Seeing beyond what’s in front of you {for photographers}

I’ve had a few photographers ask me lately if I did any workshops or seminars. I said no, but it did get me thinking about perhaps traveling down that road. So, I have decided to post a glimpse into my thought process while creating a particular photograph. If some of you silent photographer blog stalkers come out from the shadows and show some interest in this, even if it’s a “hey, that was helpful” or even a, “dude, don’t quit your day job” that’s great. If you guys like this sort of thing, I will try to continue with it, and perhaps it will help build the foundation of my future workshops, who knows! And if you have questions about anything regarding the blog post, go ahead and comment, I will try my best to answer them and create a dialogue here on the blog.

While I was out shooting a client’s engagement session the other day I came across a perfect example of how you can turn a less than desirable location into something MUCH better. It’s all about visualizing beyond what’s actually in front of you and figuring out how to accentuate your advantages and down play or even eliminate your disadvantages. I hope to illustrate that here.

So, here is the scene that we walked by. We actually walked by it in the beginning of our session, about 2 hours earlier when the sun was quite a bit higher. This was where the seed was planted in my head. I thought, I bet I could do something with this location later when the sun gets lower. So, I asked my clients if we would be walking back the same way on our return. (I’m not usually a big fan of this as you pretty much see the same stuff you did on the walk out, but I didn’t mind this time, mostly because of this particular location). Anyway, they said yes and I made a mental note to make this the last location of our shoot.

Keep in mind that when I originally walked by this location, the sun was not nearly this low. One of the first things you will notice about this location is that parking lot full of cars. This is a big pet peeve of mine, and I try to avoid ugly parked cars in photos at all times. So, this is certainly one of the negative aspects to overcome. Secondly, there is the nondescript cement walkway here, and then the patch of weeds. When we arrived here the second time in the late afternoon, I quickly noticed one of the biggest positives here, which is the lower sun, just over the ridge there. I love this, as it creates a nice warm light and that cool “halo” effect of rim lighting around the subjects. I also noticed that dark ridge in the background which I knew would act as a nice uncluttered backdrop behind my subjects heads, and would really accentuate that rim lighting. I know I said the patch of weeds was a negative, but it was also a positive too. This enabled me to crop out the cement walk way, after asking my clients to politely jump in the weeds, and I also used them to help me mask out the cars in the background by using a lower camera angle.

Here are 4 quick “bullet points” to my thought process:
1. Yummy warm low sun just above the ridge giving me that rim lighting.
2. Dark ridge in the background which will give a clean backdrop for my subjects heads to pop from, especially with the halo lighting.
3. Patch of weeds to help create some interest and allowing me to get rid of the distracting cars in the background by using a low camera angle. I also found this exact location where the weeds naturally split into a “V” shape, to help create a “frame” around my subjects as well.
4. This is all camera stuff/decisions; Shoot low from this spot to mask out cars, take off the lens hood to help with desired sun flaring, use a shallow depth of field on my 70-200mm to also isolate my subjects, take some test shots and chimping to find a good exposure and setting that in manual mode.

Here are the final photos:

This one (top photo) is a looser crop and I think it really shows the potential of a location when you start maximizing your advantages, while minimizing your disadvantages, and can hopefully help you to start seeing beyond just what’s in front of you.

This one (lower photo) is a tighter crop and more emphasizes the use of the dark background/lighting and “framing” using the weeds.

So, hopefully that was somewhat helpful to you photographers out there. Don’t be shy now, chime in with comments or questions. Also, if you think this might be useful for someone else you know, please send them a link to it:


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