Many of you have remarked how my photography work reminds them of oil paintings by the old masters. I always take these remarks as the greatest of compliments because I have a deep love of painting and painters and have spent many years studying, in detail, how they handle light and composition to create their masterpieces. In fact, I would highly recommend that any aspiring photographer take a course in life drawing, painting and/or the history of art to improve their photographic skills. Learning how to “see” is essential to mastering any visual medium, and the old masters were masterful at understanding how light and composition combine to create sublime imagery: photography is no different. One painter that I am particularly interested in at the moment, is the German Symbolist and Art Nouveau artist, Franz Von Stuck (1863-1928). I admire his draughtsmanship and dramatic use of light. I am particularly enamoured with his rather formal portrait work; beautiful profiles with ornate textural clothing. The portrait above, of my niece Ashling, is heavily influenced by Von Stuck’s approach to light and composition. Below, is a painting by Von Stuck, called, Cinderella. The Symbolists were heavily influenced by mythology and romanticism; a perfect theme to portray the emerging beauty of my niece.
Comforting to know that even the most iconic of photographs and photographers were not adverse to a little retouching here and there. As Ansel Adams said “You don’t take a photography, you make it.” Photographic philistines take note when judging people who employ photo apps to enhance their mobile photographic work.
Link to article: La retouche photographique, 60 ans avant Photoshop.
What has the shell of a Nautilus, mathematics and a great photographic composition got in common? The answer is surprisingly simple: Fibonacci’s ratio. If you answered Golden Mean, Phi, or Divine Proportion, then you would have been equally correct. Since the days of antiquity, this ratio of 1:1.618 has been used to create everything from great art and architecture, right through to today’s wide screen televisions. In fact, anything that you find aesthetically pleasing, be it natural or man-made, will more than likely be based on this simple rule of harmonious proportions. When these proportions are applied to photographic composition – they carry the title ‘Rule of Thirds’. Most people, when they are composing a picture in a frame, naturally place the subject in the centre of the viewfinder. Nothing wrong with that – but it does tend to produce images that are flat and uninteresting. This is where the ‘Rule of Thirds’ can be very useful – it encourages you to place the subject of your photo in or around the four intersections of the on-screen grid (see image above) – be it a tree, house, face, eye, etc. – the list is as endless as the subject matter you are framing. It’s a very simple way to to apply ‘Fibonacci’s Ratio’ and therefore making your photos more intriguing and aesthetically pleasing. It’s not a hard and fast rule, by any means, but it can be a very useful tool when composing your pictures. I encourage you to continue to research this fascinating principle online – it has occupied and delighted great minds in the arts and sciences for centuries.