Some Tips For This Month’s Contest

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Calm – Freedom from agitation, excitement, or passion.  Tranquility.  Serenity.

In a world full of photographic subjects, emotions are probably one of the hardest to capture.  They aren’t tangible like everyday objects and they are extremely difficult to convey through imagery alone.  While a person’s expression in a photograph may hint at some sort of feeling, there is much more involved than the contortion of one’s face in the conveyance of an emotion.  I hope to list a few of these elements below and introduce some questions that will cause you to consider how you can improve your images.

  •  Light – Is it soft and soothing or harsh and in-your-face?  Does it bare-all and make all things visible to the viewer or does it exclude and leave a sense of mystery?
  • Color – Is it vibrant and full of life, or dull and melancholy?  Do the colors convey a message of their own (e.g. Reds – anger, danger, hot, etc.; Blues – depressed, cold, etc.; Greens – alive, vibrant, etc.)?
  • Setting – Do the subject’s surroundings give a sense of gloom or a sense of peace?  How does a shot taken in a dark alley differ from a shot taken in a brightly lit field full of wild-flowers?
  • Positioning – How does your subject’s position in the scene add to the emotion of the scene?  Does their posture denote stress and anxiety or relaxation and comfort?  Do they clash with the scene or do they fit right in?
  • Expression/Eye Placement – What attitude does your subject convey through their expression?  How can having your subject look away from the lens change the feel of the image?  How does direct eye-contact differ in its message from an image of them facing away from the camera?

While there are many other aspects to an image, this is a good list to start with.  The goal here is really to learn to break down your image into its individual components and figure out how each component contributes to your finished image.  By doing this, you can often pinpoint what is missing in your photograph, or what needs to change in order to better convey the emotion you’re shooting for (maybe changing the direction of your subject’s eyes really will make all the difference in the world).

So what does this look like in the context of this month’s contest?  Well, think of some locations that you would associate with “calm” (a quiet spot near the lake, the rocking-chair by the wood stove, your favorite reading spot under the oak tree, etc.).

Next, think of the time-of-day that you would want to shoot to best convey the emotion (mid-afternoon when the light from the sun is dancing between the trees, late in the evening when the final golden rays are kissing the horizon, on an overcast day when all shadows and highlights are subdued and a softer, gentler light washes over all of creation, etc.).

Then, decide on your subject and his/her/it’s activity/position in the scene (resting peacefully, quietly reading, fishing lazily, contemplating while peering up at the sky, etc.).

Lastly, take time to carefully pose your subject so that the emotion you desire is accurately conveyed (keep an eye out for unnatural positioning, fake expressions, rigid posing, etc.).

Be creative, try multiple subjects in different locations and positions at different times of the day.  Try shooting with people, try shooting with objects, try shooting the scene by itself.  Be on the lookout for that combination that best tells the story you’re after.

As you work on this month’s challenge, don’t be discouraged.  It is extremely difficult to accurately convey the message we as photographers are shooting for.  That’s part of the fun and part of the art of learning.  Discover what works and what doesn’t and make changes accordingly.

Most of all, enjoy yourself and have fun creating new works of art!

Judging criteria for this month’s contest:

  • Adherence To Contest Theme – Is this really a picture of “calm”?
  • Originality – Put some effort into capturing this month’s subject.  Don’t just go for the first thing that pops into your mind, think it through, try to come up with something new, different, creative, etc.
  • Composition – Is the composition you chose appropriate for your subject?  Should the subject be on a third or right in the middle of the frame?  Are leading lines helpful or distracting?  Could you have eliminated unnecessary elements that are in the frame (does that telephone pole really need to be there?)?
  • Story – Does this image convey a message to its viewer?  Does it elicit an emotion?  Does this cause the viewer to ask, “What’s going on in this image?”

September Contest

Hey guys! 

Although things have been rather quiet around here, we did have one awesome entry for last month’s contest, taken by Hannah Armour. You can see it in the previous post. Jonathan Wahl, our designated judge for last month, will be sharing his feedback in an upcoming post. 

With that behind us, let’s gear up for this month’s contest! I am really looking forward to this one. The theme is calm. We all enjoy those moments of peaceful tranquility on a regular basis. Communicating that through photography is a difficult, yet rewarding challenge. Greg Hahner, our judge, will share some great ideas and tips, as well as the judging criteria. 

The deadline is one week away, so make sure to have your photo submitted by Sunday, September 21st and check out the contest page for more details. As always, please email me at if you have any questions. 

I hope you all are up to the challenge and enjoy it to the fullest! I’m looking forward to seeing your entries!

Dancing the Night Away

DSC_2811I recently had the privilege of photographing a dress rehearsal and later, performance of a play put on by some friends – “The King and I”.  It was exceptionally well done, and I enjoyed being a part of capturing these great moments!  This was from a scene near the end of the play where Anna and the King dance together.  Because of their speed, the original photo had the king’s head cropped the way you see above, and in editing afterwards, I cropped the left side of the photo to remove the battery pack for his microphone.

I chose this photo for the “Music” contest because, well, what’s dancing without music!?! :) Whenever I see pictures of a couple or group dancing, I wonder what song was being played or what significance it has to the couple if it was for a first dance at a wedding.  Please let me know your thoughts!  Thanks!