July 11, 2013

The Art of Photography
   by Adrienne Maples

Text by Martha Blanchfield,
Images by Adrienne Maples

“I can remember when I first caught the photo bug. My mother gave me a Minolta X370 for Christmas when I was 15,” says Adrienne Maples of Adrienne Maples Photo Studios in Kansas. “The very next semester I enrolled in a photography class with our high school renaissance man—one of our very first assignments was to build a pinhole camera from scrap pieces of cardboard, wood and tin. From that point on I was in love!”

Maples shares that this ‘build’ was fun, and it simplified her understanding of how a basic camera works. However, she admits that the creation part of making a photo is not nearly as easy. “If you feel challenged by all the bells and whistles, camera settings and gadgets then you’re not alone! But fear not–you can vastly improve your hit-to-miss ratio if you keep a few things in mind.”

In this first-in-a-series on the Art of Photography, Maples leads with composition.

Let’s Talk Composition

Maples asks, “What makes you want to look twice at an image? What draws you into the frame and what keeps you there?”

First off:
– Fill your entire frame
– Crop-in using your camera and lens—no better time than when you are testing the limits of your camera. How can you possibly learn from your mistakes if you always rely on post-cropping with software such as Photoshop?

She furthers, “In fact, let’s pretend that Photoshop doesn’t exist. What would you do differently?” The next time you shoot, take up her challenges and act as if you must get everything right in the camera. No retouch.

Feeling stymied by this challenge? Start leafing through magazines, albums, even magazines and examine photographs taken by others to build inspiration. Of the photos that make you pause, what do you find interesting? Take this exercise a step further and ask yourself which images might have even more appeal if they were cropped?

Movement takes you directly across the image, ending on the child. In this image Maples chose to crop the father so you still read his gestures, but not his face. Images that remain anonymous create further intrigue. This photo was produced with a Canon Mark III and 70-200mm Canon L-series lens and ISO 400 f/5.6@ 250.

Change your Perspective

“Move! It’s the easiest thing to do!” smiles Maples. “If you see something distracting, then try to block it from your frame. Get down on the ground, climb a ladder, hang from a wall. Just move!” When sizing up a photo moment, try to think about all angles at your disposal. Snap a few shots, but then walk to a new vantage. The subject may not have moved, but you have and this might reveal something snappier or more exciting.

Be sure to peek at your work and compare each point of view. Maybe the light was better in one frame, the colors more distinct in the other. Perhaps after you snap that first shot, then compare to a second, you’ll notice too much shadow in a subject’s face. Or perhaps the background is too distracting from one vantage. Getting that second POV (point of view) will help you be a better photographer.

Can you tell that Maples got low to capture the photo of the little girl? Produced using a Canon Mark III with 35mm Canon lens USM L series and ISO800 f/3.5@500.

And notice how she’s peering over the shoulder of the newlyweds? Ever tried a shot like this? This image was produced using a Canon Mark II with 35mm Canon USM L series lens and ISO 800 f/5 @640.

Rule of Thirds

You have probably heard about the rule of thirds. It’s a classic for photography, as well as paintings and other two-dimensional art.

Imagine a grid over your image with three columns and three rows. Now pick one of those nine squares to isolate a section in your frame. “In the shot below I wanted to show the delicate feet of this newborn baby,” says Maples. “I used a long lens (200mm focal length) and shallow depth of field (f/4) that would draw your focus to her tiny fingers and toes.” To further add interest and level of detail to the overall look, she used natural window light which fell from the top right to create soft shadows which emphasize texture of the blanket as contrasted to the wrinkled toes.

The rule of thirds adds a dramatic off-centered detail which can be more powerful than putting a subject center of frame. This image was produced with a Canon Mark III and 70-20mm Canon lens USM L series with ISO 640 f/4@80.

In closing she adds, “Whether you practice photography for fun or for profit, you’ll start to cultivate a signature style. To get there–remember to learn the rules, then break them.”

In our next interview with Adrienne Maples: Black and White or Color Photography?

About Adrienne Maples

Adrienne Maples is widely recognized as an artistic master of light and life. While many photographers find themselves lost in the technology, she knows that people–their lives–are the true subjects of her artistry. Maples received her BFA in photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design, one of the most prestigious art and design schools in the country. Soon thereafter she founded Adrienne Maples Photography, Inc. Her studio is located in Overland Park, Kansas, but she attends to clients across the country. Maples’ work has been featured on the covers of books and magazines, and in art galleries and private collections throughout the nation. She is an award-winning member of WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) and WPJA (Wedding Photojournalist Association).

Dog Portraits

This image was produced with a Canon 5D and 24-70mm Canon lens L series, plus ISO 640 f/5.6@100.
Adrienne Maples Photo Studios
Facebook: Adrienne Maples Photo Studios

Martha Blanchfield provides marketing, public relations, writing and stunt planning for ‘renegade’ companies. A Napa Valley native, Martha loves prepping photography education programs in Napa-Sonoma and San Francisco. Her articles have appeared in Rangefinder, AfterCapture and Studio Photography magazines. She has worked for clients such as Nikon, Lexar Media, SanDisk and GoPro.

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