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How to Break the Rules with a Central Composition

22 Sep

When you started your journey to become a photographer, it’s likely you quickly encountered the famous Rule of Thirds. This rule is a fantastic guide for how to achieve a balanced and visually-pleasing composition, which is why most photographers use it – from newspaper editorial images to action shots to portraits.

It’s also a very safe way to take photos. However, a central composition has a fascinating way of catching the viewer a little off-guard.

Portrait of man sitting at a bench, photographed with center composition and off-camera flash - How to Break the Rules with a central composition

At its core, photography is about boldly pushing limits and demanding attention. And the centrally composed image is one that definitely demands attention – although not always necessarily for the right reasons.

Give a camera to someone unfamiliar with photography and they tend to put the subject right in the exact middle of their picture. Interestingly enough, it’s almost our default position. But over time we learn to compose according to the “rules” and a central composition then becomes a “mistake”.

A shot showing the rule of thirds - How to Break the Rules with a central composition

A clear example of the rule of thirds being followed to a “T”

But why is it that the same style of composition can look so amateurish sometimes, and then so dramatic or fascinating at other times? Let’s take a closer look at some of the challenges – and benefits – of breaking all the rules and giving a central composition a shot.

A portrait of a man walking through the woods - How to Break the Rules with a central composition

Using Symmetry

One of the strongest reasons to use center composed images is to exaggerate or make use of the symmetry in a setting. Symmetry is when both sides of a picture look like a mirror image of each other – or at least very similar.

A man walked on a trail in the forest in a center composed image - How to Break the Rules with a central composition

Humans are naturally drawn to patterns – and the art of photography is a way to capture or display a pattern. Showing symmetry requires a bit more thought when choosing your camera angle so that the different elements of the picture function together as one.

One thing about using symmetry in photos is that it quickly creates a very distinct style. Filmmaker Wes Anderson is famous for his use of center-composed, wide angle, symmetrical shots. It’s a distinct flavor that makes his movies instantly recognizable and adds a charm that his audiences love.

Square Shoulders

An interesting quirk of using central composition for your image is that you can more easily get away with portraits where the subject’s shoulders are square to the camera – in other words, their body is facing the camera directly.

A portrait of a man in the woods - How to Break the Rules with a central composition

The model is square to the camera, but it isn’t distracting as it matches with the central composition and vertical lines of the trees.

Typically, a model can slightly turn their body or drop one shoulder to appear more flattering in the image. Because center composed images accentuate lines so strongly, your model can be completely square to the camera without it detracting from the picture.

Lines That are Lines

Center composed images benefit from having strong lines. These can be either strong horizontal, vertical, or leading lines that pull towards the center of the image.

Recognizing the natural lines in a setting and using them to your advantage is important for keeping your center composed shot from looking unintentionally amateurish.

How to Break the Rules with a central composition

The lantern is in the center of the image, but the lines of the steps aren’t horizontal. As a result, the image looks unbalanced.

How to Break the Rules with a central composition

The lantern is still in the center of the image, but this time the lines are horizontal and work to support the style of the shot, rather than to detract from it.

Paying attention to the lines isn’t important only for a central composition. Generally speaking, it’s a good rule in photography to make sure lines that are horizontal in real life are horizontal in your pictures.

A Touch of Minimalism

The center composed image thrives on being simple, clean and clear. Your subject is the singular focus in the shot. Cluttered backgrounds or distracting foregrounds may often hurt your image.

A lantern on a forest path How to Break the Rules with a central composition

With a wide aperture, the background turns into smooth out-of-focus bokeh, eliminating any distracting details.

Using a wide aperture to achieve a narrow depth-of-field goes a long way to decluttering an image. By letting the background fall into soft and creamy bokeh, it pulls more attention visually to your subject.

busy background - How to Break the Rules with a central composition

This shot shows the messy and distracting background that the previous effectively removes with selective use of aperture.

Trying out Different Subjects

A central composition isn’t just for portrait shots. You can try it out in nature photography, car photography, detail shots or whatever your heart desires. All of the same rules apply.

Hunting out interesting symmetrical patterns in nature, whether they are in the veins of a leaf or a straight forest path through a tunnel of trees, can make for a very satisfactory center composed shot.

Editing a Central Composition

Trying to figure out if your subject is smack dab in the center of your frame? This is a good time to break out the cropping tool in your photo editor. Your preferred photo editor will come equipped with a grid that will let you carefully ensure that your subject is in the right spot.

LR showing how to crop an image - How to Break the Rules with a central composition

This is the interface in Lightroom for cropping an image. Notice the grid lines which give a clear indication of when the subject is centered.

Having your subject just a hair off of the center line could be an irritating little distraction for your audience. So it’s best to get it right!

To Each Their Own

Photography is heavily subjective – it depends on personal taste. A picture that doesn’t earn a second look from one person could be another person’s favorite shot.

