but this is why it’s a sought after skill. So let’s start with a simple rule. The expression says it all.

The expression in a portrait says everything; it needs to be expressive, maybe colorful. You can enhance facial expression by focusing on the eyes of the subject. Remember that women are typically the buyers of photographs, and most prefer smiles over closed mouths, but the smiles have to be genuine. To get a genuine smile simply smile at the subject.

SUBTLY OR EARNESTY

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Many photographers say that posing needs to be subtle, and while I agree with that in theory, I think the truth of the matter is that poses need to be earnest. When you take a picture of a yoga practitioner in their favorite pose it’s obvious that they are posing, but the obvious doesn’t matter because the pose is natural for them. This isn’t always true, and the personality of the subject will play into this a lot, some portraits will depend on subtlety as well. Lets discuss a few things that will make a pose more earnest.

Keep the shoulders uneven if the shoulders are square it will make the subject look stiff, perhaps even uncomfortable. Have your subject lean slightly forward or backward, this will dis-align the shoulders and add an impression of relaxation. You will also want to find a reason for the subject to put their arms up. Having the subjects arms down at his or her side often looks and feels awkward, it also doesn’t define the body of the person, but putting the subjects arms up can be just as awkward if there isn’t a purpose. This is why so many portraits have the subjects leaning against trees and fences.

STUDY BODY LANGUAGE

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Over 80 percent of communication is done though body language. It conveys our emotions while words sometimes only give messages. This means that even a natural looking pose may give off some signals you don’t want. If you study body language not only will you not make that mistake, you will also be able to match expressions and posture to create a complete pose. For example in Vicky’s picture the subject is holding a can of cola, and her back is arched. If she was merely smiling then these actions might not blend together. However, together with the huge grin her expressions tell a story. She looks incredibly excited about something that explains the grin and the arched back. The logical thing is that she is excited over the can of cola that she has. Now explaining body language is difficult because many time certain gestures or poses can mean more than one thing. It’s a combination that really tells the story, as we have seen here. However, there is an eBook on Photography Talk that delves into it a bit called Posing Guide Natural Poses for Adult Models. I am also planning an article series around this exact subject. But you can still learn a lot from just observing people. For starters watch different parts of a person body when they are happy, sad, angry, or excited. Note what each part does and why, there are actually some clues in this article as well.

I hope that this was helpful and insightful to everyone. Remember practice is the most important way to build skill in the photography world, so feel free to get out and try what you’ve learned.

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We Recommend


Shutter Speed Cheat Sheet.

Hello!

Welcome to this-week’s newsletter photo of the week and lesson, Inspired by a Photo from Douglas Otto. Doug’s photo made me really think about shutter speed and how the correct usage of it can just take a picture to the next level. As you look at Doug’s picture you might notice the little touch of having the frothy flowing water actually creates a sense of movement within his still image. In case you haven’t done this before or are not quite sure what the optimal shutter speed is for a given object we have included a list in this weeks newsletter. Thank you for your inspiring picture Doug,

Photo of the week by Douglas Otto
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In this picture the frothy look that the water has, that almost fools your eyes into thinking it’s moving, is an example of the effects of proper shutter speed usage.

Because shutter speed is such an important topic there are three levels this can be taken at. Beginners might want to read from: What is Shutter Speed, Intermediates might start from: How to Use Shutter Speed, and of course the advanced users might only want the: List of Shutter Speed Uses.  And now our Shutter Speed Cheat Sheet:

If you are a beginner you might not know exactly what a shutter is, let alone why or how to adjust its speed. A shutter allows light to pass through the iris of the camera for a limited amount of time so that it can make contact with the sensor in modern digital cameras or the photosensitive film in older ones.

HOW TO USE A SHUTTER SPEED

The faster the shutter speed is the less time light has to hit the sensor. This means that less time is actually recorded in the photograph. For fast moving pictures a faster shutter speed will leave less blur, but sometimes a blur is wanted such as in the featured picture this week. The water in Doug’s picture is seen trickling down the creek with a lengthened shutter speed. This shutter speed blurs the water giving it that slight frothy look, and the slight illusion of movement.

