For Christmas, Maelie, 5 years old, receives her first little camera. She ordered it from Santa Claus with her mom because she wanted to take beautiful pictures like her big sister. Maelie frenetically hits the button but she never likes her pictures. But mommy, why can’t I take beautiful pictures like Mary?
Within everyone’s reach
Photography has undeniably democratized and with this democratization came many new adepts of all ages who have more and more knowledge of ISO, aperture, shutter speed, manual settings, using the flash, framing and using Picasa or Photoshop. Even if this democracy is downright fantastic, it blurs the line between day-to-day photography and creative photography.
How about doing both at the same time? There are many composition rules in photography. Everyone has his own but I believe that someone who masters the basic rules is allowed to transgress it. And when we can transgress those rules my friends, creation begins! With creativity come a lot of experiences: trial and error, clumsiness, complete failure and the unexpected fabulous photo, even if we don’t know how to reproduce it. In photography as in many art forms, we don’t only say that practice makes perfect. Practice also represents the joy of discovering ourselves as artists.
If your child has a strong love of art, give him a few rules, master them together and let him practice freely. Who knows? Maybe the next Robert Doisneau is under your roof! And let me tell you, Mister Doisneau has transgressed a lot of rules!
Framing and aesthetics lessons for children in three easy steps.
The world revolves around you
Where is your nose Maelie? Well, here! In the middle of my face! And that is the first rule of photography. Centering your subject in an interesting and creative manner. It is an exercise more than a rule, a way of doing and seeing photography. Centering is the first lesson of photography, the first that people transgress. Why? Some find it too simple; others find it boring. Personally, I don’t always master it like I should and I am working on it! Centering a subject in a large frame is not always easy to achieve aesthetically. To succeed, the background must be symmetrical or quite uniform. Who gives it a try? It is most useful for: landscapes, portraits and family pictures.
How far is the horizon?
The horizon is far mommy? Right? It is far and it is beautiful. A rule says that in a successful outdoor photo, the horizon should:
- Be straight.
- Be in line or lower than the bottom third of the picture or in line or on top of the two third of it but never in the middle!
Your holiday pictures all have a centered horizon? Don’t worry, it is not bad or ugly but try my little trick and you may catch a flying bird when the sky represents 80% of your picture. With daddy laughing at the bottom, it will look awesome! It is very useful for: outdoor pictures and landscapes.
I call tic-tac-toe what we call “The rule of thirds” in photography. This rule is most important and mastering it allows you to transgress it in a way that remains aesthetically interesting. What is it? Divide mentally (some cameras point it out) your screen in a centered tic-tac-toe. The dots at the intersection of the lines could be called the cardinal direction of your picture. So if you take a picture of your dad, for example, he is in front of you and quite close and let’s suppose we are interested in his eye, place the middle of his eye on a dot and try again with the three others. This little exercise will help you find your personal preferences. It works for everything (for real): portraits, family pictures, trips, street pictures.
So practice with your friends and don’t be afraid to criticize, it is the best way to grow and to have fun. A picture is bad? Might as well laugh about it. It is the best gift of the digital age!