When composing an image, the addition of geometric patterns or basic shapes such as lines, circles, squares and triangles can add structure and organization within that photograph. It can help the photographer convey an idea or feeling to the viewer. The overall purpose of this is simple, to keep the viewers eye within the frame of the image. The viewer may perceive only a “pleasing image” without ever knowing or asking why.
There is a psychology behind the use of geometric patters in art and how the human mind perceives each of these shapes. Geometric shapes have been used in all types of art throughout the centuries and photography is no exception. The human mind perceives squares and rectangles to suggest conformity. Circles suggest completeness, triangles represent tension and lines represent movement. Be aware there are variations of these shapes such as vertical versus horizontal lines versus diagonal with each representing something different but the basic idea is the same. The goal being to engage the viewer.
There are two basic forms of geometry in photography, true and perceived. A true form would be the rectangular window or doorway on a house. A perceived triangle could be three people in an image that when connected by an imaginary line form a triangle. Which form is used weather perceived or true depends on the opportunity presented to the photographer at the time.
This is one of the techniques used in composition. Examples of other techniques used include the use of opposing colors and perspective Again, depending on the subject, intent and overall goal of the message to be conveyed by the photographer will determine the technique used.
The above image shows an example of use of a few geometric shapes within an image. Also note the the image is in black and white to place emphasis on the shapes rather then the color version which may distract the viewers attention from the basic geometric shapes.
Adding color to your images using flash gels can give an ordinary image a little “pop”. Gels are generally plastic colored filters that are placed over a light source, in this case a flash, that add or correct color in a photograph. In this image, 2 flashes were used. One on the model that was filtered with a warming colored gel and one hidden behind the pillow on the scanner table with a blue gel to give the scanner a high tech bluish “glow”. Color used was a personal preference and could have been any number of colors that gels come in.
Sometimes gels are used to correct color in a scene. If shooting a scene that has ambient florescent lighting with a flash the lighting color in the resulting photo can be an undesired orange. To correct this, a gel can be placed over the flash to compensate.
Gels are fairly inexpensive and a great way to add a splash interest in a photo or correct unwanted color.
When shooting images that require the use of flash or strobes consider the use of off camera lighting. Controlling the position and angle of the light source can yield much better results than using a flash connected to the hot shoe of your camera. When the light source is in line with the lens the image tends to look cold and flat. By removing this source from the camera and moving it at an angle to the subject the light becomes more natural and pleasing. The angle used will vary depending on the mood the photographer is trying to make. I shot the image of this model in a small studio using three off camera lights. The look here was a soft, evenly lit model.
The diagram below represents the actual lighting setup used in the studio. Similar results can be achieved using one strobe and a reflector or two. The softness of the light is achieved by using light diffusers. This is a material placed between the light source and subject to help soften the light. In this case a soft box was used as the main or “Key” light. The strobe on the right was used to fill in shadows created by the key light and the strobe behind the model was used to light the screen in the background. A fairly simple but effective setup for the look I wanted to achieve.
Protecting your photographs from copyright infringement is important in today’s digital age. It’s too easy to have your images stolen and used for profit without your knowledge. If your a professional photographer or amateur enthusiast there are a few basic steps to take to protect your images from being stolen.
You wake up at 5am, pack 60 lbs of camera equipment in the trunk and drive 20 miles to a location to take a great image you scoped out a few months back knowing the conditions will be right for the image you were looking to create. You come home after a few hours of shooting,go through 100 or so images until you find the right one and sit down for an hour to edit your work and polish up the final image.
You take the final image and post it up on Facebook, Google +, Flickr and whatever other photo sharing sites you use only to find that after a few months, BAM! someone else is profiting from your image by selling it on a tee shirt or coffee mug or perhaps using it on their own website as a banner because they liked your picture and never asked you for permission to use it. Unfortunately, you have to post your images on the Internet otherwise they will never be seen. I’ll often post on social sites to draw traffic to my website where my portfolio can be viewed.
A few years ago I was contacted by National Geographic Stock cause they were interested in a few of my images for their collection. Cool… whats the deal? The deal was I get 40% of whatever they sell my image for. They negotiate terms and licensing agreements on behalf of the photographer. Sounds like a good opportunity especially since to sell stock images through National Geographic is a by” invite only thing”. So I uploaded the three images they wanted and forgot about it. A year and a half later I decided to do a reverse image search on one of the images using Google’s free image search feature and I seen my image for sale on Zazzle.com web site. You could get an i-pad case for $40 , tee-shirts for $15, coffee mugs for $10, key chains and whole bunch of other junk for various prices all with my image on it!
After some research I found that National Geographic stock had made some kind of deal with zazzle.com to sell this stuff. I can do that myself and collect 100% of the profit of sales without national geographic taking a cut. The other thing I found out was that national geographic had also sold my image to Getty images, AP Images and Superstock. Again, I could have done that myself without National Geographic getting 60% of the sale and me only getting 40%. I was never notified this was going on until I asked. My cut of these sales turned into penny’s on the dollar by the time the profits trickled down the food chain.
After a few phone calls to national geographic stock, all of the images were removed from the other stock sites and Zazzle.com within 48 hours. I had also pulled my images off the National Geographic site.
How can you protect your images from being stolen like mine were? Simple answer…you cant. Once you post images online people will take them. There are however a few steps you can take to make it harder and be able to pursue legal action if necessary.
1. Always have a copyright watermark on anything you post.Make sure it’s clearly written on the image. It may take away from the aesthetics but it is a deterrent for some image thieves. I did this!
2. Register your images with the library of congress copyright office. It costs about $30 but you can register hundreds of images for that fee. It’s not a bad idea to register the images first before you publish them if time permits. By registering the images you have a much better case of copyright infringement if you have to go to court. I register almost all of my images in large groups at a time. I do this about every 6 months to a year depending on how many images I have shot over the course of that time period. I did this too!
3. If you have a few prize winner images, do an occasional Google reverse image search to see if any infringement has occurred. Click on the little camera icon to the right of the search box upload your image you want to search and it will spit back the results in a few seconds. There are other services for this but I found Google’s service to work best and it’s free.
If you find your image has been stolen you need to use your judgment on weather to handle the matter directly with the accused or involve an attorney who specializes in copyright infringement and intellectual property rights. If you choose the later of the two methods of handling the dispute be aware you have have an initial layout in legal fees. If the infringement involved a large global company there could be quite a large settlement rewarded and the initial investment can have a big payoff. However,if the infringement involved a small personal website, you might be better off contacting the author direct. Often it will behoove them to be receptive to your requests especially if you let them know its a registered image.
Often times we are compelled to capture photographs of beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Blue skies scattered with white puffy clouds always looking for the “perfect” light early in the morning or late afternoon. But what about the dreary mid afternoon weather or impending storm front. This can be a perfect opportunity to capture images that can evoke another mood or feeling to the viewer. I try to take every opportunity to find something to shoot when I know a bad weather is heading my way. I’ll often keep locations of interesting subjects in the back of my mind for such a day knowing that a fowl weather sky would enhance contrast within the photograph. I have shot many examples of this where the subject in an image would not have been as interesting if the sky wasn’t so gloomy. Rainy days provides us with puddles,water droplets or may add a reflective surface to blacktop which can make for an interesting composition.An example is the image on the left that was shot on a miserable foggy morning along the shore. This was the kind of morning you want to take advantage of and sleep in but I knew however, that this thick fog could present a good opportunity for a photograph.
When the weather is bad and the skies are stormy consider grabbing your camera and tripod and getting out there and shooting. You’ll be surprised at how many photographic opportunities are out there for you to take advantage of.