Longer shutter speeds are used to create blur or paint with light. Shorter shutter speeds are used for fast moving photography such as sports photography, and sometimes nature photography. It’s also true that the Shutter speeds can be dependent on the focal length of the lens for hand held photography. It’s said that the focal length in milliliters times 1/100 of a second should give you a good shutter speed for using that particular focal length. For example a 50 mm lens being hand held should have a focal length that stays open no longer than 1/50 of a second. A 500-millimeter focal length lens shouldn’t have a shutter speed more than 1/500th of a second if it’s being hand held. This will help prevent camera blur.

A LIST OF SHUTTER SPEED USES

Keep in mind that these rules may conflict with the rule I just gave you. It may be slightly easier to control the camera blur when panning of you may want to use a tripod or monopod to steady your camera and even then it might take some practice.

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1/4000th of a second: This shutter speed is good for freezing a fast moving object in the moment. It’s good for splashes, minor explosions fast projectiles. Anything that is moving FAST.

1/2000th of a second: This is a great speed for getting pictures of flying birds, especially fast moving ones.

1/1000th of a second: this is good for moving vehicles at high speeds. Now keep in mind that this is good for freezing the vehicle, which will not show the speed.

1/500th of a second: This speed is good for sports pictures. Anything that involves running jumping or riding will be able to be shot with this speed.

1/250th of a second: This is good for shooting moving objects that are going rather slow. People who are walking would be a good example.

1/125th of a second: This speed is also good for fast moving vehicles however there is an entirely different dynamic here. You should practice panning to get a blurry background but a clear subject to show speed.

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1/60th of a second: this is good for panning for human powered vehicles such as bikes that are close to the photographer, again you should use this if you want to show movement and pan to blur the background.

1/30th of a second:  This is useful for shooting human powered vehicles at a distance. Again this is useful for panning and getting background blur.

½ of a second: this is the speed that Doug most likely used to snap his picture. However, depending on the speed of the water, and the exact effect that you want you may go up to one second for this effect.

 

The Fast Guide to Shutter Speed

Being able to properly set your shutter speed is one of the most useful abilities any photographer can have. This means getting good sports or movement shots, working with low or high lighting situations and sometimes even adding those little touches to make photographs pop, such as this beautiful Creek waterfall taken by Douglas Otto

Photo of the week by Douglas Otto
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In this picture the frothy look that the water has, that almost fools your eyes into thinking it’s moving, is an example of the effects of proper shutter speed usage.

WHAT IS SHUTTER SPEED

If you are a beginner you might not know exactly what a shutter is, let alone why or how to adjust its speed. A shutter allows light to pass through it for a limited amount of time. This allows the light to make contact with the sensor in modern digital cameras or the photosensitive film in older ones.

HOW TO USE A SHUTTER SPEED

The faster the shutter speed is the less time light has to hit the sensor. This means that less time is actually recorded n the photograph. For fast moving pictures a has shutter speed will leave less blur, but sometimes a blur is wanted such as in the featured picture this week. The water in Doug’s picture is seen trickling down the creek with a lengthened shutter speed. This shutter speed blurs the water giving it that slight frothy look, and the slight illusion of movement.

Longer shutter speeds are used to create blur or paint with light. Shorter shutter speeds are used for fast moving photography such as sport photography, and sometimes nature photography. It’s also true that the Shutter speeds can be dependent on the focal length of the lens for hand held photography. It’s said that the focal length in milliliters times 1/100 of a second should give you a good shutter speed for using that particular focal length. For example a 50 mm lens being hand held should have a focal length that stays open no longer than 1/50 of a second. A 500 millimeter focal length lens shouldn’t have a shutter speed more than 1/500th of a second if it’s being hand held. This will help prevent camera blur.

