Join Ben Long for an in-depth discussion in this video Working the shot, part of Introduction to Photography.
- I have to fess up, I was kind of nervous during that last movie, because the whole time we were standing there I was thinking, "Oh gosh, there's this thing behind me "that I really want to shoot "and the light's probably changing." Fortunately we finished, so now here I am, I'm facing these great trees with these wonderful shadows. I want to approach this just as a big piece of beautiful repetitive geometry that I want to compose around. Now I could try to stand here and figure out where the best shot is and go to that location and take that picture and then go home, except that that's not how photography works.
You, no one can shoot that way. You get the shot you want by working your subject. You move around, you take lots and lots of photos. I cannot stress this enough. In workshops the piece of advice I almost always give when I'm critiquing someone's images is we needed a couple more shots, we needed to see more around that angle, or we needed to see more from above. You don't know where the good picture is and that's okay, it doesn't make you a bad photographer that you can't visualize it perfectly in your mind. The way this works is you just start moving and that's what I'm going to do now.
This is also a great way to torture a video crew, because they are going to have to try and follow me and keep up and I'm going to be moving a lot. Now, what I'm thinking here is wide angles are going to really exaggerate and stretch these shadows and stretch the relationship between the shadows and the trees themselves. So I'm starting out by shooting wide. I'm shooting into the sun, which is a little bit tricky, because I'm risking flare, so I'm going to try and shield.
Oh boy, I can't do it without getting my hand in the shot. Oh, there we go. A little bit of finger I'll have to take out there at some point. Waited just a little bit long maybe. So though I say I don't know where the right shot is I'm experienced enough to have an idea that maybe the way to shoot this is wide angle, so I'm starting there. But I'm not going to finish there. I'm going to try some less wide shots as well. And again, I'm just thinking about line.
It's really interesting seeing these lines stretch across the frame. And now that I look back that way I realize wow, it's great, some clouds have moved in some point during the afternoon, I hadn't really realized that. So that's cool. And now as I look this way I go huh, maybe I could leave the trees out completely and just play with the shadows. I'm going to tell you also that I am maybe in this particular instance I've got an advantage over the situation that we've been talking about before, which is I'm not using my kit lens.
I'm using a very wide angle lens. I went over to my bag and I got out this nice wide angle zoom. And so I'm probably getting stuff that you can't get if you've got is the stock lens of your camera. Now here's an interesting balance exercise. Look at this, I've got these, I've got these trees over here, I've got the shadows, but then I've got this tree over here that's just serving as a whole other graphical element that I can work with.
So that's interesting. I should also say that I'm beginning to wonder if maybe these images are going to work best as black and white images. You may not have much experience with black and white. What's compelling about black and white is that without color in the image you're down to just line and shape, light and shadow, this type of situation gets really exaggerated in a nice way. That is obviously far beyond the scope of this course, but I have an entire course on black and white that'll walk you through all of that. When we're shooting black and white, even if our ultimate goal is black and white we still shoot in color.
Okay, now this is interesting. Working a silhouette situation I'm worried about the sun, it's poking through the trees there, I want it totally blocked. These things are really powerful in silhouettes because I get these nice little bits of light on the ground here and the sky's really great. So you've seen me walk a big loop, so that's great, I'm moving, I'm trying a lot of different things, I've come up with a lot of different angles, but I've been shooting them all right around five feet, eight inches off the ground. I'm going to go more extreme. I'm going to get down here. As I said, this is a really great way to torture a video crew.
If you have people you want to get back at and they're a video crew, just do this kind of thing. Make them follow you around while you work a shot. Now one problem with shooting into the light is it's killing my vision. I'm having trouble seeing detail in the view finder, that's why I'm shading myself. There's a play of light right along here that is interesting that I might be able to build something out of. So that's interesting.
I don't know, I don't yet actually know if I got a picture that I liked. I'm not worrying about that, I'm not thinking about that at all. This is an exercise in being very, very present and just going, "I think there's a shot here, "I'm going to take it, I'll worry later if it's any good." One of the other strongest compositional tricks in your bag is simplicity. Trying to eliminate clutter from the frame, trying to eliminate anything that's extra in the frame. I like the idea of these lines going this way, but I don't like all of these other trees and things.
