Morgue File - Lesson 1

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Transcript of Morgue File - Lesson 1

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    Welcome to Lesson One!

    When I was first looking into writing this course for Michael and Kevin, it sounded interesting to me. Ithought that getting back into the mindset I had when photography was all new, fresh and exciting wouldbe a great creative opportunity for me. After writing the first few lessons of this course, I can honestlysay that I had no IDEA how much writing this course would enhance my creativity and how enriching it

    would be for me.

    After years of taking photographs, the basics had all become second-hand to me so much that I didn'treally think about them much anymore. Starting to consciously consider composition, lighting, shutterspeeds and apertures and put more thought into all of those details again really brought me back tothose early days when I got my first manual camera and it was all new to me. I remember clicking theshutter and - whammo! - an instant masterpiece! Well, that might be exaggerating a little, but I wasshooting exclusively film at that point in my life and I could never wait to get my slides developed andback from the lab to see what I'd captured - the potential for a masterpiece always lingered about in theback of my brain somewhere. I assume that many people taking this course are at that same point, andI'm looking forward to sharing that enthusiasm and excitement with you.

    If you're taking this course, I also assume you've fallen in love (at least a little bit) with the art of

    photography and want to move on to the next level. When I look back at the photo courses I took andthe volumes of books that I read when I was so eager to take my photos to that next level, most of themstarted out with the basics: how the camera works, from aperture to shutter speed and how it all workstogether in conjunction with light. We will get to that in future lessons, but I want to start out a littledifferently.

    Composition And Impact - It's A Beautiful Photograph, But Do You Know WHY It's Beautiful?

    Let's talk a little bit about pictures and why we love them.

    Pictures can be beautiful. They can decorate a home or and office; be published in books, magazinesand calendars; they can even win ribbons or prizes in contests. A breathtaking landscape can transport

    the viewer to another time and place, if only for a moment. A beautiful still life can capture a mood ofserenity, warmth, even magic. A great portrait of a person can look into their soul, and let you sharetheir smiles or tears. A great picture *communicates*. Think about it. There is a huge market out therefor photographs because publishers know that the people who buy their materials will be drawn to goodphotographs that reach out to them. Visual communication is something that we're all born being able torelate to. The subjects out there to take pictures of are limitless. The only boundaries are within yourmind.

    But what makes a photograph successful? The answer is a fairly simple one, and you can improve yourphotography *today* by learning a few very basic rules.

    One caveat, however. As the old saying goes, rules are meant to be broken. Some of my favoritephotographs very purposely break a lot of the basic "rules" of photography. But to break the rules in a

    way that enhances a photograph and effectively turns it into a great photo, you first have to *know* therules and have a reason for wanting to break them. So today we're going to talk about simplephotographic rules that will *make your pictures better*.

    Number one: Get in close. No, closer. Nope, still closer. There! You've got it!

    The first, and most important, rule: Simplify. The more you simplify a photo, the more attention you drawto your subject. The more attention you draw to your subject, the more successful you are incommunicating your message to the viewer. There are roughly a million and two ways to do this, so I'll

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    My husband gave me a dozen roses forValentine's Day one year. Never one to let a photographic opportunity go by, I took several photos ofthe entire bouquet, but my favorite picture turned out to be this one, focusing on just one single rose.The petals were so soft, it seemed that if you touched them, they'd melt like butter. I think that focusingso closely the rose really communicates that message to the viewer in this image. I titled the photograph"Butter", which many people didn't understand, but that's part of the fun of being an artist. You can keepem guessing and call it your artistic prerogative.

    This is (so far) my best-selling stockphotograph of all time. It's an image that's very useful for designers in advertising because itcommunicates so well. Once again, I got in close. There's no question that this photograph is aboutlaughter. The smile stands out because of the bright red lipstick that contrasts with the rest of the imagethat is mostly white. No distracting elements, not even the rest of a face to give a personality to theimage and make you wonder what the situation is - just a mouth, laughing.

    Number two: Photographic Composition

    Most really strong photographs position their main elements in certain specific places of the frame.When you think about where you put your subject in the photograph, you are *composing* your image.Think about it. When a painter starts out with a blank canvas, he or she has free reign to decide whereto put that river, those mountains, the trees, clouds and anything else that needs to be included.

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    Creating a photograph, you should go through the same process.

    Remember the flower we talked about photographing in rule one? Nine times out of ten when I've seenthat photo of the flower with Barbie lying in the background, the flower itself has been dead center in theframe. This is simply natural instinct for us to compose a photograph this way. When we are looking atthe flower, our eyes are focused directly in front of us. We don't put the flower on the table, bring our ear

    down to the flower and then try and shift our eyes to see the flower out of the corners of them. Somepart of our brain knows that and wants to place the subject right there in the middle of the frame, whereour eyes would normally look. The trick is to realize that when the picture is taken and all is said anddone, you will have that small rectangle to hold out in front of you and look at, and then you can look atit by focusing your eyes straight forward. Until then, forget about centering your subjects. This is aharder concept to master than you might believe at first. Once you try it a few times and see for yourselfwith your own images the difference that it makes, it will get much easier.

    There are several "classic" ways to compose a photograph. To use these methods, you will need totrain yourself to see your subjects in terms of lines and shapes. Sometimes lines in a photograph areobvious, like the horizon in a sunset picture. Other times, the main lines in a photograph are not nearlyso obvious. One way to see the main shapes in your photographs is by squinting your eyes until theimage almost becomes a blur, then you'll see any lines and shapes created by the shadows and light.

    This is a great way to look at a scene when you're thinking about how to compose a photograph. Youmay notice how shadows blend together in a way that might not be immediately obvious otherwise,creating shapes and forms that the viewer may not consciously notice when looking at a photograph,but that will definitely impact their perception of the image, nonetheless.

    The Rule Of Thirds And The Golden Mean

    One of the most commonly talked-about rules in photography is the rule of thirds. The concept is bestexplained by taking your canvas and dividing it up into thirds, both vertically and horizontally, so thatyou essentially wind up with a tic-tac-toe board.

    The rule of thirds should be used as a guideline for when you have vertical or horizontal lines in yourimage. You will probably hear more about this photographic "rule" than any other, so I'll explain it fairlyin depth here and try to give you an understanding of why it is so effective. The rule of thirds is derivedfrom another rule called the "Golden Mean" that says that the main subjects of an image should beplaced at the intersecting points created (roughly) by the lines mentioned above, thusly:

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    So if you are composing a photograph of a sunset, try placing that horizon line one-third of the wayfrom the top or bottom of your image, to include either more foreground or more sky. You'll notice astronger landscape this way.

    I'll interject a little art history and math lesson here to explain the theory behind the Golden Mean.

    The Golden Mean is a number sort of like Pi, from your high school days in math class. Whereas Pi isequal to 3.14-yadda-yadda-yadda (math was never my best subject) and is handy for all sorts ofgeometrical things, the Golden Mean is equal to 1.618-yadda-yadda-yadda. Mathematicians use theGreek letter Phi when they're talking about the Golden Mean. This is derived from something else youmay or may not remember from your math days called the Fibonacci Series.

    Fibonacci was an Italian mathematician born around 1170 A.D. who, for reasons unbeknownst to me(What really possesses mathematicians to do anything, I wonder? Maybe the same thing that makesus take pictures?), decided one day to start with the numbers zero and one and add them together.Okay, that just gave him the number one again. Big deal. Then what? Then he added the last number

    he used (one) to his new resulting number (one) and got two. He did it again by adding one and twoa