A few weeks ago I returned to medieval Yvoire having been disappointed with my haul of photos from last year. This time I was determined to accurately reflect the feel of the village, which I’d failed at miserably on previous visits. I was feeling much more confident with my camera, and by putting into practice some of the lessons I’d learnt over the last few months I ended up being really pleased with the results. In fact photography-wise I think it’s my best trip yet! So what are the three lessons that have helped me get there?
1. The Devil Is In The Detail
With my old compact camera I always focussed on taking wide-angle shots to capture a scene. But with an increasing interest in photography I’ve noticed that one of the things I admire most in other people’s work is the ability to translate the feel of a place in a single photo. This is quite difficult to achieve if you’re not focussing on something specific. I think a well-focussed shot of an object or architectural detail is generally most effective, so I’ve started paying more attention to the details all around me.
I really wanted to convey the feeling of an antique shop in Yvoire when I spotted this fantastic model car. It instantly grabbed my attention, and I knew that the colour would come out well. But my initial shot was from the front, including the whole car in shot and not a lot else. I wasn’t happy with it, and I knew why. It was just another shot of a model car, it didn’t mean anything to me when I looked at it. Taking the shot from behind and higher up meant that I could also capture the beautiful wooden surface that the car was placed on, the model train sitting next to it and allude to some of the other objects sitting around the bench. It better captured what it felt like to be in that antique shop.
2. Think In Black & White
I’d experimented a lot with black and white on my existing catalogue of images in Lightroom, and this was really useful in helping me understand where it works and where it doesn’t. But I’d never really thought about B&W when out and about with my camera.
Whilst wandering the streets in Yvoire I noticed there were lots of shadows being cast across the buildings, and thought this would make a great B&W scene. So I started looking for shots where the contrast between light and dark was quite strong, in combination with some interesting subject matter such as a restaurant sign or window dressing. It was really satisfying to notice something about the environment I was in and realise it was perfect for a black and white shot.
3. Get Rid Of The Clutter
In the past I have been a bit obsessed with having a neat composition. If there was a corner just out of shot I had to reframe so that it was in shot, even if that meant including some other clutter around the edges of the frame. Generally in life I like to keep things nice and tidy, and this was evident to me in my photography. That missing corner would really bug me.
In the past I would have included the entire sign in this shot, despite the fact that it would bring in unnecessary foreground and lose some of the interesting decoration toward the top. By excluding the bottom corner, the eye is focussed more on the subject – the sign – and doesn’t have to deal with other any unnecessary detail. Sometimes I have to apply this common sense in post-processing as my OCD tendency takes over in the heat of the moment, but I’m getting better at leaving out those corners and really focussing on what’s important in the shot.
Do you have any photography tips for capturing the feel of a town? Please feel free to share in the comments!
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