Photography column: Composition and the Rule of Thirds – Laramie Boomerang

Photography is a form of visual communication and the main goal in taking almost any photo is to draw peoples’ attention to the finished photo and then keep their attention long enough for them to derive a message from the photo.

Learning some basic rules or principles of photocomposition helps us construct a solid foundation that can support both conscious choices based on those rules and our intuition’s freely flowing, creative compositional sense, leading to rich, compelling photos and ultimately accomplishing the above goal.

Although many people are intimidated by the words “photocomposition” or “photo design,” using composition wisely and creatively is one of photography’s most important and creative tools.

Today’s column explores one of the most important of these basic compositional rules, the Rule of Thirds, and how to apply that rule while composing photos in the camera.

This and the other principles are actually quite easy to learn and implement and using them almost always produces remarkably improved, interesting and potent photographs.

Artistic Composition

Wikipedia says, “In the visual arts, composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art … The organization of the elements of art according to the principles of art.”

Improving our composition does take practice and effort but the most difficult part is to remember to consciously consider composition while shooting our photos, to consciously scan the whole image in the camera’s viewfinder or screen, checking for and fixing any compositional mistakes before releasing the shutter.

While using these rules most often improves our photos, there are some situations when breaking rules of composition actually produces the best photos. When I’m shooting and a photo’s composition just “feels” right to me even though it’s incorrect, I’ll quickly analyze it closer and if the “incorrect” composition doesn’t detract from the photo, I’ll trust my intuition and take the photo.

Rule of Thirds

Probably the most powerful and effective basic rule to learn is the Rule of Thirds. Look at the grid in Graphic A. The two vertical and two horizontal lines bisect the frame into thirds in both directions, hence the rule’s name.

A photo’s center is its least interesting area and placing the subject there is generally the least interesting choice. Yet, peoples’ natural tendency is to concentrate so much on the subject that, until we train ourselves to do otherwise, we place the subject in that center, ultimately making this habit a very difficult one to break. Hence, peoples’ most common compositional mistake is placing the subject in the photo’s center. Smack in the center.

Notice the photo’s center is inside the box made up by Graphic A’s four grid lines. While the center is a photo’s least interesting position for the subject, the most interesting and dynamic positions are where the vertical and horizontal lines intersect or along any of the four lines themselves. Learning to place our subjects in any of these areas is probably the most effective way to improve our photo composition.

Practice consciously composing photos by forcing yourself to look at every part of your photo, then using the Rule of Thirds to help improve your photos’ composition and appeal. Learn to see the whole frame at a glance, so in the future you’ll be able to compose photos in just seconds before those fleeting moments disappear.

Look closely at Photo A, and consider its composition. I’ll refer back to it in February along with several more compositional rules.

Answers to Last Month’s Questions

In November’s column, I posed some questions to you about lighting.

Here’s a short wrap up, plus the questions and answers.

Photo 1: Every scene has a key light. If it didn’t it would be completely black. If there is only one light source, then it’s the key light and there are no fill lights. Photo 1 is a shot of the Laramie rail yard. What are its key light and fill light?

A: The overcast sky is the key light, although it also provides the scene’s main fill light. Also, lightly toned objects in the scene are very small fill lights, but they contribute little to the scene’s lighting.

Photo 2: Photo 2 is a backlit photo. What is the key light and are there any fill lights? Why are the shadows blue? Is shaded snow always blue?

A: The key light is the sun, even though it’s also the back-light. The blue sky is the fill light and because it’s blue and snow is so reflective, the open sky lights the shadows with blue light. Shadowed snow is gray when a gray overcast sky is the fill light and is red if a red barn is the fill light.

Illustration 1: Photo 3 is a photo-composite that was shot shortly after sunrise and created by joining four separate photos together. Notice how yellow the snow is, especially in the left half of the very snowy Sheep Mountain. Why is that? Secondly, why does the snow gradually loose the yellow tint and also become darker as the view moves to the right toward the end of Sheep Mountain? And in answering this question, can you also tell where the sun is along the eastern horizon behind me when I shot the photo?

