The Rule of Thirds – Simplified

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One of the first things to get emphasized to novice photographers by those who claim to be more knowledgeable is to “Follow the rule of thirds”. While this is sound advice, the phrase can be confusing. Let’s take a few moments and simplify this “Rule” so that we all can use it when making captures regardless of our experience.

Simply put, the Rule of Thirds is a tool to use when composing a photograph. The way I like to instruct it is this: Place four evenly spaced imaginary lines on your image, 2 horizontal and 2 vertical. I have even further simplified it to some (mainly children) by suggesting that they imagine a “tic-tac-toe” board over the photo. Once you can picture the lines, place your subject very near a line and, if possible, arrange the main focal point of the subject where two of the lines intersect. In doing so, you increase the odds that you will create a photo that is visually appealing to how the human mind interprets the image.

For today’s image (above) I took one of my favorite hawk photos and added yellow lines to help illustrate the process. When composing the photo I placed the bird on the right most vertical line. The main focal point of the bird is the eyes and beak, but I found that if I placed them on an intersection the photo was a bit bottom heavy. Instead, I placed the bird’s body where the two nearest lines meet. Doing so creates a pleasing composition since the birds head is close enough to an intersection to take advantage of the rule. Had I taken the same photo and composed it differently by placing the bird in the center of the image, the result would not be as pleasing.

Since I’m on the subject of image composition, the image above demonstrates another “Rule” that can be followed to make a shot more pleasing. In most situations it is desired to have the subject looking toward the center of the image. If the bird were looking to the right rather than the left, the photo would not be as pleasing to the viewer’s eye. In fact, to many people it would just “feel uncomfortable”. The same can be said for motion. If the photo is of a subject in motion, compose it so it is moving toward the image’s center.

Lastly, remember the old phrase “Rules are made to be broken”. There are plenty of times when a more pleasing image can be created by breaking the Rule of Thirds rather than following it. Try using this rule as a guideline and see if your work improves.

Canon 30D, Canon 70-200 f/4L lens – 1/500 second, f/4, ISO 100

March 31, 2007 at 11:30 pm by | Categories: tutorial

An Experiment in Post-Processing

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This image is the result of some recent post-processing experimentation. I had seen a similar style applied to portraits and sought to create the effect myself. I wanted the eyes to remain fairly sharp while having much of the remaining image appear almost animated with a blurred glow. My workflow on the shot was mostly trial and error. The resulting photo came very close to what I desired.

Now, if I could only remember the steps I took to create it… :)

Canon 5D, Canon 24-105 f/4L IS lens – 1/125 second, f/22, ISO 50

March 30, 2007 at 11:00 pm by | Categories: Post


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Freedom, photographed in Farmington Utah.

Canon 30D, Canon 300 f/2.8 lens with 1.4x extender – 1/2500 second, f/4, ISO 100

March 29, 2007 at 11:51 pm by | Categories: Post

Deer Creek Sunset

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A beautiful sunset over Deer Creek Reservoir in Northern Utah. If you look closely, you can see that the far side of the reservoir is still covered with ice.

Canon 5D, Canon 24-105 f/4L IS lens – 1/20 second, f/22, ISO 50

March 28, 2007 at 11:07 pm by | Categories: Post

Missionary Shoes

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I’ve been shooting quite a bit of stock work in my spare time lately for iStockphoto. When creating stock photos, I try and ask myself “in what possible applications can this shot be used?”. If I can’t think of a use for a photo, chances are that not many other people will either and it won’t sell. For today’s featured capture, I received an answer.

My friend Bryan from the This Scribbler’s Preoccupation blog emailed me last night to inquire about using the shot (or one similar) for a new church that he is involved with. He saw the photo on iStock and felt that it fits nicely with the message the new church is wishing to convey. This is very close to what I imagined as a use when I set up the photo.

That’s cool…!

To see (and possibly purchase) this image on iStockphoto, click here.

Canon 5D, Canon 24-105 f/4L IS lens – 1/60 second, f/11, ISO 50

March 27, 2007 at 11:23 pm by | Categories: Post

Lowlight Photography Tips


Many people believe that when the lights go low the best way to capture a shot is by utilizing the camera’s flash. While I’m a frequent user of strobes in my photography (mainly in studio environments), my first instinct in a low-light scene is to go flashless. I find that by using available light the scene can be captured in a more dramatic fashion. Here are some tips I use in photographing in low light:

Bump That ISO Increasing the camera’s ISO setting will allow you to handhold shots in lower light situations. The caveat to this is the increase of digital noise into the image. I would rather deal with noise in a sharp image than deal with a blurred shot due to camera shake. I use Neat Image noise reduction software on my high ISO shots and find that it greatly improves the images.

How Low Can You Go (with the aperture) Find your fastest lens and use it. The lower the f-stop the faster the lens. Canon sells a relatively inexpensive lens that works great in low light, the 50mm f/1.8. This lens can be picked up around $75 and will give you the freedom to shoot in much darker settings than a stock 18-55 kit lens.

Burst It Put your camera in continuous mode and shoot three to five frame bursts. By doing so you will greatly increase the chances that one of the shots has less camera shake and thus less motion blur. You will be amazed at how effective this trick can be in low light settings.

IS is What it Is….Great! Image stabilization has come on strong over the past few years. Lenses with this technology are coming down in price and can offer you much more freedom when it comes to dim shooting scenarios. In shooting with an IS lens compared to a non-IS lens, I find that I can routinely shoot 3-4 stops slower and still have good results. This equates to shooting with a shutter speed of 1/125 a second on a non-IS lens versus 1/15 or even 1/8 of a second on an IS lens, a very big improvement. Many point-and-shoot cameras are also adding this feature. My pocket sized Canon G7 has it and it is extremely helpful.

Three Legs are Better Than Two Find something to stabilize your camera on to eliminate hand shake. The old standby of a tripod is a great choice, but when one is not available look around for something else. Many photographers carry a beanbag in their kit for this very purpose. There have been numerous wonderful sunset photos taken with professional quality results by a camera resting on a beanbag atop a car hood. Another tip I have heard is to carry a few feet of cord with a loop on one end and a threaded mounting screw on the other. Use this to stabilize your camera by standing on the loop, attaching the other end of the cord to the camera’s tripod mount, and then pulling it taught.

Go Wide and Get In Close By shooting with a wide angle lens you minimize the effect of camera movement on the image, thus reducing motion blur. Put away that telephoto glass when it gets dark and shoot with your widest angle lens. For many folks, the kit lens that came with their SLR will be the choice. If this is the case, don’t be tempted to zoom in – keep it at 18mm.

If You Must Flash, Bounce It If you find that you absolutely must resort to using a flash, bounce that light. By bouncing your light off of a light colored ceiling or wall you will eliminate that blown out two dimensional look that straight on flash causes. Bouncing can be difficult (if not nearly impossible) with a cameras on-board flash, but it can be done with a little ingenuity. I have seen many photographers tape or rubberband a piece of white paper in front of their on-board strobe unit to diffuse and bounce the light. Give it a shot.

The image I have featured on this post was taken in a very dark church during a worship service. I used my Image Stabilized lens combined with a high ISO and slow shutter speed to capture the scene. Had I made this same shot with a flash, the band in the background would be completely dark and all I would have had was a blown out shot of a bald guy raising his hand. By choosing to go strobe-less, it made for a much more interesting capture.

Please share any low-light photography tips you use in shooting when the lights go down.

Canon 30D, Canon 24-105 f/4L IS lens – 1/25 second, f/4, ISO 1600

March 26, 2007 at 11:31 pm by | Categories: tutorial


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con – se – quence [kon-si-kwens, -kwuh ns]

1. the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier: the police action was a consequence of the teen’s vandalism.
2. an act or instance of following something as an effect, result, or outcome.
3. the conclusion reached by a line of reasoning; inference.
4. importance or significance: a matter of no consequence.
5. importance in rank or position; distinction: a man of great consequence in art.

[Origin: 1350–1400; ME ( AF) L consequentia.]

at 7:38 am by | Categories: Post

Cowboy Poet


I was shooting some captures today for my stock photo portfolio and I invited a friend over to watch. He’s a recent convert from film to digital SLR’s (albeit Nikon!) and wanted to try my studio lights with his D80. We were planning on shooting some photos involving smoke and guns so he brought along his 45 Colt single action revolver.

While we were shooting he told me about a western style photo he saw on a website and suggested that we attempt to make a similar capture sometime in the future. That’s all the motivation I needed. We rounded up the props and put together the shot. While the color version works well, I also like this version in black & white sepia with a bit of film grain added.

Cowboy Poet (grainy b&w)

Canon 5D, Canon 24-105 f/4L lens – 1/60 second, f/11, ISO 50

March 24, 2007 at 11:08 pm by | Categories: Post

Capital Building

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Canon 30D, Canon 24-105 f/4L IS lens – 1/125 second, f/6.3, ISO 100

at 7:36 am by | Categories: Post

Old House on a Hill

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A quaint little fixer-upper. Great view. Just needs a little TNT TLC.

Canon 5D, Canon 24-105 f/4L IS lens – 1.3 seconds, f/11, ISO 50

March 22, 2007 at 11:39 pm by | Categories: Post