What is Your Subject?

The first step to creating better photographs at home is to know what your subject is. That sounds way too simple to be a legitimate tip, right? However, knowing your subject as a photographer isn’t as simple as just pointing the camera in the right direction.

How many times have you taken pictures of your family and wondered why they just don’t seem to capture the real essence of the people you love? All the right people are in the photos, but something is missing. 

When photographers talk about finding their subject, they are talking about focusing in on their subject and making it the focal point. Let’s say that you are taking pictures of your kids opening their presents on Christmas morning, you are going to want to get up from your chair and get on the floor, down to their level, and get close! You don’t need to get the whole living room in your picture. The further away you are from your kids, the less likely you are going to really be able to capture those priceless expressions of joy and surprise. 

Let’s look at an example. I just went out in my yard with my iPhone for these photos, and there is no post procession (editing) done to them. This is what photographers call SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera). For my subject I chose my water hydrant; not an interesting subject, I know. 

In this first picture you see the typical shot you would get if someone was told to go take a picture of that hydrant. It is far away and located smack dab in the center of the shot.
Why would someone even take this photo?

In this next picture I pulled in a little closer to the hydrant. While it is now a little bit clearer what the subject of the photo is, it is still not an interesting photo by any means.

Still boring

In this last photo I got in really close to my subject. I decided to place the sunset behind it so that the hydrant is in silhouette. I also off-set it a bit to add interest, but more on that in a future post. This really brings some interest to what was a terribly boring photo of a water hydrant in the yard. 
Much more interesting, even without the additional editing I would normally do on a photo

I combed my photos from Christmas to try to find another example and managed to find a shot where I took a photo from across the room, then another one where I got in close.

This photo is too cluttered with different things that draw your eyes away from the subject. We will discuss more about backgrounds in a future post, but there is just too much going on in this photo.

It's just too far away to be interesting.

In this close up we can now see that my nephew is working on a new Lego set that he was given for Christmas. It's not a perfect photo by any means, but it is way more interesting than the previous shot.

He's captivated by his new Lego set!

 Here are a few more photos that show how focusing in on your subject can really help make those snapshots special!

My Dad is definitely a tool man! 

When you are in a room full of people, it is important that you get in close
to keep other family members from drawing attention away from your true subject 

What they are looking at is way less important than this moment between a great-grandmother and her great-grandaughter!

How sad would it have been to miss this face by being too far away?

Now I want you to grab your camera and go put this into practice. Test it out by taking those wider shots that include much more than your subject, then take another one where you pull in close. Sure there are times when a wide shot makes for a great shot, but that doesn’t usually apply to family photos. Share your results in the comments. I'd love to see your photos and read your comments and questions!

Be sure to come back for future Tips for Your Snaps!

If you are near the south-central Missouri area and are looking for a professional photographer, please contact me at Gifts of Nature Photography. Like my Facebook page for more photos, tips and information!


Andrew N. Gilbert said...

I really enjoyed how informative yet easy going your lesson was. I look forward to the next one!

Smalltown Girl said...

Thank you so much!