A LIST OF SHUTTER SPEED USES

Keep in mind that these rules may conflict slightly with the rule I just gave you. It may be slightly easier to control the camera blur when panning of you may want to sue a tripod

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1/4000th of a second: This shutter speed is good for freezing a fast moving objects in the moment. It’s good for splashes, minor explosions fast projectiles. Anything moving FAST.

1/2000th of a second: This is a great speed for getting pictures of flying birds, especially fast moving ones.

1/1000th of a second: this is good for moving vehicles at high speeds. Now keep in mind that this is good for freezing the vehicle, which will not show the speed.

1/500th of a second: This speed is good for sports pictures. Anything that involves running jumping or riding will be able to be shot with this speed.

1/250th of a second: This is good for shooting moving objects that are going rather slow. People who are walking and

1/125th of a second: This speed is also good for fast moving vehicles however there is an entirely different dynamic here. You should practice panning to get a blurry background but a clear picture this will show speed.

13037235 S

1/60th of a second: this is good for panning for human powered vehicles such as bikes that are close to the photographer, again you should use this if you want to show movement and pan to blur the background.

1/30th of a second: This is useful for shooting human powered vehicles at a distance. Again this is useful for panning and getting background blur.

½ of a second: this is the speed that Doug most likely used to snap his picture. However, depending on the speed of the water, and the exact effect that you want you may go up to one second for this effect.

 

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This week’s Member Interviews

John Harper

John Harper

I'm a photographer specialising in portraits of individuals and families. I also cover weddings. I sometimes dabble with colour, but Black & White are arguably the only true colours in photography...

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 WEEK: DECEMBER 17TH TO DECEMBER 23RD
 

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What You Missed This Week

 WEEK: OCTOBER 8TH TO OCTOBER 12TH
 

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What You Missed This Week

 WEEK: JULY 1ST TO JULY 7TH
 

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What You Missed This Week

 WEEK: MARCH 25TH TO MARCH 31ST
 

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What You Missed This Week

 WEEK: OCTOBER 15TH TO OCTOBER 19TH
 

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What You Missed This Week

 WEEK: DECEMBER 24TH TO DECEMBER 30TH
 

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What You Missed This Week

 WEEK: JULY 8TH TO JULY 14TH
 

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What You Missed This Week

 WEEK: APRIL 1 TO APRIL 7
 

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What You Missed This Week

 WEEK: JULY 15TH TO JULY 21ST
 

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Your PT Tuesday Newsletter

Your PT Tuesday Newsletter

In 1916, some photographers started to focus on abstraction, which had not been fully embraced yet in the photography community. Photographers like Alvin Langdon Coburn, Bernard S. Horne, and Margaret Watkins made names for themselves by creating abstract images in which the subject was completely unrecognizable. Coburn is credited with inventing thevortograph, the very first abstract photograph.

Trending on PhotographyTalk

15077568 ml

5 Mistakes Even Professional Photographers Make

Even the pros make these mistakes! Have a look at these critical errors so you’re sure to avoid making them yourself.

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The Top 5 Slide to Digital Converters for 2016

If you’ve got a pile of slides or negatives laying around from the old days, have a look at the best slide to digital converters currently on the market so you can get those images into the 21st Century!

How to Get Creative with Long Exposure Photography

How to Get Creative with Long Exposure Photography

Slow shutter photography can result in gorgeous images, but it takes a lot of skill, practice, and patience. Learn how to get the best results by consulting this informative guide.

Learn to Take Better Photos by Practicing With Your Smartphone

Learn to Take Better Photos by Practicing With Your Smartphone

Smartphone cameras might not be able to compete with mirrorless or DSLR bodies quite yet. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to learn about photography simply by using your phone.

Meet the Longest Telephoto Zoom Lens of All Time: The Nikkor 1200-1700mm

Meet the Longest Telephoto Zoom Lens of All Time: The Nikkor 1200-1700mm

If you think it’s difficult maneuvering your 500mm lens around, give this one a try!

