Path: The Design & Publishing Center _/_ &FOTOgraphic_/_Straight Shooting

Straight Shooting

Doug Clifford

Welcome to the first in a series of articles designed to make you a better photographer. Each month we'll cover an aspect of composition or add to your understanding about the mechanics of picture-taking.

You may already know many of the design principles we are going to cover in the coming months, yet many design-trained people become all thumbs when a camera is placed in their hands because they're accustomed to working only with stock images taken by someone else.

Our goal is to get you thinking about what makes an effective picture before you take the shot. Just think of all the time you'll save in darkroom and digital manipulations if you avoid making common mistakes in the first place.

Framing the Shot

Most cameras take rectangular images. For example, 35mm cameras take images with the proportions of 2:3. Many digital cameras produce images with the proportions of 3:4.

You'd be surprised how many people hold a camera only one way. Guess which way?

If you guessed landscape, you'd be correct. More than 70% of photos are taken in the landscape format. In many situations portrait mode is the better choice.
Vertical or portrait shots are suitable for many subjects, including people, because the shape allows the subject to fill the frame. The portrait format is also the shape used most often on the printed page because it fits the page better.

Consider for example this sign resting in a shop window in a Seattle neighborhood. It caught my eye because it tells a story.

When I find something interesting to photograph, one of the first questions I ask myself is how I'm going to frame this subject, what's going to be included in the picture and what's to be left out.
My hunch was the sign would look best captured in the portrait mode, but I decided to take two shots, one each way. Film is far cheaper than the time or gasoline necessary to revisit the scene. Now let's look at the Landscape version...


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