New Feature: Playlist Center! Pick a topic and let our playlists guide the way.

Start learning with our library of video tutorials taught by experts. Get started

The Elements of Effective Photographs
Illustration by

What makes an effective photograph?


From:

The Elements of Effective Photographs

with Natalie Fobes

Video: What makes an effective photograph?

What makes an effective photograph? For me, a successful photograph is one where you achieve your intent in a thoughtful skilled way. These photographs combine intelligent light and motion, skilled composition and color, and ideally a message that educates or moves the viewer. Not all photographs live up to this standard and yet they can be effective too-- and I am talking about photos I call happy snaps. By that, I mean the quick photographs we take of family and friends and events that we want to remember.

Watch this entire course now—plus get access to every course in the library. Each course includes high-quality videos taught by expert instructors.

Become a member
please wait ...
The Elements of Effective Photographs
1h 36m Beginner Aug 30, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In this course, Pulitzer-nominated photographer Natalie Fobes takes viewers into the studio and on location to explore the many elements that combine to make an effective photo.

The course explores compositional elements that guide a viewer's eye, including the rule of thirds; leading lines, patterns, and curves; and depth of field. Natalie then details the roles of color and light in a photo. She shows how to work with the natural light in a room or outdoor location, and how to enhance it using reflectors, newspapers, a T-shirt, or whatever might be handy. She also shows some simple indoor lighting setups that can replicate the look of natural light.

The course continues with a look at movement and how a photographer can convey a sense of motion by blurring part of the image or freezing a fast-moving subject. Next, Natalie explores the concepts of peak action and the decisive moment—those split seconds that capture the essence or emotion of a subject or scene. The course wraps up with a discussion of the roles of planning and research in creating effective photos.

Subjects:
Photography Photography Foundations
Author:
Natalie Fobes

What makes an effective photograph?

What makes an effective photograph? For me, a successful photograph is one where you achieve your intent in a thoughtful skilled way. These photographs combine intelligent light and motion, skilled composition and color, and ideally a message that educates or moves the viewer. Not all photographs live up to this standard and yet they can be effective too-- and I am talking about photos I call happy snaps. By that, I mean the quick photographs we take of family and friends and events that we want to remember.

In fact, these photographs are downright priceless, but when you show them to other people, that's a different story. When was the last time you really enjoyed looking at someone else's vacation snapshots? It comes down to the decisions you make before, during, and after the shoot. Our cameras give us lots of technical choices: what exposure, what ISO, what shooting mode, and what lens? And then there are the creative choices. Where is the best vantage point? How will you compose that shot or pose your subject? Will you try to capture peak action or the decisive moment? How much depth of field do you want? Will you try to add special effects in post? And if so, what? As a photographer trying to create photographs that really work, your job is to answer them.

Let me show you what I mean with one of my recent assignments. Riley is a very talented young musician who needed professional portraits for promotion. He plays in symphony halls as well as jazz clubs, so the photographs had to work for both. He needed two kinds of photos: a standard headshot and ones more like a CD cover. The message we wanted the photographs to send was that Riley is sophisticated, cool, incredibly talented, and artistic.

I did the headshot series first, because most people are more comfortable posing for these and I wanted to get it out of the way before we went to the more creative stuff. I shot it in my garage with a concrete wall as a backdrop. I opened my garage door to create a soft sidelight that wrapped around his features. I set the camera in the manual mode, so I could have maximum control. My focal length was 105 and the aperture was f/4.

This combination of telephoto lens and wide aperture threw the background out of focus. I asked Riley to dip one shoulder forward to create that nice diagonal line through the composition. Then we worked with his expressions and his head positions. This last shot is the winner. It is the moment when it all came together. His eyes, expression, the turn of his head, the lighting, the composition, and the selective focus make it the most effective photograph of this series.

The portrait works well in color, in black and white, in sepia, or in selenium tone. Next, I wanted to create a feeling of him being on stage. Still in the garage, but now with the door closed, I set up a single strobe to replicate a stage spotlight. I wanted the light to give hard shadows, and I wanted those shadows to be on the wall. I wasn't sure at the beginning what pose I would like the most, so I took lots of photographs with a lot of variations.

These photographs are my notes. They are like the notes for a reporter. I keep working the situation by photographing until I can clearly see the best photo. Many of these work well, but this one is the one that I think is the most effective. The message of the light is late night and jazzy. The greater depth of field shows the detail in the concrete. Even though all of the horn isn't visible, there is enough that you know he is a trumpet player.

His expression is thoughtful. He raised his arm and it made it look like he was thinking. And by tilting the camera, the composition comes together. This last shot was taken outside on a cloudy day. I wanted to emphasize Riley's face while still including the horn. I used 180 at 2.8 to give me a very shallow depth of field. The focus is on Riley's eyes and the horn and vegetation is out.

I pushed Riley way over to the side of the frame. Now, to keep this from being awkward, I positioned the horn on an angle so that the line brings your eye right back to Riley. It holds the composition together. And check out how beautiful the texture of the background is. This is called bokeh, and we'll get into that later in the course. The photograph works fine in color, but in this case, it's much more effective in black and white. The background isn't distracting, so your eye goes right back to Riley's.

Riley and I were both very happy with the photographs. So what sets these photos apart from happy snaps? Planning and forethought-- before I press the shutter I thought about each photo and the message I wanted it to convey. After that, I chose the lens and the aperture that would give me the right depth of field. I created my lighting, and played with the composition and pose to make sure I achieved the message.

So yes, you are right; that's a lot to think about! But with practice and experience, this kind of thought becomes second nature.

There are currently no FAQs about The Elements of Effective Photographs.

 
Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.
Upgrade now


Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ.

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

join now Upgrade now

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.


Mark all as unwatched Cancel

Congratulations

You have completed The Elements of Effective Photographs.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.


OK
Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member?

Become a member to like this course.

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses.

Get started

Already a member?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

The classic layout automatically defaults to the latest Flash Player.

To choose a different player, hold the cursor over your name at the top right of any lynda.com page and choose Site preferencesfrom the dropdown menu.

Continue to classic layout Stay on new layout
Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Are you sure you want to delete this note?

No

Notes cannot be added for locked videos.

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.


Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from lynda.com.

Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

   
submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.