A nighttime portrait of a man on a dock, photographed with central composition

The key for becoming the best photographer you can be is to continuously learn and explore. Discover new methods, tools, and skills that give you the creative freedom to approach a familiar subject from an unfamiliar direction or a new perspective.

That’s why it’s a great idea to keep central composition handy in your photography toolbag, for those moments when you can use it to demand your viewer’s attention.

Who knows? Maybe it will even become your distinctive style as a photographer!

The post How to Break the Rules with a Central Composition by Frank Myrland appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Mobile E-Home: Solar-Powered Electric Motorhome Recharges on the Road

22 Sep

[ By WebUrbanist in Technology & Vehicles & Mods. ]

Electric vehicles are often limited by recharge options, a design problem this Dethleffs camper tackles with solar panels and German engineering.

Their E.Home has a maximum range of over 170 miles but can potentially run indefinitely (at least by day) thanks to over 300 square feet of thin solar film covering most the exterior. These panels to generate up to 3,000 watts of electricity, powering up a sodium-nickel-chloride battery.

Of course, the less energy needed the better the range, so the manufacturers have also added phase change materials to help keep the interior warm when it’s cold and deflect heat on hot days. Infrared heating panels in the floors, walls and furniture also provide targeted supplement heating on demand.

Thinking forward, the camper includes various other cutting-edge technologies, like driver assistance and vehicle monitoring systems. Give it a few more years and these things will presumably end up driverless, too — the ultimate in automatic, go-anywhere mobile homes (with even more room to relax without a driver’s seat!).

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[ By WebUrbanist in Technology & Vehicles & Mods. ]

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GoPro Hero6 leaked again: Shoots 4K at 60fps, 1080p at 240fps, and costs $500

22 Sep
Newly leaked photos of the GoPro Hero6 form a Best Buy in Canada. Photo credit: The Verge

Days after the first photo of the upcoming GoPro Hero6 action camera leaked online, showing that the little cam will finally be able to shoot 4K at 60fps, another set of images has appeared after the camera was put up (by mistake, we assume) at a Best Buy in Canada. The photos were sent to tech site The Verge by a tipster who got to see that camera, and the leak reveals two more tantalizing details about the Hero6.

In addition to confirming the 4K 60fps news, the photo shows that the Hero6 will also be able to shoot FullHD 1080p video at 240fps slow motion, and the camera will sell for $ 650 CAD, or approximately $ 500 USD when it’s released.

The Verge is also reporting that GoPro will no longer use an Ambarella processor from the Hero6 onwards. Instead, the new camera will reportedly contain a custom-built processor known at GoPro as the “GP1,” leaving many to hope that this new chip will translate into better battery life and higher performance from GoPro’s future models.

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is a release date, which was also leaked today. According to Twitter user Konrad Iturbe, who was able to gain access to GoPro’s staging website, the announcement/release date is set for September 28th.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
 

Review: Affinity Photo 1.5.2 for desktop

21 Sep

Affinity Photo for desktop (Mac + PC)
$ 50 | Affinity.Serif.com | Buy Now

Usually, the price of software comes at the end of the review, but with Affinity Photo 1.5, the image editor for Mac and Windows, the price is the starting point, along with a prominent qualifier from the product’s website: ‘No subscription.’

Key Features

  • Professional editing tools for almost anyone who needs to manipulate images
  • Edits are mostly non-destructive
  • Windows and Mac support
  • Inexpensive, with no subscription required
  • Batch processing

Affinity Photo’s developer, Serif, knows its audience. When Adobe shifted Photoshop and nearly all of its other products to a subscription model in 2013, it prompted an outcry from customers who didn’t want to be locked into a perpetual fee. Four years later, despite the move being apparently successful for Adobe, subscription pricing continues to be a point of contention for many people, turning into an opportunity for developers like Serif.

If you’re already familiar with Adobe’s flagship, it won’t take long to orient yourself in Affinity Photo.

However, simply offering a less expensive image editor isn’t enough. We’re beyond the point where photographers will put up with limited software to save a few bucks, and with Affinity Photo, we don’t have to. You won’t find some of the specialized features Photoshop includes, such as its 3D tools, but most everything else is there – sometimes to Affinity Photo’s detriment.

Getting Started

Affinity Photo’s personas break up the editing experience into five main categories.

Software should be evaluated on its own merits, and for the most part I’m looking at Affinity Photo through that lens. How does it perform for photographers? Does it get in the way when handling familiar operations? Does it improve the editing experience? Comparisons to Photoshop inevitably come up, and I’ll refer to them when needed, but this isn’t specifically a comparative review between Affinity Photo and Photoshop.

That said, if you’re already familiar with Adobe’s flagship, it won’t take long to orient yourself in Affinity Photo. If photo editing beyond the basics is new to you, it’s easy to pick up.