A3: All three questions have one common answer.

In Illustration 1, the red lines show the sunlight’s direction and the black lines show the scene reflecting back to the camera. Notice that the camera is directly between the rising sun and the most yellow and brightest area of Sheep Mountain on the far left. Because snow is so reflective, it reflects more yellow sunrise light directly back toward the sun (red lines) than in any other direction, which accounts for the greater yellow tint and brighter reflection where the sun, the camera and the brighter part of the scene are in a straight line.

Consequently, as the direction of the sun shining on the snow (red lines) gets further and further away from the angle of the sun reflecting back to the camera, (black lines) less of the sunlight is reaching the camera, gradually reducing both the yellow color and the snow’s brightness.

Photo 4: Lastly, I referred to Photo 4 and asked you to identify the key light and the fill light that are lighting the moon as it emerges from the earth’s shadow during a full lunar eclipse. Unfortunately, the newsprint didn’t pick up the subtleties of the fill light, so you may have been confused by my reference to any fill light at all.

A4: The sliver of sunlight as it peaks around the earth is the key light. I hinted at this answer when I mentioned, “the bright area in the upper right where direct sunlight is once again lighting the moon.” Sunlight reflecting off of the rim of the earth is the fill light that is “filling in” the shadowed parts of the moon.

So, till next time, keep your eyes open, your camera handy and your imagination flowing.

Dan Hayward is a 38-year veteran photographer. He is well known for his fine art and people photography and his aerial and ground-based images documenting Wyoming’s Natural Environment. He is a 4-time Purchase Award Winner and One-time winner of the Peoples’ Choice, Best in Show Award at recent Wyoming Governor’s Capital Art Exhibitions. Go to to view extended versions of his photography columns.

Bella Hadid Takes Après-Ski Beauty to the Next Level –

Photo: Courtesy of Bella Hadid / @bellahadid

Bella Hadid has just mastered the secret to easy après-ski beauty—one last cosmetic feat for the Instagram star and model-of-the-moment, as the clock ticks down to the end of a banner year. For a family trip to the snow-drenched mountains of Aspen, Colorado, Hadid smartly slicked her dark lengths up into the glossy top knot that has become her signature and wore no makeup on her glowing skin, except for a hint of protective balm on her lips. It was the ultimate model-off-duty look, reimagined for the slopes—and the perfect bit of winter beauty inspiration to take into 2017.


7 Big Trends To Expect in Fashion & Retail in 2017 – Footwear News

REX Features.

The year of retail’s redefinition is upon us, so says The NPD Group’s retail-industry analyst Marshal Cohen.

While 2016 had its bright spots — and was certainly a better year for retail overall than many predicted — fashions firms will bid farewell to the past 12 months as they wait with bated breath for better days to come.

Here, Footwear News gets the experts’ takes on the big retail trends that will dominate footwear and apparel in 2017.

Experience Will Continue to Win Over Product

“Consumers [are displaying a] willingness and propensity to spend but not purchase. It’s not about acquiring things — it’s about doing things. [People are seeking] adventure, memories and [want to] capture the moment. It’s about sharing what you’ve done — not necessarily what you bought. So we’re going to see consumers be very aggressive about spending, traveling, adventure and experiences — at the expense of product. That means that product [makers] are going to have to step up their game. Stores are going to really have to enhance the experience and do a better job of bringing the excitement of the product to the consumer.” — Cohen

Differentiation Will Be Key

“Retailers will [try to] differentiate from Amazon [by offering] exclusive merchandise. [Since] business will continue to shift to e-commerce, brands/retailers increasingly need to have a reason for the customer to buy from them. Differentiation is what will drive traffic and conversion.” — B. Riley & Co. analyst Jeff Van Sinderen

