Al Campbell, Field Editor

January 27th, 2003

Digital Imaging Part 4
More Special Moments
By Al Campbell

One of the rules of good scenic photography is to place the subject of the picture on an imaginary line, about 1/3 of the way into the picture, facing the action. In other words, if you divided your picture by thirds vertically and thirds horizontally, your subject should ideally be on or near one of those division lines. It's even better if the subject is on or near the intersection of two division lines. The subject should always be facing into the picture, especially if the picture portrays some sort of action (like fishing).

That rule is so steadfast that many cameras have a grid on their view screen that shows the lines so the photographer can place his/her subject where it belongs. Supposedly, following that rule results in better pictures that are more pleasing to the human eye. You can violate the rule if you want, but keep in mind that many publishers stick to the rule like it was gospel.

Fortunately, the rule doesn't apply to most macro shots and some fast-action shots. It's also ignored most of the time in instructional photography where your attention is focused on the instructional features of the photo. You might think the rule is ignored in portrait photography, but if you look at where the eyes or head are placed in the picture, you'll see that most photographers adhere to the rule then too.

What does this have to do with this week's subject? Well, we're going to start with a picture that applies those rules. In fact, since the picture complies with those rules, it could be a candidate for a cover shot on a magazine someday. And, by following the rules, we have enough room to add extras to the picture without crowding the theme out of view. Keep in mind, any composite photo you create should start with a good picture and grow from there.

Continuing with the theme from last week, we'll be working on more layering techniques, but this time we'll work with something other than a lasso or magic wand. Many photo imaging software packages allow you to cut, crop or copy a portion of a photo in a geometric shape like a circle, ellipse, square or rectangle. Let's try that and see what we can come up with.

Here is a picture of my friend Steve. Steve is a professional photographer and a pretty good fly-fisher. Steve taught me many of the photography skills I've learned, especially scenic photography, and much of what he knows about flyfishing was learned from me. I think it was a fair trade.

Steve is fishing a midge hatch, and I'd like to show that idea somewhere on the picture of him fishing. I'm a pretty good macro photographer. Actually, I'm a bit better than Steve in that area of photography (he didn't teach me everything I know), so I do have a few photos of midges that would make him green with envy (maybe).

First I need to capture that midge so I can use it in the other picture. Using the selection tool in an elliptical pattern, I draw an ellipse around the midge and copy my selection to use in the other picture.

Next I open the picture of Steve

and paste the outlined picture of the midge as a photo object onto Steve's picture.

Then I move the midge into the position I want, size it to fit, and make it transparent.

I can do that as many times as I want, and with any picture I want. For instance, I can copy Steve from this picture and paste him back into the picture.

And, I can replace the midge with the copy of Steve.

That's all fine, but we really haven't done anything very artistic. Let's use those skills we just learned and do something a little more artistic. We'll start with a picture of a fly in the vise.

Then copy Steve out of the other picture and place him on top of the fly.

Size him to fit into the frame of the fly picture.

And make him transparent.

That's pretty artistic. Notice that we followed the rules of subject placement fairly close when we placed Steve in this picture? His hands intersect the fly about 1/3 of the way into the picture.

What would it look like if we layered the photo the other direction with Steve's picture under the fly? Would it look any different? Let's find out.

First we take the cutout picture of Steve and place it onto a blank white background that is just big enough for his picture.

Then we place the picture of the fly over Steve's picture and make it transparent.

Did you notice that the picture placed on top of the other picture is the sharpest part of the final image? Look again.

Here's Steve on another creek on another day with the same fly placed over his picture. However, this composite image was created using basically the same tools in Microsoft's "Picture It Publishing Platinum" software.

There are obvious differences in the way these different programs layer images. Every program has its strong points and weak points. If you only have one program for digital imaging, you'll have to learn how to get the most out of that program. However, if you have several programs to choose from, you can take the best properties from each program and put them to your best use. In fact, in some cases, you can manipulate a picture in one program and use it in another program to create the best possible image. More on that idea later in this series.

How is your practice coming along? Don't forget we have a contest coming up in a couple of weeks. See you next week with more fun things you can do to your pictures. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice