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The gathering storm above Rockefeller Chapel | by kern.justin
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The gathering storm above Rockefeller Chapel

Three rules for better photographs.


I had a wonderful class of some 12 photographers for my May 26th workshop. We talked a bit about photography and then headed into the beautiful Gothic confines of Fortress Chicago to try out hands at making a few great images. Today, I want to share a few of those thoughts more widely via the blog.


What makes a great image? What is it that almost all beautiful photographs share? The answer, I think, is that great images share something special between the photographer and the audience. In landscape/architecture photography great images share an undeniable sense of place.


So what I tried to do with the folks in the workshop was consider a set of relatively easy rules that help us as photographers to create that all-important sense of place.


The rules are:


1) Fill the frame.

2) The 5 second rule.

3) Give us somewhere to go.


The first rule is simple: use all the space you have. That can mean that you are using 90% of the image as negative space or it can mean that each corner is crammed with details; the important facet is to not neglect a part of the frame because your subject isn’t in it.


The second rule is a trick I use to make sure there are no distracting elements – I pause and count to five while looking through the viewfinder. Let your eye touch each edge and corner of the frame – make sure nothing (a stray branch or passerby) is leaking into the image in a way you dislike.


Finally, I encouraged my workshoppers to give their audience somewhere to go in the photograph. This can mean a lot of things, but I think of it simply – a landscape or architecture photograph is about a place, therefore, if you are irresistibly drawn into the image and delight in imagining yourself walking through a corridor or down a path in the image, then the photographer has succeeded.


Have a look at how these three simple ideas work together to create a photograph.

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Taken on May 26, 2012