Burying Marketing’s Favorite Buzzword

“It isn’t going to be about omnichannel anymore — throw that out in the garbage. The fact that [companies] tried to use [omnichannel] as the answer for everything in retail was the scariest thing to me about 2016. They’re not doing anything … 2017 is really going to be about a few brands and retailers that take the leap and jump forward and get engaged with the consumers.” — Cohen

Doing More With Less

“Brands and retailers will continue to prune their store fleets and evolve their business models. There will be more focus on customer experience [and] buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) will be an important driver of traffic even more so in 2017.” —  Van Sinderen

Athletic Will Forge Ahead

“We’re going to continue to see the casualization of America and the influence of athletic … the athletic brands are going to get more sportswear-like, and the sportswear brands are going to continue to get more athletic-like. From a footwear perspective, dress is going to continue to be less important. Hybrid product and new and innovative product are going to continue to be more important.” — Cohen

Where a Product Is Born Will Matter

“Country of origin has been very back seat when it comes to footwear — that’s going to change. Country of origin is going to be right there with the nameplate of a brand; as part of the marketing of the product; and as part of the DNA. That doesn’t mean Made in the USA is going to jump to the forefront — simply because we’re not going to be able to gear up that quickly — but you will see that those that have domestic production are going to play that card hard.” — Cohen

Price As the Ultimate Proxy

“We saw price enter into the equation in a big way during the holiday season, and we’re not going to see that go away. Price will continue to be a dominating component of purchase decision: where you can get it, when you can get it, how easily you can get it. Those kinds of things are going to be big determining factors. Deals and sales are going to be a prominent [player] in 2017.” — Cohen

Privacy watchdog slates plans to give rival energy firms customers' contact details –

It also urges the CMA to “consider other less privacy-intrusive options to the fullest extent possible”, such as making existing suppliers send out rivals’ offers and making price comparison websites easier. 

The CMA has since published final proposals to press ahead with the database and is still recommending that Ofgem does share the data with rival suppliers, “subject to sufficient safeguards being in place”.

A spokesman for the Information Commissioner’s Office said it believed there were significant data protection issues to be addressed.

“We understand why the CMA believe it is important customers get the best energy tariffs. 

“But we know that customers get concerned about how their information is shared and then used to send them marketing information, and with potentially millions of customers involved, the right safeguards need to be in place.

“We are discussing with the CMA how their measures are put into practice to ensure privacy safeguards are in place.”

A CMA spokesman said: “Millions of consumers on standard variable tariffs pay hundreds of pounds more than they need for their energy. The database will allow suppliers or Ofgem to offer these customers better deals.”

Evernote Toes the Privacy Line – E-Commerce Times

Caught off guard by a huge backlash,
Evernote recently abandoned its plan to let staffers read customer notes under certain circumstances.

The plan, which was scheduled to go into effect in January, would have allowed staffers to review private customer notes as a means of assessing the accuracy of its new machine learning technology.

The company made a mistake in judgment and failed to provide the type of transparent decision making that would make customers feel like they could trust the process, Evernote CEO Chris O’Neil acknowledged.

“We communicated poorly” regarding the planned change, “and it resulted in some understandable confusion,” he said, apologizing for any resulting angst.

“The change we were going to make was … intended to allow a select set of trained data scientists to verify the veracity of the machine learning-based algorithms we would use in the future,” explained Evernote spokesperson Greg Chiemingo.

“To our knowledge, there is extensive use of machine learning across many Internet services and applications. We have announced we won’t move forward as we had announced and we are revising the policy in the coming months,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“We will have no human review of any content without express user permission, as we do today when users ask for assistance,” Chiemingo emphasized.

Evernote has espoused three laws of data protection: The data is yours; the data is protected; the data is portable.

Rules to Live By

In agreeing to Evernote’s policies, customers did give the company permission to back up data, send data over a network, index data for search, and display it over various devices. The data was private by default, meaning the company would not try to make money by selling customer data. Further, the data was portable, meaning there was no lock on the content.

Evernote plans to implement machine learning technology that will automate a lot of what customers now do manually — for example, creating to-do lists or putting together travel itineraries.

