As I’m preparing this month’s issue of the eZine, IBM’s
super-computer “Watson” is busy crushing the human contestants on
Jeopardy, the IBM Challenge. It makes me wonder: will we ever have
a computer that takes fine art photos, and has an aesthetic
sensibility? Would it learn to take pictures by following the
rules? Would it know when it’s okay to break a rule?
In this month’s issue, I talk about when it’s okay to break the
rule of thirds. I’ve also written a little rant about the plight
of fine art color photography. I have a new creativity exercise
for you, and a cool link that marks the end of a photographic era.
What more could you ask for? Enjoy!
Hey! Color Photography Is Hard Too!
Some time ago, I was participating in an outdoor art show where I
had a booth showcasing my photography. A woman was flipping
through my rack of loose prints. I do mostly color photography,
but occasionally produce some black and whites. Flip, flip,
flip. Ah! said the woman, as she came across one of my few black
and whites, Black and white! Now thats hard. Color is easy! Im
afraid that I was stunned into silence, and failed to respond at
I dont think I need to try too hard to make the case to you
photographers out there that theres more to making a *good* color
photograph than just tripping the shutter. Where, then, does this
attitude come from? The perception seems to be that because color
photography is now so accessible through the abundance of
inexpensive digital cameras, that it is also easy. On the other
hand, special post-processing skills are required to produce a
black and white image, so it must be hard. The high esteem in
which black and white photography is held in the eyes of the
general public may also be due to photographers such as Ansel
Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson. They are household names, and
have made photography, in the context of art, synonymous with
black and white.
The prevalence of some level of disdain for color photography as
fine art certainly impacts the color photographer who wishes to
sell his or her work. I have had more than one gallery owner tell
me that they cant sell color. Meanwhile, I can look around the
walls of their gallery and see a veritable rainbow of colors. Ah,
comes the reply. But those are paintings, not photography. I
cant argue with what sells. Gallery owners are governed by the
laws of supply and demand, and color photography is still not
widely perceived as fine art by the public.
Will this attitude change, I wonder, as the black and white
shooting mode becomes available on newer digital cameras? Will
that make black and white photography seem easy too? Will color
photography ever enjoy the same status as black and white? I leave
you with questions, and no answers. Only time will tell!
X Marks the Spot! When I take students out into the field for a
photography workshop, I always suggest this exercise to them. I
ask them to pick a single spot, stay there for a pre-determined
amount of time, and shoot a specific number of pictures (it used
to be one roll of film!). Usually, 15 minutes is the most anyone
wants to attempt! The longer you stay, however, the more youll
push your creativity. This works even better if you choose a spot
where you think there are no images to be had. If you discipline
yourself to stay put and shoot, youll be forced to get creative to
find images, and you’ll usually begin to really see whats around
you. Give it a try!
Something Every Photographer Needs to Know: Tip of the Month
Rules Were Meant To Be Broken: Breaking The Rule Of Thirds
The rule of thirds is an oft-quoted rule in photography, and for
good reason. Placing your subject off-centre can produce pleasing
effects. But can a central subject ever work? Yes, it certainly
Central placement can give power and impact to a subject. This
works best when you have a single, dominant subject, and a simple
composition with no competing elements. Portraits can work well
with this technique, including portraits of people animals, and
Central placement of a subject, or your horizon line, can also
work when there is a lot of symmetry in the scene. The central
placement will emphasize the symmetry.
Central placement is usually frowned upon because it can make your
image quite static. Sometimes, however, static might be what you
want to convey. If stability is central to the story you want to
tell, then central subject placement may serve to enhance your
message. Just remember to use central placement of your subject
purposefully and thoughtfully.
I think its always a good idea to learn a rule well before
attempting to break it, so check out our page on the rule of
thirds. Then get out your camera, and experiment! Try
photographing the same subject placed centrally, as well as in the
thirds power positions and judge for yourself what works best.
Too Cool Not to Share!
The End of an Era
Its the end of an era. The last roll of Kodachrome film has been
produced, and through a special arrangement, it was exposed by
none other than National Geographic photographer, Steve McCurry
(the photographer who took the famous picture of the Afghan Girl).
Check out what Steve McCurry shot with the very last roll of
What’s New this Month at Ultimate Photo Tips
I’m always on the lookout for special deals for my readers from my
affiliate partners. I’ve chosen reputable companies producing
photography-related products and services. I’m doing my best to
keep the links fresh by updating them about once a week. Check out
what’s new from B&H, BetterPhoto.com, CanvasPress and NAPP:
The topic of January’s photo challenge was Water. We had some
great entries! Check out the striking winning image of a red oak
leaf covered in water droplets by Luis A. Vera from Laflin, PA,
The topic for February’s challenge is "Winter." Here in Toronto,
we’re still in the thick of it. Might as well get out and enjoy
photographing it! Let’s see what winter looks like in your part of
the world. Submit your winter images here:
Happy shooting from Ultimate Photo Tips!