Beyond SnapShots: In Search of Details and Design

by Kerry Drager

Marina Buoy Pattern - Vertical
Marina Buoy Pattern - Vertical
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved
It's no secret that the world around us is a visually hectic place. As such, it shouldn't be surprising that the most common compositional problem is too much stuff in the photo ... i.e., multiple elements that compete for the viewer's attention. However, our job, as photographers, is to simplify these chaotic scenes.

There's an old "law" in photography that goes something like this: A photo rarely falls short because the subject isn't GOOD enough. More likely, the picture falls short because the subject isn't CLOSE enough. Here's a good shooting "workflow":

First, stop and identify the specific subject that has caught your eye. Next, de-clutter by moving in closer or zooming in tighter, in order to leave out the distracting extras.

During a recent Oregon Coast trip, I found a scene with potential. Check out the "Before/Overall View" snapshot below. I then focused on the graphic-design elements - i.e., colors, lines, patterns, repetition, shapes. See the accompanying "after" images: Marina Buoy Pattern and Fishing Rope Pattern.

Some specifics on these photos:

Marina Buoy Pattern - Horizontal
Marina Buoy Pattern - Horizontal
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved
Light
In all areas of photography, light is just as critical to an image's success as subject and composition. An overcast day? Or total shade? Excellent! Soft light can be perfect for working on a small photographic canvas. And for the accompanying photos, I chose the soft light of early morning in order to avoid a harsh and unsightly mix of glaring sunlight and deep shadows.

Depth of Field
With graphic-design scenes, all parts of the composition are of equal importance, as opposed to scenes in which a single isolated subject is the star of the show. For each of the pattern shots shown here, I used a really small aperture (high f/number) in order to attain as much sharpness (DOF) throughout the image as possible.


Fishing Rope Pattern
Fishing Rope Pattern
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved
Tripod for Stationary Scenes
A tripod opens up the dramatic, non-flash world of low light without having to raise the ISO to potentially noisy high levels - for instance, in deep shade, at daybreak and sundown, and during twilight time. It makes possible the longer exposures necessary when going for a deep depth of field.

A tripod also helps you slow down and analyze things. Locking your camera into place lets you tweak the composition just a little bit more. By carefully composing your picture at the time of shooting, you'll reach image-quality nirvana - no need to post-crop!

Note: Click on each photo to see the enlarged image, along with the exposure settings.


Before - Overall View
Before - Overall View
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved

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About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Kerry Drager
Photography Instructor: Kerry Drager
Kerry Drager is a professional photographer, teacher and writer who is also the co-author of two books: The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography and The BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light. He has taught many photography courses (online and in person), seminars and field workshops.

Be sure to check out Kerry's website - www.kerrydrager.com.

Also, he is the author of Scenic Photography 101, the photographer of the photo-essay books The Golden Dream: California from Gold Rush to Statehood and California Desert , a contributor to the books BetterPhoto Basics and Daybreak 2000, and a co-photographer of Portrait of California. In addition, Kerry was profiled in the April 1994 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine and in Vik Orenstein's 2010 book The Photographer's Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business, and his website was showcased in the January 2003 issue of Shutterbug magazine. Plus, his work has appeared in magazines, Hallmark cards and Sierra Club calendars, and in advertising campaigns for American Express and Sinar Bron Imaging.

Also follow Kerry on Facebook, where he posts photos several times a week that include shooting tips and thoughts.

Kerry lives with his wife, Mary, on California's Central Coast, with their three Newfoundland dogs, four cats, and a mixed terrier.