Under the newly revised policy, select Evernote employees will see random content to make sure the features are working properly, but the employees will not know which customers the data belongs to, O’Neil said. If a machine should identify any personal information on a customer, that information will be masked from employees.

Rivals offer apps that compete with Evernote, and each firm has its own policies regarding the handling of customer data and the level of artificial intelligence involved in the process.

“Microsoft is committed to maintaining our customer’s privacy and preserving the ability of customers (including OneNote) to control their data,” the company said in a statement provided to the E-Commerce Times by company rep Lenette Larson.

“We never review the contents of our customers’ data,” said Rich Siegel, CEO of
Bare Bones Software.

“We also provide the option for the user to encrypt individual items using AES-256 encryption. When enabled at the customer’s discretion, this ensures that their encrypted items cannot be read at all, by humans or machines, without the user’s own passphrase, which we don’t have access to,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“Our customers’ data belongs exclusively to our customers. We do not consider our customers’ data to be an asset, and is not for sale or trade,” Siegel emphasized. “Our business is helping our customers to do their work and achieve their goals. We have no aspirations to do data mining of customer data, and we can’t see any benefit, in our business model, that would make mining our customer data beneficial for them, or us.”

Machines Aren’t Perfect

Although some Evernote users were riled by the privacy controversy, others viewed it as a tempest in a teapot.

Tirias Research Principal Analyst Paul Teich is one Evernote premium customer who assumed his content would be subject to review.

“The whole point of Evernote is that I scrape and collect content I find interesting so that I have a very rich search environment for information I value that may disappear from the Web at any time,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “It’s great for archiving product and service prices and features with very little effort.”

In order for any service to understand whether a machine learning model is working, they must have a human to read through a representative sample of the content — at least for the next 10 years or so, Teich estimated.

“At some point, machines will be able to train machines, but we aren’t there yet,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. “However, any time you have an employee review customer’s information, the customer must opt-in. Otherwise, it’s a clear violation of their privacy.”

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain’s New York Business and The New York Times.

What Photography Does to Unborn Children – Patheos (blog)

Source: Wikimedia Commons

You cannot take a picture of a general “mother” or “child.” You cannot photograph the idea of “pregnancy,” “family,” or “abortion” — only this pregnancy, this family, and this abortion. A photograph of a child is always of a real, particular child, who stood at a particular place and a particular time and had his photo taken. Photography is always photography of the real.

The difficulty for the pro-life movement is that, as it works for the abolition of abortion, it uses pictures of children, not as pictures of this or that real, particular child, but as stand-ins for “the child in general.” When a stock-photo of Mitchell, a beautiful baby, forms the background of a sign that reads “Protect Life,” no one imagines it is demanding that we protect Mitchell’s life. Mitchell has since grown up into a pimply, 19-year old communist working at a 7-11. We do not see him in the image. We see the general idea of “the child.” He has become a symbol. The rhetorical success of the baby-sign depends on us seeing “through” Mitchell and towards the general idea of “baby,” “child,” “person.” The image presents the person anonymously — and anonymous images can inspire apathy in the gaze that sees them.

We do not feel the value of general ideas. We can understand that “human beings” have dignity — sure. It’s easy enough to know that free, rational and moral agents have value; that people are beautiful, noble, complicated, and poor. But we will not shudder, quiver, gasp or otherwise feel these values unless we move from knowing-about the human being to seeing, touching, and living with him. Nobility, beauty, poverty, dignity — we feel these values when we encounter them embodied in an actual person.

Christ did not give us a new commandment — to love the human person as ourselves. He demanded we love our neighbor, a Hebrew word that means “near-dweller.” The nearness of the person enables us to encounter that person as valuable. His nearness means that we can enter into some kind of real relationship with him — a communion in which he matters to us, affects us. I cannot enter into a relationship with the general idea of the child. The “unborn baby” does not pierce my heart with felt value. Even the “pregnant mother,” as much as the idea can evoke some sentimental response, does not evoke a genuine perception of value. I value a person when I make the movement from knowing-about her to an encounter with her. I am vulnerable to having my heart pierced precisely when I refer myself to this pregnant mother who can really matter to me.

