What’s Your Angle?

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Do you ever wonder why two people can take a picture of the same thing and they can look totally different?  Two people see a gorgeous monument and both take pictures…one is just a picture of a monument and one is a work of art in and of itself.   Or, two people take pictures of their kids playing in the yard and one looks like a bunch of weeds with a kid in it and the other looks like it belongs on the living room wall.  Why is this?

Well, much of photography is not about what we take pictures of (subject) or what we take pictures with (our camera). In addition to those things, the WAY we take pictures drastically changes the final outcome. The way we approach our subjects can take a photo from snapshot to art.  Let me show you…

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A few weeks ago we had an Easter Egg hunt at our friends house.  They have some beautiful new flowers popping up in their yard and I loved them. They were just a beautiful bright spot in my day — making be catch my breath in wonder of the beauty of nature.  It also made me feel like it was spring after all (in a place where really it is an eternal summer).  I wanted to capture it.  But to do that, I had to think, to explore different angles, to try different ways to capture in my camera what I felt in my heart.

The above photo is what most people do…they see something pretty and they take a picture.  Yes, it captured the image in the literal sense but in the artistic and emotional sense, the photo did nothing. It is a few flowers in a patch of dirt.  Nothing more.

But then I took my camera and explored some different angles. I tried to see the flowers in all their beauty.  Here are the results…

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First I got down to ground level and took a photo with my eye at the level of the top of the flowers. I set my camera to a large aperature (2.8) and got in close which allowed me to focus on specific flowers.  This creates a blurry foreground and background and adds more visual interest to the flowers.  My eye knows where to look.  If you don’t have a camera with manual controls, look for the macro setting (usually a flower symbol) or the portrait setting (usually a profile image) on your point and shoot.

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Next I turned my camera from a horizontal angle to a vertical angle.  Still at ground level, I took the photo framing the flowers in top third of the frame.  By having the stems take up the bottom two thirds, I was able to emphasize the ideas of growth and newness.

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Finally, I stood above the flowers, focusing on the beautiful inner workings of the flower.  In post processing, in order to keep the emphasis totally on the flowers, I duplicated the layer and changed the top layer to multiply mode.  This darkened the dark pixels but left the gorgeous colors of the flower. I also cloned out the distracting “extra” flower. The above photo is the original photo and the bottom one is the final result.

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Angle means so much.  I encourage you to try this process.

1. Choose a subject

2. Take photos of the subject from different angles — in front, behind, above, below, up close, pulled back. Try both horizontal and vertical images.

3. Think about why you are taking the photo — is there something about the scene in front of you that you are trying to capture?  Think about how you can best do that.

4. Experiment in post processing (editing) of your photos. How can you make a good photo great? Can you get rid of something that is distracting?  Can you crop the photo in a way that places emphasis on something specific?

Here is another scene that I experimented with…my daughter on the beach.

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1.  A “typical” snapshot photo.  Parent standing above the kid, looking down. Subject centered

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2.  I got down to ground level. This helped show more of what she was doing and allowed me to get the water in the photo, further enhancing the story of her being at the beach.

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3. I zoomed in close so I could actually see what she was doing with her shells. I love that being in close shows details I otherwise might not have noticed — like how hard she is pushing those shells into the sand!

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4.  A quick picture of her looking up at me…making her “oh no, not another photo” face.

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So, what’s your angle?

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