Diving Into The Narrative

Photography - 101 Composition, Artistry, And Creating Great Images
12 minutes
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It's time to dive into the narrative. Now when I talk about the narrative, I want you guys to think of two things. In particular, I want you to find out what is the subject and what is the story of your images, an image that has a well defined subject and a well defined story is generally going to be a much more powerful image, it's going to elicit a stronger emotional response from the viewer. And well, those are the kind of images that we want to create. And I know that this sounds kind of all profound and theoretical, but really, it doesn't need to be it's quite simple. A narrative can be a simple portrait that conveys confidence and beauty in a subject.

It could be a couple walking along the beach, spending a tender moment together, it could be a father shedding a tear as it gives away his daughter on the day of her wedding. Or it could be something conceptual, we do conceptual shoots all the time. And here's an image kind of, of our modern take of Little Red Riding Hood. Now the beautiful thing about photography is that the narrative is defined by both the photographer and the viewer because well, photography is subjective after all. And one little tip I'd give to all of you is define your narratives define your story in your subject, based on what you You are interested in what you want to shoot, shooting to try to please the viewer generally doesn't work and it just doesn't happen. They don't get pleased anyway and you end up with a photograph that you yourself are not really interested in.

So if you can shoot to kind of your own interest and create your own narratives, generally other people are going to appreciate that as well. Now for today, we're going to go with a very simple narrative, what I want to do is we're going to set up a little scene right here, we have our nice little cookie jar. And if you can guess, we're going to have my son Ethan, steal a cookie from the cookie jar, and we're going to catch them in the act. So we're going to set them up to fail basically, actually, he can't fail this, he's gonna want to steal a cookie, we want him to steal a cookie, we want to get the shot. So him failing and stealing a cookie is actually completely succeeding for the purpose of this tutorial. Alright, so what we're going to do though, is we need to plan now remember the plan acronym we need to prepare, we need to lock in we need to be in the right area, have the right composition and then we need to wait for that now moment.

So what we're about to do is what we refer to as planned photojournalism. Now we do this all the time. It's not just in shooting scenes. Like this at a wedding, if I'm shooting say, a father who walks into the room and sees his daughter for the first time in her wedding dress, well before I let that whole thing kind of just take place, what I'm going to do is set up the daughter just by the window or by a nice light source. So she's ready and in position, we have a good background, I'll spend time cleaning the background, making sure we're ready to go. Now what I want to do basically is we're just going to go around the kitchen, and we're going to do a bit of cleaning work.

So I don't want really anything in the sink to be displayed here. So I'm gonna go ahead and just turn the faucet, I'm going to move the soap out, we're going to put the tongs and just so they don't end up shining in there. I think the flowers should be okay, right there. I do notice some things over here, like this little bottle of olive oil, we're gonna move this guy out. Also, I don't want these things in the background. You know, a good friend said to me once basically, when it comes to photography, if something's not helping the scene, then it's probably detracting from it.

Okay, so and I kind of slaughtered that phrase. I don't know what the exact one was. But essentially if something's not working for your composition, Probably working against it. So remove these kind of things because they're definitely not helping. And so I think they're just gonna add more clutter in this type of a shop. All right, let's keep on going through the scene.

You'll notice that what we've done here is we've taped up the little LCD clocks just on the oven on the microwave, because they're really bright, they can show up pretty strong in the image. I'm just going to remove this little towel right here. We don't need this in the frame and let's just kind of clean off this box. I don't think this is going to be in because this will be blocked up by Ethan. But let's go ahead and make sure there's a little plastic thing over here. It's going to clean up in general, mostly this right over here.

Okay, the other thing that we need is we need to grab a chair because Ethan's not tall enough to get all the way to these cookies, so we need to help him out a little bit. So I'm just gonna go grab a chair over here. And we'll just use this guy. Move this we're going to use this in just a second. I'm going to move this mat over the other side. Perfect.

