{Mentor Mondays} What makes a photograph?

Anybody can take a snapshot. We fill our family photo albums with them. Quick captures to remember our lives by. Heck, I take them with my cell phone every day! How many sleeping-child-in-a-carseat photos does one woman need, anyway?

But just because these snapshots are good enough to fill our photo albums, doesn't mean they're good enough to fill our picture frames. Admit it! When it comes to our mantels, we want to display artA photograph gives us the best of both worlds. We get an eye-catching image, full of the faces and smiles that bring our hearts joy.

Whether you're photographing your family, animals, or landscapes; all of these composition rules apply to you!

Rule 1: Perspective. 

HAVE ONE! A good photograph tells a story. What's yours?


Last Fall, Kaelyn and I accompanied Daniel on a business trip to Winston-Salem. She was 13 months old, and absolutely fearless. For the picture on the left, I wanted to capture her invincible nature. I squatted down really low to capture an upward angle, knowing she would appear more powerful and larger-than-life. This was "life according to Kaelyn," 

On the other hand, she was this 2-foot-small 1 year old, taking on a new city. In a BIG world. Surely, THAT reality needed capturing too! I stepped back to fit the large, old, tree in the frame. By comparison, Kaelyn appears as teeny tiny as I remember her being.

Exact same location, exact same time. Two totally different stories.

It's easier than it sounds, I promise! Here are some tips for finding an interesting perspective in your photographs:

  1. Who is the "star" of the story? Try and capture a glimpse into their world as they see it. For small children, this means you'll probably need to squat or lay down to get "on their level."
  2. What elements around you are critical to your story-telling? Move around until you find an angle that fits those elements in the frame.  If you're at an amusement park, fit a roller coaster in the background of that family portrait. If you kid is decorating cookies, don't forget to include that sprinkle-covered table with their icing-smeared face. If you're camping, a tent or fire pit will provide that context. A great photograph tells your intended story without your explanation.
  3. Force yourself to explore new angles. Stand on a chair to snap a downward shot of your child painting a card (and your kitchen table) for her best friend's birthday. Baby's first puree? What about a shot from BELOW the high chair tray? (How DO they manage to get liquefied vegetables between their toes??)
  4. In an inspiration rut? Bored of getting the same shot? Don't under estimate the power of flipping your camera from vertical to horizontal. Easy change, high impact.

Sure, it's easy to take pictures of the life YOU walk around seeing every day. Taking the extra seconds to change perspectives is not only refreshing and unexpected, it gives viewers a chance to relate instead to your subject in new and interesting ways.

Give it a whirl! Share your "story" photograph on my facebook page. Then check back next week for more composition pointers!