Tom Langford 311.
(photo credit: Tom Langford)
Tom Langford is a commercial photographer, professional retoucher, and a website
At the beginning of a new year we feel a fresh rush of energy and make
resolutions. If you are a photography enthusiast here is one resolution that
could make 2012 the year your photography takes a great leap forward.
unconventional technique that I have found very effective in many different life
situations. I’ve adapted it to help you develop your photography skills - you
could make a resolution to use it at least once a month and mark it in your
diary. Virtual photography teacher
Sit quietly and visualize yourself teaching a
group of photography students. You are discussing with them the strengths and
weaknesses of a picture you took that is displayed on a large computer screen.
Imagine how you would explain what is good about your picture, what its
weaknesses are, and how it could be improved. You probably won’t be able to do
this exercise right away - like all good teachers you will have to prepare in
The most common feature of pictures sent to me for constructive
feedback is they lack depth; they would make good backgrounds to a real picture
but don’t stand up on their own. In your preparation check to see if your
picture fits into this category.
Find on the Internet a few good
professional examples of pictures somewhat similar to your own. Search for
“stock pictures” and visit online agencies. Search in their catalogues for the
subject of your picture.
The professional shots you find will be eye-catching
because they are much more than simple background images - they work on several
1. They have a strong overall composition.
2. They have
a strong primary focal point.
3. They have other areas of interest to
keep your eye moving over the picture.
4. They tell a story – you can
feel the atmosphere, feel the breeze, sense what happened before the shot and
what will happen next.
Compare your picture to theirs, keeping in mind
the four levels above. You may gain insights into why your picture fails or
succeeds to hold our interest.
After this preparation you will be able to sit
quietly, close your eyes, and teach your first virtual photography class. You
will be able to explain to your imaginary students what works and what doesn’t
work, and how you could have shot it differently. They may ask you some
pertinent questions, so make sure your preparation is thorough!
If you make a
resolution to practice this exercise once a month you will find yourself taking
much better shots. You will start to look over your own shoulder as you take a
shot and give yourself sensible advice, just like a good photography teacher
would do. Example exercise
Here’s an example to help you understand the process.
We will use a picture sent by ¬Axel Meta, 15 years old, from Barcelona. He was
reading one of these articles in a fast food restaurant where he took this
Well done Axel. This is a good
visual awareness exercise in which an interesting shot has been created on the
spot. By focusing on the lampshade the background has become pleasantly blurred.
Like most visual awareness exercises it would make a good background but
requires something extra to turn it into a picture. A quick online search will
turn up pictures we can compare it to and gain an idea of how it can be
We could search for “stock pictures” to find agency catalogues,
and then search in them for “diner”, etc. We can also search in Google Images
for “eating burger”, “drinking coke”, etc. Unfortunately I can’t show you any
results because of copyright reasons, but the most interesting shots always had
a primary focal point of some activity relating to the location.
retouched version below I have added a primary focal point, and there are now
two secondary focal points to keep the eye moving. The picture now works on all
four levels and our research will have helped to give an insightful tutorial to
our imaginary class.
Children pick up new concepts
quickly and I hope example this will help Axel. Good Pictures are interesting
because they keep our eyes moving is if we are reading a story. Try teaching
your virtual students a masterclass entitled “ Photographer as Storyteller”. It
will really help to improve their photography, and yours too!
Wishing you a
Happy New Photography Year. Send me your picture
If you would like to develop
your photography skills, send me a picture and I will share some constructive
feedback in one of my future articles.
Send one picture only, at a reduced size
Don’t know how to send a reduced size photo by
email? See my Brief Guide to Picasa:
www.langford.co.il/courses/PicasaGuide.html Tom Langford is a commercial photographer, website designer, and professional
retoucher. He teaches photography courses for beginners and advanced. Details of
his next courses and field trips at: http://www.langford.co.il/courses