So let's just set this chair up right in front of the Cookies. And you know, we can play around with the composition just a little bit if we decide that we want to move things around, kind of leave the cookies off to one side or the other, we can do that. I'm going to place this right in the center for now. And we'll just probably just leave the cookies right in the middle for just right now. And then what we'll do is we'll we can change that once we get eat into the scene. Now, the cool thing is that Ethan isn't going to know what's going on here.

We're just going to tell him to come in and take a cookie and he's gonna walk into all these cameras, which will be awesome. Alright, so now we've got everything in the right place. I'm going to go through and we'll talk through the lighting setup. So we have the same polyester fabric just covering the window why we had that direct light coming through the window. This polyester fabric you can pick up from any local fabric store is super cheap. As we mentioned, you can get I think six or 12 yards of it.

We got a lot of it for like 20 bucks, just cover the entire window that we get. We get this nice soft light coming through. But the thing is that this light is now a little bit behind where Ethan's going to be so Ethan's gonna be right here. And this light is kind of off to the side and behind so what we need to do is set up a fill light and a fill light is just going to fill a bit of Shadows. Okay, so what we're going to do is just on this side, I'm going to open up our silver reflector, and we're going to place this right onto this stand right here. Okay, and then we're just gonna raise this up, and what I'll do is basically raise it.

And I'm going to come out to this side and just angle it so I can see it so I can see it basically reflecting right off the cookie jar right here. And that's what I'm going to kind of gauge so we'll just move it kind of close so it's out of frame and angle it right so it's kind of reflecting that same area that Ethan's gonna be in just a moment, we won't need the white for right now. And by the way, if you need to add in more light, you can always add an another silver reflector, too. But this will should be enough for our purposes. So let's go ahead and set that to the sign. I'm just gonna take a quick look and it looks pretty solid.

I think we are all ready to actually queue Ethan and get him to come to the scene. So hold on. What we need to do first though, is we need to lock in our settings. So we've done the prepare side plan we've prepared Okay, now we need to lock in our settings. I'm going to come around we're going to set up the actual scene and lock in our settings in manual mode. So we're ready to go get in Write area and then the Now moment is when we're going to cue him.

Okay, so let me come around and dial in the settings. Okay, so I'm in the position I want to talk a little about the composition. Now whenever you're shooting, say newborns or infants or children, getting down and getting low and shooting from their perspective generally gives you a much more powerful shot. And this is something we talked about in depth in the newborn photography workshop. So I'm shooting low, I'm at Ethan's height. Now what I want here for my composition is I want Ethan to really take the center of the frame and kind of the kitchen scene to be around him.

We even have this nice little basket of fruit in the background, which looks really nice in the corner of the frame. And this is pretty much it, I might move the cookies off to the left or the right, but this is gonna be the shot. Now what I have to do is lock in my settings. So I'm gonna go ahead and flip in the manual. Now my live view exposure preview isn't working right now and like the Nikon and that's totally fine. I'm just going to dial it in.

I'm going to use the in camera meter and then what we're going to do is just adjust we're going to look at the histogram. We're going to look at the highlight alert afterwards and we'll adjust from there. So let's go ahead and what I need to do first is I need to decide on what shutter speed I Need for this scene because we're shooting Ethan basically plucking a cookie from the cookie jar, I do need it to be at a little bit quicker of a shutter speed because we want to freeze the motion. I don't want there to be any blur. So I want to go with one 200 of a second for my shutter speed. So let me go ahead and raise that up right now.

Now for my aperture, I'm going to go with probably 2.0. It's at 1.8 right now, which is the widest open after at 2.0 I'd get a slightly more sharp detail and a bit better depth of field not by much but just a little bit. Generally I don't like shooting wide open on these less expensive prime lenses because typically there'll be a little bit soft when it comes to detail. So I'm going to raise that up right now to f2. There we go. Okay, now if I take this shot, it's going to be underexposed.