If the particular human person (who is valuable) is presented as an icon for the generalized idea of a person (which, as a non-existing general concept, lacks value) are we surprised that the gaze which falls on such a sign remains unimpressed by the value of the person? Are we surprised that we can look on the smiling baby and not care; on the aborted fetus and feel nothing but light, medical distaste; on the wholesome, pregnant mother and walk into the abortion clinic? It does not surprise me. This is the radical contradiction at the heart of pro-life protest.

The baby-sign demands respect for the dignity of real children by using real children to represent a general idea. The pro-life billboard begs the world see the value of the unborn person in a mode that treats him as an impersonal type. We advocate for a holistic vision of pregnancy by wielding signs that mutate pregnant mothers into symbols for protest.

There is an irreverence in our demand for a newfound reverence towards the human person; an instance of convenient use in our protest that no child should be the victim of convenient use. The unique value of the person is not shown, but hidden by the act that duplicates his image across a thousand yard signs. The immense dignity of the individual is not displayed, but obscured when we blazon his image across signs, edit him and alter him, add our captions and logos, and take to no care to know who he is.  

Imagine, if you will, that we had a genuine sense of reverence for the particular person who served as an image — what odd acts would follow! If we hoisted up a sign with that image of a child with Downs Syndrome, we might even ask his name. If we posted a sign with a laughing, pregnant woman that reads “Life is Beautiful,” we might research our stock photo, find her, and ask what she thinks about abortion. What a conundrum, if she turns out to be a public advocate for partial-birth abortion. Would we continue to use her image? If you’d argue no, we ought not use a photo of a woman as an icon for the pro-life movement if the actual, particular woman is an avid supporter of abortion, then you and I are facing the same difficulty. The photograph and the person photographed are connected. We cannot simply use the latter for the sake of the former.

So there is a twofold difficulty in the pro-life use of the “baby picture” — it treats the child as a type and the mother as an less-than-rational agent. Obviously, I do not argue that this is the intention of the protester — but it is the effect. We should fight this difficulty by a limited, careful iconoclasm and a logos-centered abolitionism. The pro-life movement should rely more on the use of reason, stories and names to convey the value of unborn persons and the evil of the act of abortion. We should limit our use of photographs to those moments when their use does not threaten to cloud the dignity of the people photographed — i.e. when we know and care who the photographed people are. Unlike photographs, words do not rely on particular people to make universal claims. I can speak in general terms about “pregnancies,” “mothers” and “children” without using actual pregnancies, living mothers, and particular, dead children to make my point.

Travel photography tips with Susan Portnoy – USA Today – USA TODAY

Travel photographer Susan Portnoy, author of the Insatiabletraveler blog. (Photo: Christopher Michel)

LOS ANGELES – Travel photographer Susan Portnoy, author of blog, joined us on Facebook Live this week. She has some great tips on taking travel portraits and what type of equipment to use on a safari.

Portnoy often leaves her New York City home base and captures stunning shots of people and animals in such locales as Kenya, Masai Mara and Cuba.

You can watch the video by clicking the link below.

Spoiler alert: Portnoy says safari photography needs include a long lens (she likes the 200–400mm Canon telephoto) and a fast shutter speed to catch quick shots of the animals. You’ll need a DSLR for this, but an entry level Canon Rebel or Nikon D3400 (around $500) will do the trick.

You can check out a sample of Portnoy’s work here, as well as her Facebook page, and blog.

A man poses for Susan Portnoy from a window in Havana, Cuba. (Photo: Susan Portnoy)

Readers–our Facebook Live video chat with Susan Portnoy is another in a series of “Meet USA TODAY readers,” videos we’re doing here on the new #TalkingTech blog. Have an interesting tech story to share? Have questions for us? Let’s chat about it live on Facebook! Just hit me up on Twitter (@jeffersongraham) or on Facebook to set up. And don’t forget to subscribe to the daily #TalkingTech podcast on iTunes and Stitcher, and leave your reviews, comments and suggestions. 

