Information Sheet for Shooting Scenes

                 

  • Decide on a point-of-view
  • Decide what you want to show
  • Pick a good time of day
  • Use a tripod whenever possible
  • Try to show foreground in wide-angle shots as close as possible

When shooting architecture or single structures:

  • Pick a good vantage point
  • Use a slightly longer lens if you can to reduce distortion
  • Try to use a filter to heighten contrast
    • Beat the sunrise, wait past sundown
      • Warmer colors, excellent light within two hours of sunset/sunrise
      • Often displays extraordinary clouds
      • Side lighting improves textures, lengthens shadows for dramatic look
      • Ground fog/mist provides interest and creates mood early a.m.
  • Setting – Scout Your Location
    • Practice someplace close to home and revisit often at different times of the year
    • Make a written or visual journal of favorite shooting locations
      • Take pictures each time you are there regardless of…
        • Bad light, poor conditions, not having the right gear
        • Even a few written notes will help for next time
  • Setting – Scout Your Location
    • For cityscapes try Google search under Images using the city name
    • Find great tips in general Landscape/Nature photography books
    • For traveling outside the U.S. brush up on the culture, history, architecture and customs of your destination
  • Take a tripod whenever possible.
    • Lightweight tripod is better than none.
  • Consider a polarizing filter, if your camera allows
    • Improved color, color saturation, less reflections
  • Consider custom white balance
    • May dramatically improve color accuracy
    • Reduces post processing in home computer or at photo lab
  • Cityscapes and Low Light Shooting
    • For night shots in the city and elsewhere, try your camera’s night mode, if available
      • Flashes for subject in foreground (within 10ft.), and uses a slower shutter speed to let in the ambient light in the background.
      • Tripod or other method of steadying the camera will be a must.
    • Use the self timer for sharper pictures
  • Whether using DSLR or P&S camera with zoom range, try wide angle and telephoto
    • Wide angle establishes a scene, has different impact than telephoto
    • Telephoto is handy for isolating parts of a scene
      • Helps simplify if many distracting elements exist
      • Creates variety, encourages exploring new ideas
  • Plan composition with camera before setting up the tripod
    • Free yourself up by selecting camera position handheld first
  • Seek out objects to convey scale
    • People, animals, solitary trees, tree stumps, boats, etc.
    • Offers a more three-dimensional look to the scene
  • Since horizontal compositions are most common, always try a vertical first, then shoot a horizontal
  • Keep the shot interesting by keeping subjects away from the middle of your scene.
  • Visualize a grid with horizontal and vertical lines breaking up the scene into 3 sections.
  • Build the Scene – Fore, Mid, Background
    • Sometimes great scenic pictures present themselves. Often, we can improve the first perspective we see
    • Fore, Middle, Background like characters in a play – Look for connections between them, similar colors, leading lines, patterns, etc.
    • Move yourself and the camera left, right, up, down and check the scene with your camera
  • Build the Scene – Foreground
    • Choosing your foreground subject
      • Mirror lines, shapes, colors of mid and background
      • Use middle-toned or slightly bright foreground subject – Our eyes go to brighter objects first
      • Get VERY close to foreground objects when using wide angle
      • Consider low angle to emphasize foreground subject
  • Build the Scene – Foreground
    • Show detail in shadowed areas with fill flash
    • Look for natural framing devices like trees and arches
    • Strong color or tone in foreground object will de-emphasize hazy, blah backgrounds
  • Build the Scene – Middle Ground
    • Avoid  large, uninteresting middle ground that doesn’t connect well with foreground and background
    • Maintain visual interest with leading lines, patterns of color or middle ground objects
    • Getting camera closer to foreground objects will diminish middle ground
  • Build the Scene – Background
    • Keep horizon line straight
      • Use any in-camera grid or guides to help
    • Position horizon on top or bottom third, unless using a reflection
    • Generally, the side included more in the scene (top or bottom), should have the most interesting elements (clouds, mountains, breaking waves, etc.)
    • Find dramatic skies or avoid sky if too bright or too dull
  • Build the Scene – Background
    • Clouds are often most exciting just after a storm as sun breaks through
    • Exclude extremely bright or dark spots in the background
      • They detract from subject (especially if bright – we notice brightest areas first)
      • They make the camera’s job more difficult – balancing exposure to suit the entire scene
      • Try exposure compensation to control brightness
  • Tying it all together – See it your own way
    • After practicing building a scene, follow your instincts
    • Look for compositions out of the ordinary
    • Select a composition that pleases you, not what you think others will like
  • Tying it all together – Know what you like
    • Take time to understand what you like about a scene – Ask yourself questions
      • What interests me most about this scene? Is it the color, amazing shapes, a perfectly symmetrical tree, a unique neon sign?
      • What do I want to emphasize?
      • What do I want to minimize?
      • How can I simplify the scene?

 I hope this has been helpful. Please leave a comment.
William Lulow