Alycia Christine

Enchanting Tales, Intriguing Art

Tag: rules (Page 1 of 2)

Flashes of Perspective: Shooting Cityscapes

Palacio_del_Rio_Christmas_Colors-AC4x6Over the past two years, I have discussed several different Rules of Photography. From Leading Lines to Color and Contrast, we have covered it all. Now that we have a firm foundation on how to shoot, I want to delve into different scenarios in which artists can use the rules and bend them to suit their needs.

We had already begun bending the rules during my explanation of using and abusing shutter speed to shoot April’s Blood Moon. Now I want to take that train of thought a little further. In this case, let’s talk about cityscape photos and how they differ from landscape shots.

Let’s Get Started

At first glance, a budding photographer might expect that cityscape photos would be shot in the same way most landscape shots are. However, the photographic subjects of cities are very different from those in landscapes and those differences can cause serious frustration for people not used to adapting to them. One of the major reasons why is because landscapes rely heavily on the Rule of Thirds while cityscapes usually rely far more on Leading Lines and Framing.

Dynamic landscape photographs are defined by the relationship between land, water, and sky or some lesser combination thereof. These shots require a specific balance between their different composing elements and the Rule of Thirds because landscapes so often feature strikingly different textures thrown together such as: mountains, water, grass, trees, flowers, sky, hills, sea, and/or more. The Rule of Thirds helps to order the seeming chaos of so many different elements into something structured. It is this order of thirds that helps move the viewer’s eye seamlessly through the photograph without causing distraction and confusion.

In contrast, dynamic cityscape photos are often defined by the relationships between different pieces of architecture. By necessity, architecture is usually created using straight lines, points, and angles. Instead of the softer curves that often dominate natural scenes, cityscapes are dominated by hard lines and sharp angles. Of course, cityscapes can have within them a relationship between sky, land, water, or other more natural elements, but those elements are almost always dominated by elements of architecture. Consequently cityscapes demand a certain amount of softening on the part of the photographer. This is why Leading Lines are often far more important in cityscape photography than in landscape photography. To see my point, let’s compare a few examples of cityscape and landscape shots.

Let’s Break It Down

Cityscape Leading Lines

“Steel Sun”

“Fair Fare”

“Wharf Wheel”

Cityscape Framing

“Needle Arcs”

Cityscape Flanking

“Welcome to Texas”

Landscape Rule of Thirds

“Sunset Twigs”

“Sun Dabbled Dune”

“Lone Tree”

There are, of course, some exceptions to the rule that landscape shots are usually governed by Rule of Thirds and cityscapes are usually photographed using Framing, Flanking, or Leading Lines. I have listed a few examples of these exceptions below for you.

Landscape Framing Exceptions

“Twig Window”

Landscape Leading Lines Exceptions

“Split Sea Falls”

“Ice Streams”

“Dune Trek”

Cityscape Rule of Thirds Exceptions

“Midnight Carnival”


For this assignment, I want you to shoot cityscapes practicing the rules of Leading Lines, Flaming, Flanking and the Rule of Thirds. You must choose based on the photo’s intended subject, which of these four rules will best showcase your photograph’s subject. I want to see a minimum of 20 good photos captured using these techniques. Once you have done that I want to see another five photos in which you find some creative way to bend on of the above-mentioned rules. I highly suggest using static subjects for this bit of homework, although that is not mandatory. Good luck and have fun!

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: Vertical or Horizontal Photos

TwilightMushroomsACS3x5Welcome to today’s photography lesson. Over the past several weeks, I have discussed the differences in photo sizes, close-ups, and crop ratios. While my discussions on these three previous topics are largely complete, I still feel the need to explain a camera technique that relates to these three: the art of choosing between a vertical shot and horizontal shot. I touched on vertical photos a little while discussing close-ups and cropping, but now I want to really make sure that you understand when and how to use a vertical shot over a horizontal shot and vice versa.

Let’s Get Started

The type of camera that you use, whether it is an SLR for a simple point-and-shoot phone camera, will often determine what default image orientation you use. An image orientation refers to which way a camera sensor is held during the process of taking a photo. There are two standard image orientations: vertical and horizontal.

