There are certain rules to follow for taking good photographs. Some seem quite obvious. You need to have enough light to see the subject. Others are more subtle or artistic. The light can help tell the story or create the mood.
 
But all of the rules are based on the ideas talked about in the visual theory and design chapter. They connect to what we know about the ways or eyes and minds work. When taking a good still photograph, you need think about how someone looks at the image and the way their mind explains what is there.
 
The top ten construction tends to be funny, however, this one is simply a useful way to organize some points about taking good photos.
 
 
Top 10 ways to compose a good photograph.
 
Put what you want the viewer to see where the eye naturally gravitates. This is based on an idea called the rule of thirds. Imagine two horizontal lines through the viewer on the camera and two vertical lines intersecting through those
 

When you are framing a still photograph you want to put the subject (the person place or object that you are focusing on) at these intersections. The eye naturally gravitates to these spots and you want the viewer to look at what you intend to be seen.

 
Look at these photographs. How is the rule of thirds at play here?
 
 
What about here?
 
 
 
You'll recall from the visual theory chapter that the concept of closure causes people to see patterns when they are not really there. Therefore three dots can look like a triangle because your mind connects the lines. This will be important to consider when taking still photographs because the mind will connect things that you do not intend. Therefore it is important to pay attention to backgrounds when taking still photographs. Plants can appear like they are growing out of people's heads. If you are too focused on the subject, you will not see these things when taking the photo but they will be fairly obvious to the viewer.
 
 
 
 
Another thing you'll want to be careful about is framing the photo so that it cuts people at bending places. It is unsettling for the viewer and gives the impression that the rest of the body part may not be there. Cutting people at bending places is psychologically unsettling. In the following photograph we would be better off to see all of her hands or to cut the photo in the middle of the forearm.
 
 
 

Part of the intrigue of looking at photographs is seeing things that you might normally not be able to see up close. You must get the camera close to the subject. Close shots offer the intimacy that we crave. They make us feel like we were there, like we know something about the subjects of the photo.
 

Look at this photograph. Do you feel any connection with the subject in it? Can you tell anything about her or what she's doing? What do you think the photographer intends to say with this photo?

 
 
Now take a look at this photo. Does the closeness make you feel differently about the subjects? This do you think this photographer intends to say with this photograph?
 
Seshu Badrinath/Pipal Productions
 
 
Decide what you want the viewer to see and focus on that. This is a matter of directing the viewer to what is interesting in the scene. Look at the photograph below. What do you think is the photographer's intended focus?
 
Seshu Badrinath/Pipal Productions
 
 

Once you've decided what you want to see, frame everything else from the shot. Things that do not pertain to the subject clutter up the image and dilute the message. So eliminate extraneous surroundings, usually by moving closer to the subject. Make it easier on the viewer with a clean economy to the shot. Using a shallow depth of field - the subjects are in clear focus while the background is blurry - on the camera can also help here. That way the subjects are in clear focus and the background is not distracting from what you want to emphasize.

 
Look at this photo. Has the photographer achieved the goal of having the viewer look at what he or she wants to be seen?
 
Seshu Badrinath/Pipal Production
 
But make sure this is ethical. Do not frame the situation in such a way to misrepresent what actually happened.
 
 
The sun will likely be your lighting source for most of the photos that you take in this class. Position yourself so that the sun is behind you and to one side. This front lighting brings out color and shades, and the slight angle - called side lighting - produces some shadow to show texture. You always need to think about how light is striking your subject, even when you are shooting indoors. A common problem when shooting indoors is that you put the subject in front of a window and then the light from the window is too bright and your subject is too dark.
 
 
When taking photos outside you should avoid the time of day when the sun is straight overhead. This is a harsh light and it will cause unflattering dramatic shadows. No one looks good in this light. Unless you intend to use the harsh shadows for a dramatic effect, avoid this time.
 
 

The best time of day to shoot is during what "the golden hours" or "magic hours." This varies depending on time of year, but it is when the sun is starting its ascent or descent. Usually you are talking the early morning and late afternoon, when the sun is low. The low sun produces a nice warm orange light that bathes your subjects. Most movies and magazines shots are made during this brief time. It takes extra planning, but saving your photography for one hour after sunrise, or one to two hours before sunset, will add a richness to your shots.
 
You might also want to use this type of light for an artistic effect. Look at this photo below. How does the light create a mood? Is it distracting?
 
 
 
You may have noticed that the problem with some of your family photographs is that they are blurry. Usually this comes from moving the camera while taking the photo. Avoid this camera shake by holding the camera steady. Use both hands and rest your elbows on your chest, or use a wall for support.
 
The last suggestion is an overall thought for any visual communication. A good photograph says something to the person looking at it. It captures the spirit of a subject and evokes emotion. A good photograph is remembered. Think of some of the key moments in time that you know from photographs. Maybe some of the images from September 11th come to mind, or World War II photos, or famine in the Sudan. These are things that you likely did not see first hand, but have an idea about from what you've read in accounts and seen through still and moving pictures.
 
You can create a powerful experience with less compelling subject matter in this class.
 
Look at this photograph of a car accident. What type of emotion is conveyed? How has the photographer captured the emotion of this moment?
 
Seshu Badrinath/Pipal Production