And I can see that in my histogram. So let me go ahead and take the shot and just show you. So right now you can see if I hit play and then we look at the playback, you can see the histogram that all of our shadows are pushed to the left. So we need to balance it out a little bit more probably about by one stop, maybe even two stops. But we do have a lot of dark things in the scene. So we have this dark kind of mahogany cabinet and all that well, I don't know if it's mahogany, who knows what kind of witnesses but it's dark wood, and a lot of dark features in the background.

So don't be fooled if there are a lot of shadows in this type of scene because there frankly are a lot of shadows. But we want to make sure that they're not clipped, we want to make sure that there's still detail there. And it looks right now that we are clipping quite a bit. So let's go ahead I'm just going to hit the information button. Let's go ahead and bring the ISO sensitivity up to 200. Let's take one quick shot and to see if we pulled out our shadows.

Looks like for the most part we did, but still it's a little bit on the dark side. We do have a little bit of highlights over here that's kind of being blown. It's really just the edge of the cookie jar where those highlights are being picked up. And the background you know, nothing in the background is too dark that I feel like it doesn't really fit it looks actually pretty good based on what we need. So what I might do is let's see, we're going to go up just just to see what it looks like. Let's go up to ISO 400 and see what the what our highlights are gonna look like at that point.

Okay, So you know what I think ISO 400 is gonna be our best bet, because you can check this out at ISO 400. From our highlight alert, we're really still only losing that tiny bit of highlight just on the glass of a jar, and that's going to be pure white anyway regardless, and if we hit up, we can see on our histogram that we've pulled the shadows up off the left edge much better. We've gotten a much better balanced image and we're shooting in Roswell, so we have a little more leeway to. So I'm going to leave it right here, we're not going to go up any higher because I do want to maximize the amount of basically detail and an overall image quality by leaving the ISO a little bit lower. If we wanted to, we could bump it a little more, but I want to make sure my highlights don't blow out and everything else it looks like my shadows are retained.

So I have the information I need. Okay, so we're locked in and nothing's going to change now on our camera settings. Let's see we are in the right area. We've chosen our composition and now it's time for our now moment. This is basically we're going to cue Ethan to come on in to steal the cookies and we're going to shoot it as it's happening. One thing I do want to do real quick before he comes in as I'm going to move my AF point right to where his face would be in the frame.

So I always do that whenever you are to cue action, move the autofocus point to where the action is going to take place. That way you're ready to go and you don't have to do any focus composing or anything like that. Alright, let's cue Ethan now. Let's do this. By the way, I have to speak to Ethan in Chinese because my son does not speak English yet. All right, so Ethan, deny deny.

Ah, sounds like a pizza. Sounds like a pizza now your cookie being ha ha ha ha ha ha me Samba. Samba. You're looking inside. Canada guides against manga cookie banger manga cookie. cabeza, Canada.

These are perfect. I'm going to go and just get a little bit closer we're going to shoot just portrait aspect, just to kind of leave everything else out and really focus on Ethan tinian no cookie being not be on a cookie. Awesome. We have a ton of shots that we got here. Ethan's having an absolute blast. Remember that when you set up these kind of scenes go for additional kinds of crops to now Ethan's getting a sugar high.

So I'm gonna let him come down and take a break because I don't want to keep shooting but we got a bunch of gray stuff. What I want you to do is now go for your assignment and for your assignment. Basically I want you to set up your own next narrative, setup your own story and subject. It could be something as simple as this. If you're setting up yourself, do a plan photorealistic moment where you can basically set up the lighting and then cue the action let it happen. When we're working with children, we do have a little bit of direction and guidance is necessary because they are children of course, but you can shoot a fully journalistic moment you can shoot a planned realistic moment.

Either way, when you get something cool that you like, be sure to post it to star lounge calm and tell us about it. Tell us how you shot it and so forth. We'll see you on the next video.

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