A digital SLR like the Canon Rebel T2i camera that I use is set up to automatically take horizontal photos because its viewfinder and its camera sensor use a 2 by 3 image ratio where the longer side (the 3 ratio) is at top and bottom and the short end (the 2 ratio) is on either side. My Samsung smart phone camera is set up just the opposite. If I hold the phone upright, the longer side of the photo will be up and down, and the shorter side will be at the top end bottom of the image, so the default photo will be a vertical image. What this means is that my SLR camera will shoot horizontal photos unless I tip the camera on one end, while my smart phone camera will shoot vertical photos unless I tip the phone sideways.

Here is why you should care about the difference between vertical and horizontal shots: not every photo subject looks good in a horizontal photo. Remember the example that I gave in my cropping lesson where I took a vertical photo of an actress as she walked down her movie premier’s red carpet? Why did I decide to shoot vertically? The answer is because I wanted to capture all of her—from her perfectly quaffed hair to her breathtaking gown to her stunning shoes. I can’t do that as easily in a horizontal photo as I can in a vertical photo. If I try to shoot the actress in a horizontal photo, I will have to zoom farther out to make sure that all of her is in the photo (i.e. that I do not accidentally crop off her head or her feet). With a vertical photo, I do not have to zoom nearly as far to capture all of her sleek silhouette. This makes the use of a vertical photo better than a horizontal photo when shooting this particular subject.

You always want to capture an object in a way that makes it look its best. As I have said before, some objects look better in a vertical image than in a horizontal image and vice versa. So how do you decide which image orientation is better? Well, if the subject of a photo is taller than it is wide, it will likely look better in a vertical photo because the longer edge the photo parallels the longer line of the object. If, however, the subject of a photo is wider than it is tall, it will look better as part of a horizontal photo. The easy way to remember this is: when in doubt, follow the length.

Let’s Break It Down

Horizontal Photos

The photo’s length runs parallel to its subject’s (the water ripples) length in:
“Blue Undulations”

The photo’s length runs parallel to its subject’s (the lemonade stand) length in:
“Lemonade Dusk”

The photo’s length runs parallel to its subject’s (the two mushrooms) length in:
“Mushroom Duet”

The photo’s length runs parallel to its subject’s (the two kangaroos) length in:
“Red Roos”

The photo’s length runs parallel to its subject’s (the mountain railroad) length in:
“Simmons Vision”

Vertical Photos

The photo’s length runs parallel to its subject’s (the relationship between the blue bench and the clouds) length in:
“Blue Bench”

The photo’s length runs parallel to its subject’s (the little girl) length in:
“Shy Flower Girl”

The photo’s length runs parallel to its subject’s (the sword) length in:
“Silken Sword”

The photo’s length runs parallel to its subject’s (the relationship between the tree branches and the mountain ridge) length in:
“Twig Window”

The photo’s length runs parallel to its subject’s (the lamp) length in:
“X Marks The Lamp”

Photographer’s Note

Perfectly square and round objects, by definition, have a 1:1 ratio. These objects can therefore be photographed either horizontally or vertically with equal ease. When choosing an image orientation for these subjects, I find it helpful to look at the width and length of any secondary subjects or predominant textures within the photo. For example, the horizontal bricks helped me make the decision to take a horizontal photo of this lovely young woman in “Beauty Beyond the Bars”.


Shoot 20 images or more photos using the vertical and horizontal shot techniques. Half of these should be vertical shots and half should be horizontal shots. If you really want to challenge yourself, try to shoot two photos of perfectly square or round objects and use your math sleuthing skills to decide what image orientation works best in each case. Make sure that you look for unique subjects and let each subject determine what type of photo will make it look the very best. Have fun!

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: You Cut Off My What! (More Lessons in Cropping)

IronMantisACS4x6Since we dealt with cropping in the last post, I think it is time for a little anatomy lesson in photography. When shooting people and animals, photographers must pay attention to where they crop their subjects. The reason why has to do with, believe it or not, amputation. Have you ever seen a photograph in which a person’s chest and neck are visible, but her head has been accidentally “cut off”? I have. In fact, that was one of my first photos that I took of my mother. I was about eight years old at the time, but I kept that photo in my scrapbook until well into my teens to remind myself to be nice to my subjects and not amputate their faces.

