Saturday, March 13, 2010

Working A Composition

Sometimes, I'm guilty of hastily composing a shot, snapping, and putting the camera away. After all, I work and want to spend time with my family. But when I look back on the shots, I'm sometimes disappointed. I see subtle changes that could've made the shot work better (a change in composition, poor timing, something i want to change with exposure, etc). This is easily remedied by taking your time and being deliberate about how you capture an image. I want to encourage anyone who shoots family documentary or FPJ to be patient. Find a composition that works and "sit on it." Wait for the moment to develop and unfold before you. I always encourage other photographers to find new and interesting angles. Please, do that too. But sometimes, you find a composition you like. Work that, don't let it go until you come away with something you value. You won't always have time to do this, but if you wait for the moment to come, you won't be disappointed that you waited.

Quick side note: This tip may not be easy to apply on day trips such as the zoo, museums, etc. But there may be times where your child/children interact with a specific toy/animal/exhibit long enough for you to work the composition.

It's not about machine gunning your way to a moment--taking 30 or 40 shots at once, hoping to get just one that's decent. Once you're in position, observe your children and the action taking place. Try to anticipate when someone might laugh or smile or do something interesting. Be ready and then get the shot. It takes discipline not to click the shutter 50 times hoping for that moment. Try to trust yourself and you will begin to develop greater discipline and intuition (anticipate moments). Here is a series of seemingly similar shots. I found a composition of my son playing in his room which I liked. I wanted to capture his interactions with the toy. Here is a sample of what I chose to shoot and the type of moments I was looking for. They were taken over a period of around 10 minutes (1ds2, 35L, iso 3200, 1/60, f/2.2)

I enjoy these shots for different reasons, in part because there's a subtle range of expressions and action and they're all genuinely Isaac.

Here's a second, shorter series of my older son just messing around while watching tv (1ds2, 35L, iso 1600, 1/80, f/2.8).

Thanks for stopping by.



  1. Nice post and photos. I started doing FPJ this year and I find that it takes a lot patience. Anticipation is definitely key when shooting little ones. Here is my blog on my son. I am doing my best to take a photo of him each day. Most have been indoors and it is getting boring, but warm weather is here and we will be outside more.
    Both of your articles and photos have been very helpful in my photography journey. Thanks!

  2. Love the frames on your wall above the sofa. Great idea!! Did you cut the mats or are these store bought frames?

  3. thanks, gee-had a chance to check out your shots-your son's really cute and i enjoyed scrolling through the shots-great project!

    vr6veedub: those frames are in my in-laws' upstairs den-i'd imagine the frames were custom cut but i'm not sure