David Harp

Dave Harp is a photographer living in Cambridge, MD, who specializes in capturing images of the Chesapeake Bay.

Shedding light on what makes a great photo

Pass it on

Light. Pass it on. That’s pretty much what photographers have done over the ages. We collect light — these days on our digital camera’s charged couple device or CCD — and pass it on via print, computer screen or smart phone.

While the method of capturing an image has changed dramatically since the invention of photography in 1826 and the days of Daguerre, wet plate negatives, and more recently film, the qualities that separate a good photograph from one for the trash can haven’t really changed. If a photograph has a strong center of interest or focus (literally and figuratively), good composition and a nice sense of light, it will rise to the top of the pile or get the most positive reaction on your Facebook page.

We live in an age of visual chaos. Millions — or even billions — of photos are made every day around the world. Someone figured out recently that the number of photos made between the invention of photography in 1826 and the beginning of the 20th century is exceeded by the number of photographs uploaded to Facebook in two minutes.

Tips in this column will help you sort out the good photograph from the also ran, edit a selection of photographs, retain only the very best, and generally learn to communicate effectively with whatever device you use to collect light and pass it on.

Let’s begin with the “rule of thirds.” Most cameras sold today — and all cell phone cameras — are autofocus, and the vast majority have the autofocus sensor in the middle of the viewfinder. More sophisticated cameras, like digital single lens reflex cameras and high-end, point-and-shoot models, give the photographer options as to where to put the center of focus just before pushing the shutter button.

However you determine the center of focus, it’s not always good to put the center of focus, or even the center of interest, in the center of the frame. Employing the “rule of thirds” can vastly improve your photo’s composition, though like all rules, exceptions can be pleasing, too. See the image at left for an effective example of this rule, then give it a try yourself.

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David Harp

Dave Harp is a photographer living in Cambridge, MD, who specializes in capturing images of the Chesapeake Bay.

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