The bodies of living organisms have natural breaks. These breaks exist because we need joints to help us move. I couldn’t imagine going through life without an ankle, neck, elbow, wrist, or waist. If my bones are my body’s structure, then joints are my physical form’s means of flexibility. I can’t function without having both of these characteristics and neither can my photos.

Let’s Get Started

So how do we photographers achieve a well-cropped photo without making our subjects look amputated? The short answer is that we avoid cropping at the body’s joints. While most people are probably not going to commit my cardinal sin of cutting off their mothers’ heads in photographs, many people do tend to chop off others’ feet. It is almost like we are so focused on getting the rest of a person in the photo that we forget about including the foundation on which they stand.

Let’s say that I want to shoot a portrait of an actress walking down the red carpet at a movie premier. She is wearing the latest fashions from her perfectly quaffed hair to her breathtaking gown to her stunning shoes. I set up my camera to shoot a vertical photo of her curving silhouette and click the button. The resulting shot is gorgeous, endearing, and sure to be a fan favorite except for one thing: I left out her shoes. She was wearing one-of-a-kind lace and satin pumps and I cut off her feet at the ankles. Now she looks amputated and I look to be fired.

My sudden unemployment as a photographer will happen if I: crop out the actress’s feet at the ankles, her legs at the knees, her upper body at the waist, her arms at the wrists or elbows, or her head at the neck. Why? Because instead of following the photography rule of Leading Lines, I instead broke up the photo by cropping at natural body joints.

If I want to make my photos of the actress outstanding so that I can keep my job, then I need to shoot sections of her body that are cropped where there are no natural breaks and joints. I can shoot a dynamic vertical headshot showing of her latest hairdo, makeup, and jewelry by cropping at her shoulders so that all of her head and neck are shown. I can shoot a photo of her cute short dress by cropping midway up her thighs or at the mid-part of her calves. These crop techniques allow the actress’s body’s lines to still “flow” out of the photo without any jarring sense of amputation.

Animal photos follow the same basic principle as people shots. Do not crop your photos at a narrow part of an animal’s body like a joint. Instead try to crop in a wider part of the body such as at mid thigh or shoulder. Cropping flowers within a photo are usually harder to accomplish because most flowers are round. However, they can be successfully cropped at the widest parts of the flower’s petals if at least one full petal is shown in the photo. Please see my photos below for examples of this.

Let’s Break It Down


Cropping the legs of this gentleman at the thighs instead of the knees, allows the viewer to pay more attention to his upper body with worrying about where his lower legs or feet have gone.

I cropped this strange beauty a bit below her shoulders so that viewers would pay attention to her facial expression and her towering headdress. I did not bother showing all of her headdress because the narrowing lines of its silhouette allow the viewer to imagine that it eventually does taper to a point at the end.

During the Pecos High School Class of 1979 Reunion, I shot the hostess as she made drinks for guests. I cropped the photo so that it showed the relationship between the hostess, her actions, and the guests outside her bar’s window.


“Egret Alphabet”
This body crop allows the viewer to focus more on the graceful curve of the bird’s head and neck without being distracted by its body.

“Iron Mantis”
Okay, technically this is photo subject is an object, but I am putting it in the animal category because it is modeled after a praying mantis insect. This photo shows how you can crop the arms and chest of an upright-walking creature without “amputating” them.

“Red Roos”
Cropping in the middle of this kangaroo’s stomach allows me to use the line of his back to point viewers’ eyes to the most important part of his body: his head.

Flowers and Plants:

“Agave Spikes in Autumn”
The agave cactus’s spines are cropped at their widest width to help the viewer realize that the plant does extend past the frame of the photo.

“Bloom’s Blush”
Both the full and the cropped petals of this lotus bloom all seem to point back to its center, which is the flower’s most important part because it visually holds everything else together.

A single petal is shown in its entirety while the others are cropped close to their widest widths.

“Red Stalk”
The plant stalk in the background is shown in its entirety to help balance out the close cropping of the stalk in the foreground.


