How To

photo-Edu: Isolating the Subject

We Made It This Far...
Transitory Generation
Baffling Barrier
Fire Works
Winged Getaway
Growth
Nature's Dilemma

There are several different strategies for isolating a subject: distance, camera angle, light, f/stop and shutter speed combination, background, and other factors will all play a part. The bottom line is to simplify the picture so that the subject stands out clearly from other elements that may be in the scene, and, especially, the frame.

In the book, The Art of Photographing Nature by editor Martha Hill and photographs by Art Wolfe, are the steps to achieving isolation within your photographs clearly written down for you. These tips would include:

(1) Deciding what to photograph- Do not just photograph something that you have no interest in, find something that pleases you and compels you to photograph... most of the time your best work comes from the subjects you admire the most.

(2) Making the subject stand out- Finding the subject may be easy, but making it the vital point in the photograph is harder than it seems. The text states that our first impulse "is to point the camera, center the subject, and shoot the picture (8)." Going back to the photo will then bring on disappointment and maybe ask ourselves, "Why did I take this picture?"

(3) Simplicity- "The clearest way to make a statement (8)." Be bold and upfront about what it is you're trying to communicate. Too many times there are underlining meanings that many people will not see because so much going on in them visually.

(4) Asking questions- Not the literal questions you'd ask a teacher or friend, but the ones inside your head. You see a subject- something of interest - the creative decisions take over: Where do I stand? How long a focal length lens do I want? How large do I want the subject to be in the frame? Where is the light coming from? What is in the background? What is in the foreground?

*please note that to every 'rule' the opposite can also work in situations... you have to find what best works in the situation handed to you*

Stronger compositions come from taking the step of isolating the subject. In addition, isolating emotional responses can take time and practice, yet is a vital an important step for an artist. "If you can analyze why you feel drawn to make the picture, and work to express the feeling clearly, chances are someone looking at it will also respond with more than passing interest (8)."

Hill, Martha. Photographs by Art Wolfe. The Art of Photographing Nature. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1993.

ISBN 0-517-88034-2

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