Photo Composition – Class 4

Casper College, 4/16/19
Instructor: Karel Mathison

This week’s class was based primarily on questions for the first hour and a critique of student work for the last hour.

General Advice

Karel offered two major pieces of advice that apply to any photograph.

  • Know what you want an image to look like before you take the picture. If you haven’t figured this out, the odds of getting a really good picture are very low.
  • Pay attention to the lighting. Get the exposure right. Don’t lose important details to the shadows. Flash lights can be used to create lots of interesting shadow effects.

Landscape Tips

  • Get an interesting object in the foreground. Without it, landscapes can easily become flat and boring.
  • Emphasize the majesty of the scene.
  • When the image has a reflection, make sure you don’t crop part of the reflection out of the image.

Flash Tips

In general, Karel doesn’t like flash photography. The flash often over illuminates the subject creating a harsh feel in the image. A few tips to improve flash photos were offered.

  • After taking a sample shot, switch the camera to manual mode and change the settings to underexpose the image slightly.
  • Some flash units have support for a soft box that can be attached over the flash. The soft box is a unit that diffuses the outbound light. Diffusing the light prevents the flash from creating the sharp shadows that make the image harsh. An alternative technique for diffusing the light when the flash unit doesn’t support a soft box is to tape a Kleenex over the flash unit.
  • Indirectly illuminate the subject with the flash by directing it toward a ceiling or wall. The roughness of the surface diffuses the light while adding an illumination that is not aligned with the viewing direction. When doing this pay attention to the color of the surface the flash is directed toward. It will, of course, only reflect those colors in the surface. This can cause color shifts in the image.

Portrait photos are often taken with the subject backlit to get a glow in the hair and around the edge of the face. This can cause an undesirable shadow to fall over the facial features. Karel’s preferred solution is to use a reflector. However, a fill flash can be used as well. When done, the flash compensation should be turned down to limit the harshness of the light.

The most common flash units are either on-camera, meaning built into the camera, or attach to a hot shoe on the camera. The hot shoe units are often referred to as TTL flash. That stands for Through-The-Lens flash. TTL flash uses the camera’s metering system to adjust the intensity of the flash. TTL units are the better option. Some even support color diffusers that add artist effect.

Still Life

This week we were to take a still life photo. Mine is below. It was an okay picture, but there really wasn’t anything outstanding about it. The one piece of feedback that was offered was to take the picture from the other direction so that the blue insulators were at the back. I think some of the insulators should have been taken down. This picture is too crowded with them.

Line Insulators


The other homework assignment was to take a portrait. I chose Mom as the subject.

Mom Looking for Points

This portrait was very well liked. People like the story that the image tells. The exposure was cited as being especially good. It lit the hair well, avoided shadows, maintained softness, and kept the background dark. It was also noted that the color of the blanket, pegs, and cards complimented one another well.

The one negative is that I clipped the cards and left elbow. Because the elbow is inside the blanket, it isn’t that big a deal. However, just nicking the edge of the cards is pretty bad.

2 thoughts on “Photo Composition – Class 4

  1. co

    I like the insulators picture a lot but see what you mean that maybe few insulators would have been a good idea.
    Hadn’t noticed how well the blanket matched the pegs. Maybe not planned but still great! Mostly I noticed how cute your subject matter is and wondered if she won that hand.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s