Written by Kenneth C. Hoffman
If you are into taking and selling stock photos, I am sure you have experienced some good success and some disappointment. The photos that were rejected were probably very good, but failed to capture the eye of the photo editor. Here are some tips to keep in mind while you are clicking away with your camera.
Composition should be a priority. Balance your masses and centers of interest. A main interest, say a child’s face can be low and to the left of center looking up toward a second center of interest, say an adult face. This face should be slightly further away (smaller) and placed higher and to the right of center.
Straight lines placed parallel to the edges of the picture create a static feeling. Diagonal lines foster a feeling of dynamics and action. Curved lines can be used to guide the eye to an important subject and generally help strengthen human emotions. Since English speaking people read left to right, start your curved diagonal line near the lower left corner to ‘ease’ the process of ‘reading’ the photo.
High contrast images demand more attention to silhouettes and edges. Clean silhouettes make a strong statement as opposed to busy, confused edges. Pure white backgrounds do help isolate the image, but often appear catalogue like and cold. Remember, pure white and pure black do not occur in nature.
If blue skies with clouds are an integral part of your photo, decide whether the sky is the main subject or there only for realism. If that is so, make sure the sky and clouds take up a minor portion of your composition. Horizons should be dead straight and never cut the photo in half. If the sky is the main subject, a horizontal image is to be preferred.
Nature photos are most interesting when side light is present. Near dusk photos contain a warm, rosy main light that skims your landscape, creating a three dimensional effect. The shadows are a complimentary bluish tone, supplying the needed contrast in color. These near dusk photos are so much more beautiful than other times of day, that you should consider this timing a must.
People pictures are the most difficult to take (well). Odd numbered groups create a more pleasant composition than even numbered groups. Try to place each face at a different height and slightly random in spacing. With some exceptions, no-one should be looking at the camera for a candid appearance. The story being told should be obvious and clearly stated. Expressions should be appropriate to the story: i.e. serious when concentrating and pleasant the rest of the time. Lighting can be available light when possible for a natural look or double flash when necessary. Newspaper photographers use a bare bulb technique for a foolproof photo that doesn’t look like a flash picture but stock photos demand a more professional result. The flash on your camera can be muted with a diffuser and the second main light flash can be bounced off a reflector or a light wall and ceiling. This configuration gives a natural, well lit picture and has the advantage of freezing the action at 1/10,000th of a second. Don’t be afraid to use your camera’s ability to take three pictures in a row to make certain you have captured the best expressions.
Backgrounds should be as non distracting as possible in order to place the viewer’s interest where it belongs. When presented with an opportunity to take a people picture, first scout out the available backgrounds and place your subjects within its borders. Pay special attention to the background immediately behind the faces for a clean look. Random distracting articles can easily be digitally remove later in Photoshop.
While these tips are but a small part of your photographic endeavors, they can make the difference between a good photo and a great one that sells.
About the Author: A retired portrait and wedding photographer, I enjoy writing , how to articles, helpful articles on photography and many other subjects. My hobbies include quartet singing, shop, bicycling and photography. Please visit my web site at http://www.photoartbyken.com
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