How to Take Better Pictures: Composition

So, you’ve got your hands on a digital camera, snagged a Flickr account and started uploading. But after a few days of browsing “Explore” photos on Flickr, do you end up feeling like your photos just aren’t cutting it? Or hopefully you’ve avoided the hit to your ego and just are looking for a way to bring your shots up a notch? Here’s your chance.
Fundamentally, photography is an art of presentation – we are capturing moments of light and showing them to our friends, family, and even strangers. For those captured moments to be effect though, they need to do more than just hit the eyes of the viewer – they need to create a response! You want your photos to make your viewer smile like you were smiling, feel awed by the scenery just like you felt when standing there, or feel moved to compassion by the scene that struck your heart. Today I’ll show you some simple steps to help get your photos to the next level of effectiveness.
Composition is simply the way things are put together in your photo. Now, art is not like math – rules are made to be broken! But the basic rules of composition will let you form more effective photographs. After you understand and use these rules in your photos, you’ll start seeing how to effectively break them as well!
Rule of Thirds
If you imagine dividing the frame into thirds horizontally and vertically, you end up with something like a tic-tack-toe grid. The “rule of thirds” says that the subject of your photo should be positioned at one of the intersections of those lines and that the horizon (if prominent) should be on one of the horizontal lines. Look at this photo and notice how the horizon line and position of the riders helps draw you into the photo and along the beach with the horses.

by mikebaird
Negative Space
Negative space doesn’t mean “bad attitude space”, it means areas of the photo that are left blank. You can use this empty space to help focus attention on your subject and enhance the mood or feeling you want to share with others. For example, a feeling of motion can be enhanced by leaving empty space in the direction of travel of your subject (as with the photo of the horse riders above). Detachment can also be enhanced by open space. Sometimes, negative space isn’t blank space but rather a missing element, as in the last photo in this series.

by riotjane

by Luke Stearns

by erlin1
I’ve had this blog post drafted for a while now, so I’m just going to go ahead and post it. Do you have any examples of great composition to share? Post in the comments!

Small Business Lessons

In January, I completed my first 12 months as a independent consultant. Here’s a list of things that I learned, good and bad, over the first year of working independently….

Liability insurance costs. My liability insurance (with limits required by my client) ran over $2300 per year in premiums.
Extra paperwork. Despite having a healthy expectation for the increase in paperwork, it was still more than I anticipated. Tax forms, both federal and state, payroll, insurance audits, invoicing, billing errors, and on and on.
Tax savings. As a normal employee, you can put $15,500 (for 2008) into your 401(k). As a small business owner/operator, I can put $15,500 of my salary AND 20% of the profit of the company into the 401(k). This can add up to a huge number! And that additional contribution from the company is tax deductible, just like your salary deferral.
Fulfillment. I’ve always tried to bring a good attitude to work, but it’s a amazing the extra boost you feel when you wake up in the morning and realize you’re working for yourself. You still have to please your bosses of course. But now your bosses are your clients. And solving problems for them nurtures a positive win-win relationship instead of putting in extra hours for no reward.
Risk Planning. If you don’t already save something for a rainy day, you will get in trouble running your own business. Especially in a consultancy like mine, if you lose a primary client there may be a significant time before you can close another contract. You need to have adequate funds to cover those dry spells.
Banking hassles. As an employee, your employer probably offers you direct deposit. For independent consultants, that’s not as common. When you’re independent, your bills go through the accounts payable department at your client, not the payroll department. One consequence of this difference is that you are much more likely to receive paper checks for payment.
Income delays. Another direct consequence of your pay coming through the accounts payable department is that your checks may not be sent every week. So if your client typically pays on “Net 30” terms, you won’t be paid until 30 days after you send them an invoice. This is another reason to have good cash flow management skills.

All told, I have really enjoyed the last year. Some of the things mentioned above are negative, but I would still recommend the experience to anyone who is ready to work to achieve success.
Have you already started a small business? What lessons did you learn that I haven’t mentioned?