Natural light, candid moments polish photography

Kathryn Buncik, freshman art major, and Anna Avery, elementary education and learning foundations double major, sit on the stage at Barefoots Joe. Beth Spain illustrates how to take a better photo in Barefoots by using soft fill flash, hiding distracting elements, getting closer to subjects and placing them according to the rule-of-thirds. | Photo by Beth Spain

By Abby Ott

Improving one’s photography may seem like a daunting task if he or she has never had any photography classes or does not have a fancy camera.

But there is hope even if one does not have a high-tech camera, said Jim Veneman, assistant professor of communication arts and Union’s director of visual communications.

“Don’t think you have to have something expensive to make excellent photographs,” Veneman said. “Photography is far less about the camera than who is holding it.”

Morris Abernathy, university photographer, said he agrees photography is not about the equipment. Nonetheless, it is important to know the camera one is using to shoot the picture. Reading the manual is one practical way to learn.

“The best way to improve your photos is to study people, both in the (photography) business and your friends,” Abernathy said. “Look at their work, glean from others and see what visually appeals to you.”

Photography has often been described as the art of painting with light. In order to make an image, a certain amount of light must enter the camera.

“Observe light and let it affect your picture,” said Kristi McMurry, web design specialist. “Pay attention to it because it changes the photo so much.”

Light affects the mood of a photograph drastically. Natural-light situations photograph well, while fluorescent lighting normally looks bad in photographs. McMurry suggested moving to better lighting if one is in a poorly lighted scenario.

“The first thing I do when I arrive on a scene is evaluate the light,” Abernathy said. “The absence or the existence of light is what tells the story, and I try to tell the story as it naturally occurs.”

Veneman stressed the value of capturing a “moment” in photos. Moments can be anything from a shared laugh between friends to eye contact being made in a conversation.

“(Moment) is most often the primary element left out of our photographs,” Veneman said. “We tend to raise the camera, click and move on, rather than waiting on the instant that tells the story. It takes a dab of patience and a bit of concentration, but it’s so worth it. Photographs of the true moments of our lives will live on and on.”

Composition is also an element of photography that cannot be overlooked. Composing a photo means organizing what is seen through the viewfinder before taking an image. The “Rule of Thirds” is a commonly used term in photography. It basically means to frame the subject on one side of the photo, not directly in the middle.

“You can make an image more interesting if you play with the frame,” Abernathy said. “Learn how to compose, in that your subject does not have to fill up the entire frame. Without knowing how to compose, you either appear lazy or look like you do not know what you are doing.”

In the digital age, it is easy to take hundreds of photographs and come out with no good images. McMurry said to “carefully compose” the photograph and try to get one quality image as opposed to many bad ones. Additionally, getting both wide and detail shots can improve the range of one’s photos.

“In a fraction of a second, we capture tiny slices of life,” Veneman said. “Photographs show who we are, what is important to us, who we love, how we live our lives, those we wrap our lives around, what makes us cry, what makes us laugh, maybe even a glimpse of our tomorrow and the imprint left behind.”

McMurry said, “Never be afraid to take out your camera and take pictures. Practice makes perfect, and learning how to use your camera is the only way you are going to learn to take better pictures.”

Image courtesy of Cardinal & Cream|Cardinal & Cream
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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.