model in beach

by bazel
(silang cavite philippines)

rhodes island

rhodes island

I want this photo to be fashionable picture.

I know the feeling . . . you're on holiday, the scenery is stunning, and you want a photograph to record the fact that you really did dip your toe into that gorgeous blue sea.

And the result, somehow, just isn't quite what you had imagined.

From a technical, and aesthetic point of view, this photo has plenty of room for improvement.

I'll start with one of the fundamental aspects of any good photograph – composition. Regular visitors to these pages will hear me go on and on about the rule of thirds. I do so because it's such a powerful composition tool. As a rule it can be broken (and to good effect too), but if you want to improve your photography it's a great starting point. You can read more about the rule of thirds here.

This photo doesn't really follow the rule, and as a result we have an interesting background (which follows the top horizontal line of the rule of thirds), an awkward foreground and lots of emptiness in the middle. A better photo would have been to get down lower to the water, with the subject higher in the frame, and place the line where the rocks meet the sea on the bottom horizontal line of the rule of thirds.

Another area for improvement is the exposure. These days, with cameras doing most of the exposure work for us, we tend to over-rely on their accuracy. Don't get me wrong, cameras have come a long way with regard to accurate exposure, and they usually get it right. In this photo though, I think the exposure meter in Bazel's camera was having a tea break when the shutter was pressed, because the exposure is way off.

This scene is far too bright; much of the background, and the foreground rocks are overexposed. The foreground especially suffers badly from blown highlights.

If you suspect your scene is overexposed, retake it, but force the camera to underexpose the scene a bit. Most cameras can do this – look for '+' or '-' buttons (they may be buried in the menus). Overexposed photos can often go un-noticed in bright conditions.

This is because people often check the photo on the camera's LCD screen in bright light. Check that same photo inside rather than outside and you may well spot an overexposed photo straight away.

The best way to check if a photo is overexposed is to use the camera's histogram. If the graph is bunched up on the right side, it's probably overexposed.

I hope these tips help, and thanks Bazel for the submission.


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Return to Digital photography tutorials - submissions, February 2008.