“Aqua Dust”
I have shown this photo to you in my previous post, but I want to show it again to really emphasis the relationship that cropping has with the width of a subject. By cropping at the widest part of the bottle, I have subtly drawn the viewer’s eye along the subject’s curving form into and out of the photograph. This allows the viewer to realize that there is more to the subject than what is just in the photo itself.

“Tread and Tendril”
See how the center of the wheel is in the center of the photo and in sharp focus, but the sides of the tire are shaved? This is a fun cropping trick to try when you really want viewers to pay attention to the round center of a circular subject (i.e. the circle within a circle).

Photographer’s Note

Remember that while cropping is a way to help eliminate the unnecessary extra details of a scene, it is also an aid to viewers’ imagination. I liken a well-cropped photo to a mystery novel. A good mystery novel weaves together a full story by sprinkling clues for the reader to find and use to solve the story’s crime. When a photo is correctly cropped, it too can hold mystery for the viewer. While the viewer may not see the entire scene in a cropped photo, there are enough hints left on the edges of the photo to help him or her fill in the gaps of the photo’s story.

Keep these points in mind as you begin your homework. And by all means, please refer back to my lesson on Leading Lines if you need to refresh your memory before shooting your own photos.


Shoot 20 images or more focusing on correctly cropping different parts of the body. Since I usually do not focus specifically on people, try creating at least 15 people portraits for this assignment. The other five can be animals, flowers, or objects. Challenge yourself by looking for and cropping things that are oddly shaped. Have fun and experiment. You can shoot vertical or horizontal shots for this assignment, but remember that long thin subjects (like people and trees) usually show best in vertical photos while short wide subjects (like cows or tables) show best in horizontal shots.

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: Get Ready for Your Close Up

Today I thought that we would discuss the photography rule that is, for some people, way too personal: close-ups. The idea behind the photographic close-up is a simple one. Basically the photographer zooms in on the intended subject so that that subject fills the photographic frame and becomes the largest object within the photo.

Let’s Get Started

Think about the close-up like this: you are standing in the middle of a field of wildflowers and you want to look at just one daisy. So how do you accomplish that? You survey the field for the one flower you really want to study and you walk over, crouch down, and inspect that one daisy up close. The whole act is simple, obvious even. But for some reason, people did not always follow this instinct when they have a camera in their hands. Instead they tend to zoom out and placed their subject in the middle of a very large scene. That is fine if your subject is a mountain, but not so useful if it is a daisy or an insect or even a human.

My suggestion for every budding photographer is, when in doubt, zoom in. So what will zooming in accomplish? Well, first, if the subject is the largest thing in the photo, then it will be easily noticed by the viewer. Having the subject fill the frame in this way works especially well to help minimize distraction from a busy and cluttered background. Second, when dealing with multiple subjects in a single photograph, you can make viewers understand which subject is the most important by making it the largest in the picture.

Some photographers take this technique to extremes and focus almost solely on getting close-ups of small subjects. These artists are known as macro photographers. Macro photographers essentially do the exact opposite of landscape photographers. Whereas landscape photographers tend to zoom out with their cameras so that they can capture as much of the scene around them as possible, macro photographers tend to zoom in on a single, small subject to examine every minute detail of that subject with their camera lens. Macro photography often requires the use of special macro lenses to capture all of the details of a subject, which is why I do not have many personal examples of it (since I currently do not own a macro lens). Primary subjects of macro photography include small insects, plants, flowers, and objects. You can also shoot macro photography of parts and pieces from larger subjects, such as the eye of a horse or the bark of a tree.

Let’s Break It Down


“Thistle Fractures”

“Nectar Cup”

“Two Tone Susan”

“Aqua Dust”


“Virgin Beauty”

Macro photography:

“The Pollinator”

“Coiled In Wait”

“Pine Flakes”

“Lacy Anticipation”

Photographer’s Note

Because of its emphasis on detail, pattern, and texture, macro photography can create uniquely beautiful results. However, something to note, whether shooting simple close-ups or the extreme version of close-ups with macro photography, a narrow depth of field (i.e. having only one small area in hard focus) is unavoidable. This actually causes a nice result because the photo’s background will appear totally out of focus while your main subject is in focus. This means you will not have to worry too much about what’s going on behind your subject as long as nothing in the background is too distracting or jarring (i.e. more colorful, heavily textured, etc. than your main subject). If needed, please see my post on “Flashes of Perspective: Selective Focus Meets Depth of Field” to review how to use the rules of selective focus and depth of field in your photos before attempting this assignment.