Working modes, aka ‘Personas’

Affinity Photo is built around four working modes, referred to as “personas,” each of which contains its own specialized tools. These personas include: Photo, Develop, Tone Mapping and Export.

The Photo persona is the main editing interface, with adjustments, layers, masks, and the like. The Liquify persona is a playground for distorting areas when retouching (creating an editable mesh of the entire image and then pushing and pulling the pixels to do things like make areas seem slimmer or to correct distortion). The Develop persona kicks in when opening a raw file for pre-processing, akin to Adobe Camera Raw. The Tone Mapping persona is exclusive for working with HDR (high dynamic range) effects, which can apply to single images as well as several merged shots. And lastly, the Export persona provides tools for creating versions of the image outside the application, from specifying file types and compression levels to preset slices.

You’ll also find tools for painting and drawing, including extensive controls for creating and manipulating brushes, but for the sake of brevity, I’m looking at the application in terms of editing photos.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
 

Lensbaby unveils Creative Bokeh and Sweet 80 optics

21 Sep

Lensbaby just released two new “optics” for portrait photographer and other shooters who want to add a bit of creative flare to their photography. The first is the Sweet 80: an 80mm optic that gives portrait shooters that trademark Lensbaby ‘sweet spot’ of focus; the second is the Creative Bokeh optic: a 50mm single-element lens that comes with 11 drop in apertures in a variety of shapes.

You can see both optics in the gallery below:

Product Photos

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Both the Sweet 80 and Creative Bokeh optics join the so-called ‘Lensbaby Optic Swap System’ that allows you to pop different creative lenses onto your Composer Pro I or II Composer, Muse, Scout, and Control Freak.

Lensbaby Sweet 80 Optic

At its core, the Sweet 80 is an 80mm F2.8 selective focus optic with a 12-blade aperture that closes down to F22. As with Lensbaby’s other ‘Sweet’ optics, you select the size and location of your ‘sweet spot of focus’ by tilting the lens and adjusting the aperture.

Here are a few sample photos captured with the Sweet 80:

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Lensbaby Creative Bokeh Optic

As mentioned above, the Creative Bokeh optic is a 50mm, single-element lens that you attach to a Composer Pro II. Inside you’ll find a 12-blade aperture that ranges from F2.5 to F22, but the built-in aperture isn’t the main draw of this optic.

Instead, Lensbaby is including 11 magnetic drop-in aperture plates that will turn the out-of-focus points of light in your background into a variety of shapes, including: diamonds, dripsplat, slots, swirly, whirlpool, birds, sunburst, heart, star. There are also two blank disks so you can create your own.

Here are some sample images captured with the Creative Bokeh optic:

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Both of the new optics are available now from the Lensbaby store. The Sweet 80 is available by itself for $ 200 or in a kit with the Composer Pro II for $ 380, and the Creative Bokeh optic sells for $ 100.

To learn more, head over to the Lensbaby website.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
 

Throwback Thursday: the Canon PowerShot G1

21 Sep

It wasn’t the first ‘prosumer’ compact on the market, but it did check off a lot of the items on enthusiasts’ wish lists at the time. The Canon G1, announced to the world on September 18, 2000, offered a great deal of manual control options, a hot shoe, Raw capture and a fully articulated 1.8″ screen. That line would eventually evolve into the present-day PowerShot Gx X series – but it all started 17 years ago this week.

Read our full Canon PowerShot G1 Review

Canon PowerShot G1 sample gallery

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Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
 

Diversify Photo launches database of photographers of color to promote diversity

21 Sep

Diversify Photo wants to promote greater ethnic inclusion in the world of photography, and they’re taking concrete steps. Step one: Diversify has just established a database of ‘photographers of color’ that will make it easier for art buyers, creative directors and editors to find photographers from a wide range of cultural backgrounds to hire.

The point of the database, says Diversify Photo, is to, “break with the narrow lens through which history… has been recorded” by equipping those who commission photography with “the resources to discover photographers of color available for assignments.”

The groups says that calling for greater diversity in the media has proved not to be enough, so it took action by creating this online database. The website features a gallery of images taken by individual photographers, and clicking on any of those pictures takes users to the photographer’s website. The site also offers an email service that explains the self-identified ethnicity of its photographers, along with their areas of expertise and languages spoken.

The site was set up by Brent Lewis, a senior editor at ESPN’s The Undefeated, and independent photo editor Andrea Wise. In an interview Brent told Photo District News that the database was created to show photography buyers, “that there are a lot of talented people out there that they may not see, have the time to go looking for, or just don’t know where to begin to find.”