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Storybook Cosmetics' Beauty and the Beast Makeup Brushes Are Here to Channel Your Inner Disney Princess – Glamour

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Fashion Photographer Creates Cultural Appreciation Beauty Series –

Imagine having your dream job as a fashion photographer working in Italy, London, New York and beyond to produce perfectly glossy images.

Now imagine giving it all up to travel the world in a “Quest for Beauty” — a project aimed to show what beauty means to everyday women, beyond the Photoshopped limelight.

Meet Sara Melotti: a 27-year-old New York-based Italian photographer who embarked on just such a journey. “I love fashion, but I wanted to give back by starting this project about beauty,” she told Teen Vogue.

“I think we’ve reached a place where beauty has come down to a very narrow convention,” she explained. “Not only the fashion industry, but the media and Hollywood have also contributed to this.”

And so Sara — a trained former dancer who got into fashion photography following an injury back in her native Italy — said Quest for Beauty is her way to give back after years of contributing to the creation of harmful imagery. And so, her global tour in search of what everyday people find “beautiful” began, in which she photographs and interviews her diverse subjects about what beauty means to them.

“It’s called ‘Quest for Beauty’ because I’m trying to figure out what beauty means globally, not just in media or fashion.”

Melotti told us that she wanted to explore beyond the airbrushed spreads and show that you can portray beauty by using models and imagery “more aligned with the 90% of the population that’s not being represented.”

“Now that I’m 10 countries in — the more I talk to people, the more I realize that most cultures have a different view of what beauty is than what we see advertised,” she said, which is especially true in tribal and secluded cultures in developing nations. “Most of the women I photographed and interviewed gave personality traits as examples while describing beauty, as opposed to [the] vain adjectives that we expect.”

And these days, Melotti isn’t alone in seeking to convey a message outside of conventional beauty standards. Recently, we’ve seen an influx in female creatives trying to shift the paradigm of “good looks” — among them filmmaker Elena Rossini, who presents a fascinating look at the globalization of beauty ideals in her documentary The Illusionists.

“I know that I was part of the problem, and I know what’s behind a photo — like Photoshop, styling, and other photography tricks,” Melotti said of her fashion career. “So I feel it’s up to me to convey to the public that the standards being presented to them are physically impossible to attain in real life.”

For example, right now young girls growing up with social media are seeing all these unattainable images. Melotti cites that the average human is exposed to over 3,000 images a day. One can assume that women from previous generations weren’t exposed to the exaggerated coverage of beauty found in today’s blogosphere. Today’s pre-teen girls are being bombarded with over-sexualized images from all directions. “How can we expect them to not be affected?” Melotti asked.

Of course, the media and fashion worlds have already begun a slow and steady journey to reverse current beauty trends by using slightly curvier models and a wider range of skin tones, but Melotti thinks it’s not enough to make true progress in reducing potentially dangerous imagery. As she puts it: “the facial structures are still mostly perfect.” Melotti cites a straight nose as an example of a traditionally “perfect” feature that is photographed again and again.

With the second phase of the self-funded Quest for Beauty, Melotti hopes to expand her project to up to 20 countries — and beyond — which she will coordinate with the help of local tourism agencies and the generosity of subjects she meets.

When asked what her biggest takeaway is from the project, Melotti explained that a major theme she wants to present involves the fact that in most societies, beauty is still a big factor when it comes to objectifying women and assessing their worth. In Melotti’s thesis, until this issue is fixed, true equality won’t be fully achieved.

“The important thing I took away so far is that women are tired of being told what they should look like to be considered ‘beautiful.’”

“Advertisement won’t stop — it’s a machine,” she said of today’s media world. “So what we have to do is at least reduce the amount of harmful images being pumped out there.”

Related: Why Instagram Accounts Dedicated to Black and Brown Beauty Are SO Important