How To Control Composition In Child Photography?

  • While the beginner may be glad enough just to get reasonably sharp and clear pictures, later he is likely to pay more attention to the subject himself. As he progresses he will become increasingly aware of the potential of his camera as a means of expression. Experience will show him that the camera is more than a recording instrument. It is capable of portraying emotional experience.

  • Creative photography is influenced by the subjects we have already touched on lighting, camera angles, background and choice of the moment of exposure. Of equal importance is composition, a subject so complex that only those aspects having a particular bearing on child photography can be treated here.

  • To be able to recognize a picture when it presents itself and choose the significant moment of exposure requires a perceptive eye. But to give the picture the maximum impact and expression you need to cultivate a selective eye. Life produces a constant kaleidoscope of accidental groupings of objects from which the photographer must select well-ordered patterns. Firstly he must simplify by leaving out all non-essentials. Strong lines which cannot be avoided must be organized to lead the eye to an important part of the picture.

  • Look objectively at the subject as if you are seeing it for the first time. Ask yourself what you wish to say about it. Your feelings about it can best be expressed by emphasis; putting stress on some parts of the picture and `soft-pedaling' others. Children have a strong visual and emotional appeal and it is often only necessary to isolate the subject from the surroundings by careful selection of angle and lighting to eliminate distractions, or by differential focusing to diffuse practically all the picture except the child.

  • An advantage enjoyed by the studio photographer is that he can select his background, which can be lighter or darker than the subject as long as it is unobtrusive. High key or strong counterpoint lighting against a dark background either can be effective. When children are photographed in natural surroundings, at play, out of doors or in the home the problem of what to include and what to eliminate is more difficult to assess. Many objects demand inclusion but would dominate the result. What devices are available to us to ensure that the child remains the main subject?

  • Firstly, tone. When the child is well-lit, if he is against a plain background of lighter or darker tone he will stand out sufficiently well. But other methods must be employed where other objects in the picture compete for our attention. We have already noted that differential focusing can place emphasis on the child by making him the sharpest part of the picture. We can also make him dominate the picture by being the largest feature in it, although this is not always desirable since the very smallness of a child has pictorial possibilities.

  • As to the arrangement of tones in the picture we can eliminate unnecessary detail by using a long-focus lens, or getting close or perhaps using a low viewpoint to get rid of a confusing foreground. As child photography in natural surroundings involves a strong element of opportunism, often with little or no time for compositional analysis, a degree of control is still available at the darkroom stage. Unwanted detail can often be cropped-off, shaded-out or fogged-in during printing.

  • Next, the subject must be related to other elements in the picture area. Lines should lead the eye into the main subject. Generally speaking, lines which traverse the picture lead our interest out of the frame unless trans- versed by opposing forces.

  • The subject can gain in emphasis by being placed at a strong pattern point in the picture, such as the centre of a circle, or perhaps framed by the dark shape of a doorway. A most useful strong point in common use in child portraiture is the apex of a triangle. This pattern establishes a sense of stability.

  • In a three-quarter-length picture of a child the body often forms the triangular shape with the face as the centre of interest at the apex. Balance is often a matter of personal taste and the photographer must sometimes obey his instincts in this respect. There are, however, one or two rules which must be observed almost invariably. Remember that light areas tend to draw attention to themselves. Keep the child away from the centre of the picture or the edges but allow more space in front of him if he is looking to one side or the other. In other words, see that he is looking into the picture and not out of the side. Horizontal lines suggest peace and tranquility; verticals stand for strength and stability. Diagonal lines are active and energetic.

  • Although these fundamentals are generally followed it would be a mistake to suppose that a picture which breaks any of these rules must be a failure. Many great masterpieces of painting have flouted the accepted rules. Sometimes a picture can succeed in spite of its violation of accepted standards, simply because of the strength of its subject matter. The rules should certainly be learned. But it is more important to cultivate an awareness of the interplay of lines and surface and values in our everyday lives. By mentally organizing the form of these values we can give better expression in our pictures to our conceptions and emotions. Thus an instinct may be developed for selecting well-ordered patterns which add impact to the original picture conception.

More About Methods of Approach In Child Photography

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