A Pair of Keats

Nom nom nom nom

A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.
John Keats

What the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth.
John Keats


Get it? A pair of Keats?! ;)

This photo was taken last year, but only because I didn’t have anything from today that was interesting. And this is a good photo to illustrate something very important in photographic composition… the rule of thirds. (By the way, I won’t be posting tips and tricks every day, but when I do, it will be under the category “Photo Tips.”)

The Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is a basic photography composition concept. One can either employ this rule when shooting or later, when cropping an image as I’ve done here. The image is equally divided into thirds horizontally and vertically. The part of the image you want to draw attention to should be at or near one of the cross marks of these thirds. In this case, the detail around the bird’s eye is where I want focus to fall. (Of course, you CAN center a focal point, but I find this works best with very symmetrical subjects, and I rarely employ a perfectly centered shot.)

My rule of thumb is that if I’m shooting something that’s moving or if I only have a second or two to get the photo, I do the best I can to make sure I get the whole subject in frame, and leave some space around it. For these kind of quick shots, it’s okay to center the object, just to make sure you get the picture. I employ the rule of thirds when I crop it later. If I do have time to set up and frame the photo, I try to use thirds as I’m shooting.

I also will often take several shots, switching where the focal point is. It’s sometimes hard to tell where the best focal point will be when you’re in the middle of shooting. Since digital is cheap and easy, just shoot every point if you have time. For example, a horizon line in a landscape should fall along the bottom or the top line. It should almost never bisect the image evenly. So when shooting a landscape, if the clouds are more impressive than the foreground, then put the horizon line on the bottom line, so that the clouds take up more of the image. If the image is, say, a pasture of flowers, put the horizon on the top line so that the foreground of flowers has more prominence than the sky. If both are equally impressive, shoot both and decide AFTER you have something to choose from.

And finally, if you want to crop images this way, you’ll need to own some application that allows you to crop your photos to get rid of extraneous parts of the photo that only serve to distract. Many point-and-shoot cameras now come with photo-editing software and many will also allow you to perform some post-processing functions that will allow you to pull the best from your photos…. lightening, darkening, sharpening, etc. More advanced cameras that allow shooting in RAW format (I’ll explain that in a later post) can be modified to an amazing degree.

(A final note about cropping… to be able to crop a photo this tightly, the megapixels of your camera has to be pretty high to still have decent resolution after such a tight crop. This particular example would probably print only nominally well, but it works fine for online viewing at 100%.)

Below is the original, unedited version of the photo above. I made sure I got a photo of the bird’s intense focus on eating the seeds before it flew away again, so I pulled the frame back, then cropped closely later. When cropping, remember the story you’re trying to tell and delete everything in the photo that distracts from that story.

Please let me know if this tip was helpful to you or if you have any questions you’d like for me to try to answer. I’m not sure I know the answer, but I will try to find out! :)

Here are the specs for the shot:

Aperture: f/5.6
Focal Length: 92mm
ISO: 200
Shutter: 1/59 sec
Camera: NIKON D700

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