There seems to be something about this time of year which makes me crave a miniature change of scenery. Or it’s that during the post-Christmas tidy up I pull my finger out, look beguilingly at my Dad and he grits his teeth and fetches his hammer.
When I got my first iPhone five years ago, the amount of photos I took on a daily basis increased rapidly; when I re-discovered my ability to leave the country two years later, I went a little nuts, and I suddenly have a vast collection of digital photographs, rivalled only by those who have children. It’s kind of fascinating that, not only have photos gone from being an extravagance to normality, but that it’s also become far more difficult to take bad ones (bad in terms of the actual quality of the shot – it’s arguably far easier now to take pictures which are poor in terms of composition, and that are unflattering to the subject).
I can pinpoint the reasons for my own excitement about photos easily: my trip to South Africa was largely funded by a generous gift from my grandparents, and as a sign of gratitude, as well as a nod to the fact that it was a trip now beyond either of them given their ages, I made sure that I documented the trip heavily. Given the volume of output I create, I sometimes find going through my photos and choosing ones to print a chore; depending on my mood, it can also be a sad task to trawl my pictures and be reminded that the fun is over for the time being, but I try to remind myself that it’s not forever, and there is more to come.
At some point, I decided to try and up my game a little, and Googled basic tips on composition. I can’t remember the source, but the top rule I found is the “rule of thirds” – this is the single easiest rule not only to remember, but to implement effectively. Here’s what I now try to do:
- Place the main subject of your image in a third, rather than the centre – your images instantly become more interesting, as the viewer’s eye is encouraged to look at the surroundings as well as the subject. It gives better context, especially with subjects who are moving (horse people listen up here!)
- If you aren’t great at fractions, most devices will have a grid mode – play around with your phone or camera until you figure out how to make it display a grid, which then allows you to really see how your image breaks down, like an extra viewfinder
- I most frequently find myself applying the rule of thirds laterally (so I place my subject towards the left or right of the frame, whether it’s a landscape or a portrait), but often use it vertically too (meaning the subject is in the top or bottom of the frame, as opposed to the middle), and occasionally use both (subject is in one of the extreme corners)
- Of course, there are exceptions to every rule – sometimes your subject is enormous, and there just isn’t a suitable spot for you to take the photo from in order to change the positioning; sometimes, it just looks right for it to be centred. But next time you’re taking pictures, just give it a go. Particularly if it’s a stationary subject, like a landscape – take your picture as you normally would, then take another shot applying the rule of thirds and compare them
I didn’t mean for this post to be a photography lesson, but somehow it happened anyway! My main point was going to be this – show you all the views I currently wake up to. Because, for me, one of the beautiful places I’ve been to just isn’t enough:
Above: these frames were hung this time last year, and I’ve just switched two of the original shots out for other prints – the small silver frame on the left now contains a shot I took last year in Hawaii (which completely disobeys the above rules!) and the one at the top in the black frame was taken in Greece (I’d forgotten about it, because it’s hidden away in an album! It was my sister’s idea to bring that one out). I’m really pleased with how this now looks, and can’t wait for the new pictures to go up alongside them…
…and above are the new pictures waiting to be hung! I’ve made a classic mistake though: we only have one picture hook in the house, so “buy picture hooks” has added my “to-do whilst waiting for new job to start” list. These are all photos from 2014, and I took all but one of them! The “between the ears” shot is also the one I use for the lock screen on my phone, and it gets better every time I look at it – there’s a lot of movement in it which brings it to life, and helps keep the memory powerful in my mind.
Those of you who know me well will have noticed a very important picture was missing: that’s because it has a special home. Above is possibly my favourite shot of the summer (I’m sort of sad I didn’t take it, but that’s because I’m the subject! I’m eternally grateful to my friends James and Eva, who were shooting “my” horse and me from the banks of the river that afternoon). My Mum repeatedly says that the only time I smile is when I’m on a horse (it’s not true, I swear!), but I defy a horse person not to smile when they see this – I’m grinning, the horse is engaged and enjoying himself, the sun is shining, and I remember being in the saddle that day thinking “I get paid to do this”. I was trying to figure out how to position my new frames, and then I glanced up and remembered there’s a huge chunk of real estate on one side of the room that I haven’t touched. There was also a vacant picture hook (abandoned from the days when I last hung a clock there many years ago) begging for attention, and the fact that it sits above my rosette board? Well, that just felt like a sign. I will never win a rosette with that horse, but that picture deserves many prizes in my book. Now I just have to save some money so that I can fill the space around it…