I think I'm just not going to shoot that way at all anymore because it's too visually busy over there. Except I really like the light on those trees, but that's a different subject, I'll come back to that later. I'm losing light pretty quickly here. These shadows are filling in. I have not yet really gotten anything with these lemon trees in front. So I'm going to put one of these tall trees between me and the sun. I'll make it this one. And just see what I can get.
Oh, now this is interesting. Okay, nevermind the lemon trees, as I get close to these things and look up at them they are starkly silhouetted, they kind of look like flames licking up into the sky. So I'm going to just shoot up at them. I have no detail on the front of them, they're just silhouettes. In the next movie we're going to talk about why and what you can do about that. I think I've exhausted everything I can see with this lens. I'm going to change lenses. And now I'm going to go to something really extreme.
This is the value of a camera with interchangeable lenses. This is not an SLR, this is a mirrorless camera, but I can take this lens off and put on something called a fisheye lens. This is just another, pardon me, I know you shouldn't talk with your mouth full. This is just another type of lens that you can buy for pretty much any type of camera. This is a very, very wide angle lens. The thing is it is not a lens that has been corrected for the type of distortion that you get at wide angles.
You can see it's very short and it has this extremely round front end. It gives you what looks like what a fish with a big bulbous eye might see. What it gives me is almost 180 degrees of field of view. And this particular fisheye I really like because it's not actually super distorted. With this lens I don't get auto-focus, so I'm having to manually focus and it can be a little tricky, so I'm using both the focus markings on the lens and a really nice focus assist feature that this has where it lights up pixels that are in focus with bright white dots.
And that makes it a lot easier. This is definitely interesting. It's a far more abstract image and now I'm really getting the lemon trees in front. I'm not actually sure I like this shot though, I really had hopes for shooting this fisheye. I think I need to go farther back. Now there's all these shadows out here. Oh yeah, this is interesting. One thing that's tricky about this lens it's so wide angle, it's very easy to get your own feet or your hand in the shot.
Think I want to be over here. I'm trying to avoid, if I get here there's my shadow, so I'm coming over here. And again, I'm still working entirely in the mode of just, I'm not thinking about these as, "Oh, these are shadows of trees, "and trees grow from seeds." I'm thinking about nothing to do with reality, I'm looking only at line and form. And now I'm staring into the sun. Oh yeah, this is more interesting. I'm not worried about if this is a good shot, or which shot is good.
I'm going to figure that out when I get home. Working the shot is how you get the good picture. It's also something that can be pretty demoralizing, because what's going to happen now is I've dramatically increased my shooting ratio. I'm going to go home, dump all these images out of my camera into my computer and maybe, I haven't been keeping track, maybe I've shot 50 images here. I'm hoping to get one or two. One or two good images out of 50. And I'm going to look at all those and it's going to be very easy to go wow, I shot 48 bad pictures. No I didn't, I shot two good pictures.
And this isn't a glass half full, glass half empty thing, it's about understanding photographic process. I can't see this scene and know exactly what's supposed to be the best composition, I can't do that any more than a very good illustrator can look at a blank piece of paper and know exactly where every line goes. They have to sketch first and maybe they have to throw sketch after sketch away until they work out what the right image is and then, then they start zeroing in on their final composition. But you would never walk up to them and look at all the sketches on the floor and say, "Wow, you've got a bunch of bad pictures here." You would only look at the final one.
You would know that the others were what lead to that. That's exactly what we're doing here. We're taking lots of pictures, trying to zero in on the right one. So I'm feeling good about some of these. There was something that I couldn't get that I could see and I couldn't get it because I needed to make an exposure change on my camera. And I want to explain that to you, that's what we'll look at next.
Then it's time to take to the field and examine the rest of the factors that influence the quality of your photographs, including light metering, focus, composition, and flash. Ben also introduces techniques for shooting portraits and shows what you can do with an image editor in post. Last but not least, he'll provide a roadmap for learning more with the lynda.com extensive library of photography training. The path to becoming a better photographer begins with the first step. Start here!
- Exploring cameras and lenses
- Understanding media
- Controlling exposure
- Composing with autofocus
- Shooting portraits
- Understanding form and geometry
- Exporting and editing digital images