At the moment there are 340 photographers registered on the site covering a wide range of photographic genres. For more information, and to see their work, visit Diversify.Photo.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
 

Photo Experiment: Shooting macro photos of boiling water

21 Sep

Recently I’ve become interested in photographing boiling water in a glass tea kettle. It may sound boring and uninteresting, but with the right lighting you can get some truly interesting images.

It began when I was boiling my tea water one day in January this year, and I happened to have my camera with a macro lens and a speedlight mounted, laying nearby. I decided to try what would happen if I photographed the boiling water in the glass tea kettle and was very surprised by the results! It looked like melted metal, and the shapes were a lot more intricate and detailed than I would have expected.

When experimenting with this, I have gotten the best results when using a macro lens with a long focal length. I used my trusty Sigma 150mm f2.8 macro. You could probably get interesting photos with a non-macro lens, but you would likely have to do some cropping to take away the edges of the teakettle and the background, as you wouldn’t be able to focus as closely.

I set the aperture to around F6 or F7 for the sharpest results, and I focus fairly close, but not all the way to 1:1 magnification. I make sure that the room is as dark as possible, as this gives the photos a calmer background. I use either a normal speedlight mounted on the top of the camera, or, for more interesting results, I use two speedlights with colored gels, placed at different angles towards the teakettle.

In this case, I used two Godox TT 685s: cheap but incredibly well-built wireless speedlights.

Finally, I turn on the teakettle and let the water start boiling, while I press the shutter as many times as possible. Be prepared to take a lot of photographs, and know that most of them will turn out only okay. When I recorded my video about this, I took thousands of shots, and only deemed around 10-20 to be “good.” But when you get a nice composition of bubbles, with perfect sharpness and that metallic, futuristic look, it is worth the effort!

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The most interesting photos seem to come at two stages: when the water is boiling the most – when it is total chaos inside that teakettle—and when it has stopped boiling and you only see small, flat bubbles rising from the bottom with some distance between them.

Again, this might seem like a silly, boring idea but photographing boiling water is a fun and interesting experiment to try at home on a rainy day!


Micael Widell is a photography enthusiast based in Stockholm, Sweden. He loves photography, and runs a YouTube channel with tutorials, lens reviews and photography inspiration. You can also find him as @mwroll on Instagram and 500px.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
 

3D-Printed Muscle Straight Out of ‘Westworld’ Makes Robots More Realistic

21 Sep

[ By SA Rogers in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

If you watched HBO’s ‘Westworld’ earlier this year, you probably remember the scenes where the nascent humanoid robots were strung up on circular frames like Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man,’ with machines printing white muscle fibers onto their skeletons. While the process of constructing androids doesn’t quite resemble this sci-fi vision just yet, it’s surprisingly close, especially with a new breakthrough in synthetic muscle tissue announced by researchers at Columbia Engineering. Their tests show a bundle of white muscle held in the palm of a researcher’s hand, moving and expanding in response to low power sent through a thin resistive wire.

This self-contained ’soft actuator’ is three times as strong as natural muscle, so yes, it’s true: Skynet is going to kill us all. The creators took inspiration from living organisms, using a silicone rubber matrix with ethanol distributed through micro-bubbles to simulate muscle tissue. It’s capable of expanding up to 900% when electrically heated to 80 degrees celsius, and can perform all sorts of motion tasks when controlled by computers.

“We’ve been making great strides toward making robots minds, but robot bodies are still primitive,” says Hod Lipson, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia and leader of the project. “This is a big piece of the puzzle, and, like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways. We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.”

“Our soft functional material may serve as robust soft muscle, possibly revolutionizing the way that soft robotic solutions are engineered today,” adds Aslan Miriyev, a postdoctoral researcher in the Creative Machines lab and lead author of the study ‘Soft Material for Soft Actuators,’ published by Nature Communications. “It can push, pull, bend, twist and lift weight. It’s the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle.”

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[ By SA Rogers in Conceptual & Futuristic & Technology. ]

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Report: Blackstone working with Morgan Stanley to sell 45% Leica stake

21 Sep
Photo by Alexander Andrews

In early August, Reuters reported that Blackstone was engaging in talks with potential buyers to acquire its 45% stake in Leica. Sources had said at the time that Blackstone was working with an investment bank, though that bank wasn’t named, and that it had already discussed the potential business deal with several possible buyers. Reuters is back with more info about the alleged business plan, revealing that Blackstone is working with Morgan Stanley.

Sources have claimed that Zeiss was interested in possibly acquiring a stake in Leica, but only if it could get a majority of the company. Private equity funds, family investors, and “Asian optics groups” are also claimed among those interested in Blackstone’s 45% stake.

In its most recent report, Reuters said that Blackstone is aiming for a high valuation, banking on the fact that Leica is perceived as a luxury brand versus other big camera companies like Nikon and Canon. No auction for the stake has been started, the sources claim. Neither Blackstone or Morgan Stanley have commented on the report.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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