Rod Stewart was right.

Yes indeed, every picture does tell a story. And sometimes it can tell a whole story but sometimes an individual photo can be assigned the role of telling a part of the story. While others can tell other other parts of the story. ” Oh Gene… get to the point… I have a turkey in the oven.”

Here is the point… when shooting an “event”…. approach it like a photojournalist does… tell the story via several photos. Have a plan. I have a friend who went to Ireland. Shot a boatload of photos. And after about the first 50, I was yawning. Photo after photo… a wide shot of a castle followed by another wide shot of a castle followed by….. well you know. Sad. An opportunity to tell a much more interesting story… gone.

Now… a photojournalist can tell a complete story without any words… just by implementing a simple plan. Get out your pencils… this is the good stuff. Here is the idea… shoot at least three shots….. one wide… to say where you are…. one medium…. to help draw the viewer further into your story and last… shoot a tight shot… to really bring the viewer into a “up close and personal ” experience. Show the textures… make them feel it. Of course you can shoot more of each… but just don’t shoot one photo and say…”let’s go”. It only takes a couple minutes but the “event” will have so much more meaning and will have so much more impact.

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So… take a peek at the above series. It is a pretty good example of a well-executed plan…. I sometimes call it the “funnel method.”
Start wide… say where you are… then get tighter and tighter to tell the complete story. Now this little piece of info should come in handy during the Holidaze… or a winter outing… or apple picking… or a recital….South Sea vacation… or really… any “event.”

This is my last post for a week… so… Merry Christmas… and keep your camera close and your family closer!

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How watching “Psycho” and “Casablanca” will make you a better photographer.

It did me. Honestly. “Oh please Gene… try to explain your way out of this one.” Well…. the brilliance of “Hitch” transcends various creative genre. Did you ever see the… well… you know… the weapon doing the mayhem in well.. you know where? Nope. The reason is that the mind will fill in where the visual stops.

Keep typing Gene. In photography… less is more… just like in the movies!

If you take a photograph of someone’s weathered and dirty hands… do you have to show the elbows… or even his/her face to tell the viewer… heh… this person is a certain age and does a certain thing for a living or hobby? Nope. You have told the story by using a stronger…simpler… tighter graphic. And by doing so your photograph is more memorable and powerful. Hitch knew this.
And in Casablanca… wait a minute Geno… you are “cherry-pickin'”… some great classic movies to make a point! Yes… I am. Now… in Casablanca… just like Hitch… Michael Curtiz… visualized for me scenes that have made me … I believe, a better photographer.

Remember when Rick goes to get the money from the safe because someone had won” too much” money at the roulette table? And Rick is seen as a silhouette retrieving the money. Did you see Rick’s face? No. His hands? No. The money coming from the safe? Nope. But the mind filled it all in. A beautifully designed scene.

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Now take a peek at the roof photo above. I know… it is not as dramatic as the movie examples but it does illustrate that you don’t have to show everything… to tell a story.The buildings are ancient… building codes were… let’s say… lacking. Simple structures… made of stone… in a small village. That is the story but it was told with a simple… well composed graphic. Not too tight… not too wide.

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Here’s another example of… less is more.

Question: How much of an old French Renault in winter… do you have to show to say it is an old French Renault in winter?
Answer: Just enough.

When you are out shooting… try to exclude everything that doesn’t add to the story. And remember… the mind will fill in quite a bit… leaving you with a strong… simple… and hopefully a more dramatic photograph.

Now… rent a couple great movies… and learn from the masters. But don’t forget the popcorn.

The Cat. The Frenchman. And the Holidays.

An odd grouping… but actually, the photos of each share the same exact problem for the photographer. Cats move. People move and of course at the holidays… everything is in constant motion. No one sits for more than a split second. And if they do stop… the scene becomes “posed.” The moments of capturing things in their most relaxed, natural state are fleeting.

So… Gene… what is the solution? Well… first look under the tree and see if you have a squarish box with your name on it. It should weigh about 2 pounds. Open it… and if it is the camera you asked for… then bingo… you have in your hands a camera that has a setting that allows you to take several shots per second! That is what you need!

