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Get Closer!

Kip’s Pic Tips & Tricks

Friday, August 7, 2015

Get Closer!

Let start with the most basic elements:

  1. You and your camera
  2. Your subject

Which implies a third element:

The distance between you and your subject.

If the subject is the full moon — a lot. Same is true of a sunset (even further). But what about more normal subjects — like your kids, or your cat?

A famous photographer — Robert Capa (you can look him up) — once said, “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

Are your photos good enough? Are you close enough?

First, look through some of your recent photos and gauge the space between you and your subject. Were you close enough? Often when shooting photos, we are afraid of invading someone’s personal space. But an interesting thing happens when we do — you get “intimate” and the photo comes alive.

Being this close physically to your subject can be awkward for both of you. To avoid this “in your face” quandary, tell your subjects what you are going to do up front, and get their permission before you move in for the shot. A funny thing happens when you do this — they usually get a little excited, are cooperative and feel like they are a part of the making of the photograph rather than just the subject.

Now, you can get too close — if you do, a person might get nervous, and their nose will look huge in the photo.

But there’s a sweet spot where good things happen. And quite often we are too far away from that spot when we snap the shutter.

I promise not to get too “techie” in these blog posts, but sometimes, given that we are dealing with a machine-based artform, it is unavoidable. So let me quickly digress into techno-babble:

There is a term in photography called “depth of field” that pertains to how much area is in focus. Several things contribute to this, but for now, let’s just “focus” on one: the closer you are to your subject, the more the background will be out of focus. And being out of focus ain’t bad, because what it does is separate your subject from the background, putting greater emphasis on your subject.

So here’s your marching orders for the weekend:

  1. Look at your recent photos and see if you were close enough.
  2. With the ones where you weren’t (kid’s playing, your cat, etc.), try shooting them again with this blog’s pointers in mind.
  3. Also (since “film” is free these days), take photos too far away and some too close.
  4. Find the sweet spot.
  5. Stay there.

Happy shooting!