Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Taking a good photograph

Many artists use reference photographs to help them develop their artwork. Developing an eye for a good image and learning how to take a good photograph can make all the difference.

Although I work from life a lot of the time, I also use my own reference photos along with sketches for developing work 'in the studio'. I find I start making the decisions about what I want to do more and more through a camera lens - even when drawing from life. I've found just using the camera to start finding the outside boundaries for an image can be really helpful. I often try different crops by looking through the lens (or at the tiny screen) - even if I don't take photos for every one. They are in effect colour 'thumbnails' which complement the simple monotone thumbnails in a sketchbook. When I switch between landscape and portrait formats I sometimes find things using a camera which I might not have tried otherwise.

Photos are also excellent for walking round and round an image and finding the best viewpoint. The only thing I have to make sure I do is find a way of watching the ground at the same time as I'm looking through the lens so I don't fall over (I've bust quite enough tendons and ligaments for one lifetime!).

The BBC has an excellent site for all those wanting to improve their reference photographs - A Digital Picture of Britain - How to take good photographs. Tom Ang provides a succinct checklist - with excellent images to illustrate the points he makes - for the following topic areas:
  • Composition
  • Light
  • Colour
  • Landscape
  • People
  • Being ready
A drop down menu for each topic area covers key bits of information that can really make a difference to the quality of a photo.

Tom Ang is a well-known photographer who writes extensively on photography for broadsheets and photography journals. His website http://www.tomang.com is another excellent source of information – particularly the page devoted to articles on really useful stuff like tonality and greyscales!

Note: The photos are of the boathouse at the bottom of the garden of the Old Manse next to the Old North Bridge in Concord Massachusetts - taken by me in September this year.

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