For more information on macro photography, I suggest reading National Geographic’s
macro photo tips or Macro Photography Tips with Example Photographs and Images by Tanya Puntti


Shoot 15 images or more with at least five photos being macro shots. You can stage a few shots with found objects if you wish, but please go out and shoot natural elements like the insects, flowers, tree bark, animal eyes, and other things that I have previously mentioned to round out your photography experience. Remember that the way you light your subjects will be even more important than usual because these subjects are so small. You will need more light when working with smaller objects then you will with larger objects. The camera’s ISO will help with increased light sensitivity as will the shutter speed and aperture settings. Also, when trying to shoot subjects like insects, it is best to do so early in the morning when cool temperatures make them a little slower and, therefore, easier to photograph.

I’ll discuss the finer points of how to crop your close-ups in the next post. Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: The Rule of Thirds as a Photographer’s Version of Tic-Tac-Toe (Archive)

PhotoCompositionSquaresThe Rule of Thirds is one of my favorite photography “rules” because it offers such a fun compositional challenge. In my presentation in June 2012, I said that a good photograph should inspire emotion and/or show a story. Powerful photography relies on strong composition to accomplish this end. So what again is composition? Composition is the way in which a photograph presents its main subject (its most important part).

What makes the Rule of Thirds different from many of the other photography rules that I have previously discussed is its unique use of Spatial Relations to present its main subject. In photography, spatial relations refers to where the subject is located in space in relation to other objects. If this seems a little complicated, don’t worry. I’ll unravel the mysteries as we go.

Let’s Get Started

Imagine a tic-tac-toe board. Picture the two vertical (up and down) lines cutting it into three columns and the two horizontal (sideways) lines cutting it into three rows.

I nickname the Rule of Thirds the Tic-tac-toe rule because this rule requires the photographer to divide a photo into nine sections like the sections of a tic-tac-toe board. The photo’s subject is then aligned at an intersection (axis point) between two of the invisible tic-tac-toe lines or it can be aligned in a section or one entire third of the photo.

Let’s Break It Down

The subject can be aligned on an axis point of the photo:

1) At the upper left axis such as the pink bloom in the photo:
“Blooming Through”

2) At the lower left axis such as the butterfly in the photo:
“Butterfly Geometry”

3) At the upper right axis such as the hot air balloon in the photo:
“In Wonder”

4) At the lower right axis such as the red circle in the photo:
“Nylon Sun Rays”

The subject can be contained in a single section of the photo:

1) At the upper left section of the photo.

2) At the middle left section such as the train car in the photo:
“Simmon’s Vision”

3) At the lower left section such as the butterfly in the photo:
“Butterfly Geometry”

4) At the upper middle section such as the lady bug in the photo:
“Little Lady”

5) At the middle middle section (the center) such as the Thistle in the photo:
“Thorn Star”
(Please see my previous post on centering/bull’s-eye photography for more information on this specific technique.)

6) At the lower middle section such as the bird in the photo:
“Sunrise Wader”

7) At the upper right section of the photo.

8) At the middle right section such as the smallest diamond in the photo:
“Industrial Diamonds”

9) At the lower right section such as the tree in the photo:
“Heavenly Highlights, No. 1”

The photo’s subject can be aligned in an entire third of the photo:

1) In the left third of the photo such as the fence post in the photo:
“Barbs, Spines and Petals”

2) In the middle third of the photo such as the cluster of flowers in the photo:

3) In the right third of the photo such as the yucca seed hull in the photo:
“Sand Hull”

4) In the upper third of the photo.