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Now take a peek at the two shots above. Both were chosen from a series… a burst…of exposures… and in that second… the cat was looking somewhere else… the paws were not up and the French guy… well… he was, as I remember… looking at the phone and then somewhere else and then somewhere else again. But… out of that I got a fun shot of the cat and an interesting natural shot of the man.
So… for the Holidays… be prepared… set the camera for multi-exposures… and shoot away. Heh… it is digital… so you are not wasting money in film stock. Have fun. And a very Merry Christmas.

KISS

Sorry… this has very little, if anything, to do with amour. Nope… it has everything to do with keeping the subject of your photograph… simple. Singular. One thought. One thing that dominates the scene. You should be hearing people say…”I just love your photo of THE… (insert singular subject here).

To illustrate… I was once shown a photograph of a golf course. I asked…”What interested you most about the scene… what said… heh, take a picture of me?” She replied…”the water feature over there.”Well… it was only a dinky piece of the scene… so my eye was sent searching around looking for the reason she had pushed the shutter… like in a “Where’s Waldo” episode.
Nothing dominated the scene.

So here’s a compositional tip… keep it simple. Hone in on the subject like a laser.
You know… k…i…s…s.

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Above you will see a photo of a group of mis-matched chairs. It was taken in Bonnieux…. a few miles away.
Notice I said… “A group…..” There are several chairs, but the subject is singular.

To me, what is also interesting about this photo is that it tells a little story about the village. It is hilly. The streets and homes are made of stone. And it is very very old.
We will get into a photograph’s ability to “tell a story.” But that is for another day. Today… just keep it simple.

Do you see what I see?

Well… of course not… and that is what … or at least one of the things that make us all different. We see things differently… or in this case we see different things. And that is just fine. One person’s bunch of piled up scrape metal will be another’s chance to compose order out of chaos… to turn junk into a dramatic rhythm of tones. One person’s view is not wrong… but kudos to the person who can see beauty where another sees nothing at all.

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Which brings me to the photo above. It looks like modern art. It has a strong directional line that takes the viewer’s eyes from left to right.
It is a nice play of squares juxtaposed to curves… color against black. It is a graphic mystery and quite interesting to some.

To others… it is a reflection of some buildings into the glass and hood of an automobile.
Look around you… dramatic photographs are there for the taking. See?

Drama class.

Some photographs are nice. Some are purely informational. And some are interesting because Uncle John is in there… out of focus…cut off at the knees… with his eyes aglow from the flash. But his friends say…”I love that shot… he is so funny.” Which brings me to my point for the day.

If you want people to “talk about” your photography in the same terms they talk about another piece of fine art… the key is drama.

In other posts, I will be talking and illustrating other ways you can add drama into your photographs… but today… it is our old standby… leading lines. Strong directional “lines” that grab the eyes of the viewer and leads him/her into or around the photograph.

That is the power of “leading” lines.

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Take a quick peek at the photo above. Yes I know… it is the most simplistic and most often used direction… smack dab up the middle.
But it is effective. And it is dramatic. Again, when composing a photograph… think shapes not things… and if you can grab the viewer’s eyes and drag them in… then voila… you have created not just a nice photo… but a piece of fine art.

I did it with rows of lavender and some fresh snow… and a few seconds of thinking of how to make it more than just nice.

Try it. It works.

Be a good boy scout.

You have, no doubt, heard of the old adage… “Good things come to people who wait.” Well… in photography it is even more true.
Patience is a great trait to have any time, but in photography it is often the key to “getting that shot”… the one that has people asking…”Did you shoot that?” Have patience… be a good scout.

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Sometimes… you’re waiting for something to “walk into a scene” in order to give it some life… some humanity. So… you sit and wait for something good to happen. Other times… waiting involves good o’ Mr. Sun. Perhaps it is lingering behind a cloud. Perhaps it hasn’t come over that mountain yet. Or perhaps it hasn’t come around that pesky tree… just wait. You will be rewarded.

Take a peek at the photo above.

Fifteen minutes before the shutter was pushed the scene was ordinary. But… patience pays. Great shadows. Extraordinary color.

Try it… you’ll be amazed just how much a few minutes can alter a photograph’s visual impact.