Editor’s Picks: PhotographyTalk Member Photos of the Week

Untitled by Mark

If you want to see what good lighting can do for a photograph, check out this portrait of a swan. With the light perfectly illuminating the swan’s eye, Mark was able to create an engaging portrait with tons of character. Great job, Mark!


Untitled by Jorge Gomez de Oliveira

This long exposure of a city seacoast oozes mood and is an excellent example of what a well-exposed image can be. The texture in the clouds give the image depth while the details of the cityscape, including the row of red concrete pillars, provide additional visual interest. The starbursts from the street lamps are a nice touch, too!


Incredible India by Shailendra

Shailendra shows us how to compose an excellent portrait with this stunning image of an Indian gentleman. The muted background is the perfect backdrop, giving the man’s attire, decoration, and texture-filled face center stage in the photo. The light backdrop against the man’s dark-toned skin creates excellent contrast as well.


Branched Out by Keith

What a gorgeous landscape brought to us by Keith! The colors in the sky give an incredible amount of life to this photo while the slightly slowed shutter gives the lapping waves against the tree branch and the beach a smooth and soothing look. The twisted branches make for a nice bit of texture in the foreground as well.


Bridge by Bolotnykov

Minimalism doesn’t get much better than this! The muted tones of the sky and water make it difficult to tell where earth and sky begin and end, giving this image an almost surreal look. The inclusion of the remains of a bridge gives the image the texture and contrast it needs while begging the question, where did the bridge lead in the first place?


Featured Interviews

There’s a new feature on PhotographyTalk that we’ve had in the works for awhile, and we want to let you know all about it.

We really want to highlight the work being done by PhotographyTalk members and help facilitate the continued growth of this awesome community. To do that, we’ve undertaken interviews with several PhotographyTalk members. The first in the series, an interview with Kevin Landwer-Johan, is up on the site and ready for you to have a look!

Learn about Kevin and his photography journey over the last 33 years, explore his most recent work, gain insights into his workflow, and get some inspiration for your own photography as well! And, be sure to let us know if you want to share your photography story with us by signing up at the bottom of Kevin’s interview.

Stay tuned for additional member interviews in the coming weeks.

What’s New on PhotographyTalk

We’ve got a ton of exciting new content to speak about this week!

If you’re unfamiliar with the different metering modes on your camera, be sure to consult our new article A Beginner’s Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding Metering Modes. You’ll get familiar with everything from multi-zone metering to center-weighted metering and everything in between. Another instructional article you don’t want to miss is Nature and Wildlife Photography Tip: Using Natural Light. Read up on how to use various types of natural lighting, including backlighting and sidelighting, to create truly stunning wildlife images. And, if that’s not enough weekly instruction for you, explore our quick guide, Avoid the Crowds: 4 Tips for Getting Better Landscape Photos. Learn a few simple tricks for getting the landscape shots you want without having to fight the crowds.

 There are a couple of business-related articles we think you will enjoy as well. If you’re thinking about getting into stock photography, be sure to check out What Sells: Examining Stock Photography Trends in 2016. You just might be surprised at how stock photography demands have changed! And, if starting a photography business is something you’re considering, consult 3 Things You Might Not Think About When Starting a Photography Business before you dive in. Photography as a business is a complicated venture, and starting out with the right mindset is crucial. This article will help you do just that!

 There is plenty more new content on PhotographyTalk this week. From landscapes to portraiture, wildlife to black and whites, there are fun, informative, and insightful articles for just about everyone. Be sure to explore what we have under the Learn tab on the PhotographyTalk website.

Check Out What PT Members Have to Say in This Week’s Top Forum Post

How do you give credit to someone that edits one of the photos you take? Or do you even need to credit that person, should the image be published? This question was posed to the forum this week by PT member Ray Tevich and generated a good discussion of how and when photographers should credit others that help create their work. Head into the forum and see what the community thinks about this issue, and be sure to add your thoughts to the forum thread as well.

Looking for the best canvas prints? Check this out.