I’ll start with some happy news – my photo (shown below on the right) of my pup Knish won 2nd place in a Humane Society of the United States photo contest!! The contest was held by their Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA) department to showcase the beauty and communicative value of a dog’s natural tail. Their goal was to help educate the public on why tail docking and other cosmetic surgeries on dogs are utterly unnecessary. I was elated to hear it won 2nd place and Knish has been slobbery with glee and strutting his cute butt with a little extra swagger ever since! Click here for the HSVMA press release.
In light of this unexpected honor, I’d like to share some basic photography tips that you can use on your travels. None of these are hard and fast rules, just guidelines. I used to paint in college but finding time for that since then has been hard so photography has become my creative outlet. I am by NO means a professional photographer. I am a mere amateur who happens to be madly in love with her camera (I use a Nikon D60 digital SLR). I’ve taken a few photography courses and I hope to keep taking more. The tips below are way too simple for any professional photographers out there. They’re for you fellow amateur photographers who’d like to step up your game a notch. Hopefully as I step up my own game, I’ll keep providing more tips. Hope you enjoy!
1. Use the Rule of Thirds.
This is one of the most fundamental and accepted theories in photography. To convey the best story and provide the best viewing experience, the focal points of the image (the parts of the image that are most important to the story you’re trying to tell) should be placed in accordance with the rule of thirds. If you draw 2 parallel lines both horizontally and vertically though the image you end up dividing the photo into 3 parts horizontally and 3 parts vertically (9 parts total – see the blue lines on the image to the right).
The theory is that people’s eyes tend gravitate towards one of the intersecting points in the image more naturally than towards the middle of the image or any other area. So instead of having your focal point be smack in the center of the image, think about placing it near one of those intersections. In the photo of my dog, both the end of his tail and the main portion of his back, the main focal areas of this photo, fall near the intersections on the right hand side of the photo. This rule even works with close up photos. For example, if it’s a photo of a face, have the main focal points, the eyes and mouth, fall along the imaginary intersections.
Extra Tip: When taking outdoor photos, place the horizon of the picture along one of the 2 horizontal lines.
2. Change Your Perspective.
You can add a whole lotta drama to your photo just by changing your perspective a bit. For example, instead of taking a photo straight on, get down to the floor and shoot upwards, or conversely, take a photo from above looking down. This simple technique can transform your photo from ordinary to extraordinary! So think about the story you’re trying to tell, then move around and find the best vantage point to relay that story.
For this photo I got down on the ground, WAY to close to a huge elephant’s front feet as he walked towards me, and shot upwards (probably not in your best interests to try this with an elephant). In doing so I further emphasized the enormity of this beautiful pachyderm. The sky that day happened to be completely white with clouds so it almost looks like this big boy is floating!
Here’s a shot my husband actually took on a river raft we rode in Thailand. To get the shot he lied down on his stomach to add focus to the Thai hats on the floor of the raft, one of which was also being worn by the man paddling our boat.
3. Get Up Close & Personal!
I absolutely LOVE close up images. Sometimes you just don’t need all the clutter in the background. If you’re traveling, you’ll encounter some amazing faces, both human and furry! If human, start up a conversation and get to know the person. Then politely ask if they wouldn’t mind if you took a photo of them. Most people will be flattered and it’s a great way to connect with new people. If your subject walks on four legs, they probably don’t need be asked, but be respectful nonetheless!
Some up close shots I’ve taken.
4. Be Creative but Keep it Simple
I often find that the most simple photos are the most creative and interesting. Sometimes there’s an amazing photo right in front of you that so easily gets overlooked. So keep your eyes open for those creative shots that others might miss!
I took this photo at a friend’s wedding during dinner. Of course I have a ton of photos of all the people at the wedding but this simple photo ended up being one of my favorites.
Here’s my nephew trying on my shoes.
Here’s a photo I took for my photography exhibit at the end of my very first photography course. Perfect example of sometimes less is more
5. Pay Attention to Lines
There are horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines. If the lines are obvious the eye will naturally follow them through the photo. Lines can add depth, movement, drama and emotion to a photo, depending on the type of line and how obvious it is.
Horizontal lines, such as a horizon line, often convey calmness and tranquility.
Vertical lines usually convey growth and strength.
Diagonal lines can add depth, movement, action and/or drama to a photo. They may not always be obvious so look out for them.
6. Get Emotional
I’m a Cancer and, for better or worse, we’re an emotional bunch so I really love to capture emotion in my photos. I find using tip #3 is a good way to accomplish this but it sometimes takes a lot more than just getting up close. It’s about capturing a moment and often the entire image, not just the subject of the image, plays into the emotion being conveyed. To create emotion, think about how all of the factors playing into the photo represent a part of the story you are telling. The person viewing it will also bring their own unique interpretations.
For example, in last week’s blog I used the photo below. I took this photo in Costa Rica where they were selling baby chicks at an outdoor market. All of the elements in this photo worked to convey an emotion – the look on this chick’s face, as if lost in thought, the cage wires he was peering out of, and the many chicks crammed in behind him. To me, this moment was a reminder of the individuality of every animal, which is something that gets lost in the shuffle when the entire species is treated collectively like a commodity. My own ideologies obviously influenced the emotions I perceived. To me, the look on this chick’s face showed an individual longing for something better.
I took the below photo of a dog on the beach in Costa Rica. I felt so bad for this sweet girl. She was so affectionate and so skinny. I was told that she was owned by someone but that they didn’t take care of her, or even feed her, and used her merely for security purposes. Capturing her behind the barbed wire begging to get into our campsite also conveyed to me her longing for a better life but at the same time I see a slight resignation, or loss of hope, for anything better.
I took the below photos in Argentina at a rehabilitation center for wild animals. I believe the sad guy to the left was rescued from the black market. His face seems to hold onto the sadness he’s experienced in life. The guy to the right (you may recognize him from one of my previous posts) had no problem conveying his distain for me taking his picture.
On a happier note, at the same rehabilitation center, this adorable wild cat (not your average house cat!) had no problem putting on a display of comfort, happiness and affection for me!
That’s all the tips for now animal crusaders! Hopefully we can learn more together. What I’ve learned from this post already is that perhaps I should take a few more photos of actual people when I travel. What can I say, I’m drawn to what I’m drawn to.
I’ll leave you with just these few additional photos I’ve taken throughout my journeys. Enjoy!