Category Archives: Taking Images

Aspects of a good image

Rule of Thirds

If you look at great images, your eye seems to go to certain items. Usually, they are placed in so called ‘power points’. Imagine a tic-tac-toe grid, dividing the image both horizontally and vertically into thirds. he ‘power points’ are the four places where the lines intersect.

You do not want to place the horizon line of your image in the middle, rather at 1/3rd or 2/3rds. The decision of where depends on what you want to emphasize. If the sky is the ‘main attraction’, the horizon line would be at about 1/3rd of the height. (example: ‘Cape of Good Hope’) In the image of the Lynx, the eyes are at about 2/3rds. If they would be at 1/2, the image would not have the same impact.

A lone tree in a meadow is best placed in one of the ‘power points’. If the tree is in the foreground though,, it is my experience that it makes the entry into the image more difficult. I wonder if it has to do with the fact, that in our culture, we read from left to right and so the eyes move in that direction. Judge for yourself by looking at the image with the tree. Let me know what you think.

As a last point: rules are there to be broken, though one needs to understand the rule before one can break it 🙂 With landscapes, look, move around and then decide what works for you.

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If you go back to the Greek roots of the word, Photography means “drawing with light” (phos = light, graphe = drawing). Therefore, the kind of light you have when taking a picture is very important. There is the so called ‘Golden Light’ which is about 30min to 1 hour after sunrise or before sunset. 10am – 2pm (or longer in the Summer) is considered the worst light, because it is very harsh. This is somewhat correct if you consider just landscape photography.

In reality, there is no ‘bad light’. One needs to change the kind of image one plans on taking. Let’s go through the day and look at the kind of images one can take:

Time before sunrise: the sky or clouds can have incredible colors; mountaintops are already sunlit while everything else is in shadow; great for silhouettes against the eastern sky.

Sunrise + about 1 hour: soft light, great for regular landscapes and wildlife

Midday (10am – 2/4pm): great if you are in a forest or among trees; use the light reflected from other things in the sun to gain light on items in the shadow; reflections on water of sunlit foliage

Sunset – about 1 hour: soft light, great for landscapes and wildlife

Time after sunset: blues and mauves in the sky and clouds; silhouettes against the western sky

Overcast, cloudy sky: This provides nice, even light, which is great for things in the ‘shade. It is important to remember to keep the sky out of the image.

Moon rise, Moon set: check the times. A moon rise is best a day or two before the full moon. This still gives you some light. Along the same line, a moon set is best a day or two after the full moon.

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Foreground – Middle – Background

If you look closely, the typical snapshot lacks a foreground. It is amazing, how long it took me to get over that mode of shooting. (Any time there was a foreground, it was more accident than intention) Yet it makes such a difference. Besides the S-Curve, you can lead the eye through the image using the concept of foreground, middle ground and background. Simple things like a brush, flowers, rocks / a boulder can provide that foreground. It allows the viewer to step into the image. From there, one moves to the middle and then to the background. It creates the feeling of depth, of 3 dimensions.

One of my early mistakes: there was nothing that anchored the image in the front. Then, 2 other images that show some froeground.

How much of a foreground you choose depends to some degree on the lens you are using. With a wide angle lens you can get up close to an object and still have a nice middle- and background. How you position yourself relative to the scene (high or low for instance) will determine how much of a middle ground you’ll have. Play with it and have fun.

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Lines, S-Curves

_DSC0335-EditLines can play an important part in taking images. They are also an easy aspect. Some examples of a line: a road, a row of trees or shrubs, a fence, a course of water. The ‘line’ is placed so it leads the viewer into the image.

Don’t forget that shadows can also serve as lines. It can be used for the same purpose.

This image is not the best, but it serves as an illustration.

I prefer the softer S-curves. They are more elegant and invite a more thorough exploration of the image. S-curves are a bit harder to find. The most likely places are creeks and dunes, roads often offer a curve.



One caution with using lines: do not place them so they exit the image. It can also be tricky to have a fence in the foreground running from left to right. It makes it harder to ‘enter’ the image.

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