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Photography Tips: Seeing Clearly

Cutting my teeth on wedding photography for the last twenty+ years, I had the privilege of creating beautiful imagery for my clients, that could not be re-done, so I HAD to get it right in the camera the first time. There was no way I could rely on Photoshop techniques as a backup for these types of images time after time, or I’d STILL be editing the hundreds of thousands of images I created for over 444 clients that trusted me with their memories.

That need to get it right with no opportunity for a re-do forced me to immediately train myself to quickly see and evaluate everything that was in the frame of my 35mm camera’s viewfinder, and do it at the speed of light, because weddings (and the people in them) move and change quickly, so any angle or selective-focus corrections had to be done fast! (…and I photograph strictly in Manual)

The good news is, that if you are doing photography for yourself and the pure joy of photographing (not for a client under the constraints of event work), you have the opportunity to evaluate your subjects within your viewfinder frame SLOWLY and methodically, and you can train yourself to see clearly at a pace that is pressure-free, and even in situations that involve subjects of nature or landscape scenes…and I’ve got just the trick for you…

Anyone happen to remember seeing one of these at any time in your life?
Kodachrome SlideIf you happen to have an old slide mount in your archives, Kodachrome or Gepe, they are a handy tool to keep in your pocket to practice seeing / framing your subjects with at all times.

If you don’t have an old slide mount, grab a 2×2″ piece of stiff cardboard and cut an opening in the center of it the size of a 35mm frame, which is actually 36mm x 24mm (or, in inches: 1.37795 x 0.944882). If you are anything like me, you are really going to enjoy this little exercise in seeing!

I’d like you to take some time to practice seeing clearly…try these things in the order presented:
– As you head out to practice photographing nature or landscapes, take your time to really notice the world around you.
– As a scene catches your attention look at it for a full minute.
*don’t bring your camera up to your eye just yet!
*don’t be concerned with losing the moment; observation should be your first thought.
– As you observe the scene, really look around…notice the elements in the scene that are most appealing to you.
– It’s now time to get out your little 35mm framing tool (slide mount, or hand made) – it’s not time for the camera just yet!
– Step left, right, front and back to view that scene from those positions, then stoop down, and at each change of view/angle, use your 35mm framing tool and look at that scene through your tool.
– Pay close attention to the subtle changes in the scene as you change your position and look through your framing tool.
– Ask yourself if there are any distractions that you would like to either minimize or eliminate by changing your point of view, and then do just that and continue observing.
– Thoroughly look all around the frame until you are satisfied with what you see, and if you are, bring your camera to your eye and deliberately perform the above evaluations before you press the shutter to create the image.
– While you are doing all of this observing, keep in mind the Rule of Thirds, which assists you in composing within your frame – this rule is more of a suggestion though, and like all rules can be creatively adjusted.

Rule of Thirds Example:
Wood End Lighthouse, Provincetown, MA I believe that if you take your time and practice looking, then seeing BEFORE you bring your camera up to your eye to photograph a scene, that you will steadily improve your composition skills over a shorter period of time. With that said, it is imperative that you practice, practice and practice some more!

I offer a wonderful workshop on Contemplative Photography that is most beneficial to helping you become an observer as you are delving into photography. Let me know if you want to know more about that!

Namaste, Joanne Bartone

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