Work It

by Steve Simon

In teaching various workshops, one of the key points I try to get across to students is to move around when determining the compostion. Everytime I remind them, I also remind myself.

It’s natural to shoot from a “comfort zone”, ie certain lens to subject distances, often from standing eye-level, same fast shutter speed, in our favorite sweater, etc. As a starting point this is fine, but I find that some of my best work has come from wandering far from this first exposure and looking at things through my camera in new ways.

The Composition Dance

I always remind myself, just a slight adjustment or small gesture can vault a picture from ordinary to extraordinary. Bend the knees and change the perspective, changing the juxtoposition of foreground subjects with the horizon.

Take chances-feel your way, shoot on impulse and I don’t edit in the field too much by looking at the digital preview (just some quick checks of the histogram)—it takes me out of the moment and disrupts my concentration. This is crucial when there is a lot going on and things are out of your control. By concentrating and shooting lots I hope to have to have some tough choices when editing back home in Aperture, as with this series in a Lesotho Church.

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When there is a lot going on, I move around and shoot a lot, on impulse.

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I want to have a lot to choose from to make some tough choices when determining my final frame in Aperture.

I don’t try and capture everything, but instead, identify visually rich opportunities with potential and concentrate on them. An inch wide, a mile deep. In the said workshops, I find many students are overwhelmed with the world around them. For example, at a parade with so much going on, if you try and shoot everything you might end up dissapointed. By focusing on the people and the floats that might make the best pictures, and shoot more of those subjects—the results will be better.

Other Tips

Keep camera perpendicular when possible to minimize distortion particularly with wide angle lenses. For those relatively new to photography, I recommend keeping zoom lenses at the extremes, the widest or longest setting, and move around with your eye to the viewfinder while composing the photo. Don’t underestimate the little things and pay attention to the entire frame.

Lastly, listen to your intuition. If you have a feeling you haven’t nailed the picture, you probably haven’t. So stay a little longer, work it a little harder—you will be rewarded.