Tag Archive for 'values'

5 Essential Keys of Amazing Photographs.

By Gavin Seim

Simplicity is key to a great photograph. It turns even complex scenes into stunning beauty by controlling elements, light, and tone.

It’s not about how much is in a photograph. It’s about how we showcase our subject in relation to that supporting cast of elements. Now I’m not suggesting the images I show are “perfect.” It’s rare that I get everything dead on, and I can always find something I should have done better. But truly understanding and mastering these elements WILL raise the bar on our images and allow us to see in a new way.

1. Visualize.
Everyone says they’re doing it, but few actually are. You should truly “see” the scene in your mind’s eye; not what’s in the viewfinder but the finished image after the exposure, even after editing. You should see the image you want after the process is finished. It’s fairly simple, but in the rush we often fail to slow down and think carefully about the lines, elements, and tones in our scene. That’s one reason why I love working with a tripod. It takes my focus away from holding a camera and puts it on the scene in front of me.

Ansel Adams said, “The whole key lies very specifically in seeing it in the mind’s eye which we call visualization.”

Sunsets Hidden Falls, Yosemite 2010, Gavin Seim - I used a layer based HDR process on this, processing my light and dark frames as silver and layer blending in Photoshop. I spent a good deal of time on the composition and tonal control to try and keep the scene simple while still showing all the elements. You can see the stone faces on Zones 6-7, with the foreground elements falling drastically all the way down to Zone 1, keeping them as supporting cast from becoming too distracting.

 

2. The Light & The Zones.

Expose for what you want in your image, not what the camera sees. This goes right along with visualization, and the Zone scale is the best way I know of, both to visualize and to control values. It allows us to see in our mind’s eye the Zones in a scene and place them where we want, using exposure, and finally tonal edits. For more on detailed tonal value control, see the counter article to this one, 3 Critical Elements of Controlling Tonal Values.

The Zone scale from 1-10. Middle grey is Zone V (5). This shows the darkest dark to the lightest light and is invaluable for simple visualizing and exposing a scene. Each step represents a stop, making it easy to move your exposure up or down and place an element in a given zone.

 

Continue reading ‘5 Essential Keys of Amazing Photographs.’