5) In the middle third of the photo such as the flower in the photo:
“Two Tone Susan”

6) In the lower third of the photo such as the water ripple in the photo:
“Blue Undulations”

Photographer’s Note

In looking over these photo examples, you probably have noticed that not every subject is exactly centered on its respective axis. This is my personal style coming through. Some people are very picky when it comes to positioning their photo subjects. My philosophy is that if some main part of the subject touches the axis or is within the bounds of a section or one third of the photo, then that is all that is needed to follow the Rule of Thirds principle. Feel free to experiment with this and decide your personal comfort level when placing subjects in a Rule of Thirds photo.

One other thing I should mention is that sometimes subjects are too large to fit in one section even a third of the photo such as the balloon in the photo “Two of a Kind” This is perfectly fine! It is your job as an artist to adapt your shooting style to each subject so that you can always shoot it in the best possible way. So, as I have stressed before, use this photography rule as more of a guideline and have some fun bending it.


Shoot at least 20 images with Rule of Thirds subjects and try to shoot one photo for each position described above. This photography “rule” works best with a single subject or a set of closely clustered subjects. The Rule of Thirds is also the go-to principle for shooting landscape photography. Some good items to shoot for axis and section shooting include: flowers, insects, and small objects. Try shooting mountains, skylines or other large landscape/cityscape subjects for when you want to take up a third or two thirds of the photo. For landscapes, please keep in mind: one third sky/background, one third horizon/middle ground, and one third foreground (refer back to my June 12, 2012 post for a reminder about fore, middle, and backgrounds). Don’t worry, I will post a more thorough lesson on landscape shots soon.

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: In a Bull’s-Eye

TheLordGodLovesThemAllACS4x6The idea of Centering is one of the simplest of all the photography “rules.” The reason for this is because centering essentially means that your subject should be the center of your photo just as a bull’s-eye is the center of a target. However, while centering is one of the simplest photography rules, it is not always the easiest.

Let’s Get Started

Think of the center of a target. Why is your eye drawn to the middle of that bull’s-eye? Is it just because the bull’s-eye is in the center of a target or is it something more?

For me, the bull’s-eye of a target draws my eye to it for several reasons:
1) The bull’s-eye is the center of the target.
2) The bull’s-eye is framed by the concentric circles surrounding it.
3) The bull’s-eye is usually colored somewhat differently than the surrounding elements.
4) The bull’s-eye is a single, solitary, unique object compared to the many rings around it.

Just like the center of a target, a photograph’s centered subject will prove most visually interesting to a viewer if it includes some combination of the reasons I mentioned above. A centered object with framing or flanking around it is often more interesting and dynamic than a centered subject with nothing surrounding it. The same can be said of a centered subject with unusual color or lines leading the viewer’s eye to it.

Let’s Break It Down

For examples of Centering see the following links:

“Hope Blooms in the Desert”
The bee is centered in the photograph and framed by the petals of the prickly pear cactus flower to give him extra interest.

“Lone Agave”
The blue agave is centered among dying yellow yucca plants on a rocky mountainside, proof of its stubborn resilience in a drought-stricken environment.

“The Lord God Loves Them All”
The brightly-colored butterfly is centered in the photograph as it perches on two hands, a symbol of friendship and harmony.

A single pink water lily floats gently on the surface of a pond as its underwater stem leads the viewer’s eye straight to it.

“Seed Swirl”
A swirl of sand surrounds this central seed hull.

A center shaft of sparkling light pierces the gloom of black glass in this photo.

“Thorn Star”
Variations of color and shadow add interest to this centered thistle.


Shoot at least 10 images with centered subjects. Try to find subjects that are interesting because of their uniqueness, shape, or color and add even more interest to these subjects by centering them in the photograph. Some good items to try shooting are: flowers, insects, and small objects.

Personal Note

I suggest reviewing my posts about “Leading Lines” and “Framing/Flanking” to see how these two photography rules often work in conjunction with the rule of Centering.

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: Selective Focus Meets Depth of Field

BuddingSerenityACS4x6Happy Independence Day, America!

Today’s blog will be a bit of a double post as I continue the “Rules of Photography” miniseries. The reason for this is that, like the rules of Framing and Flanking, Selective Focus and Depth of Field are too closely related and interdependent to be explained in separate posts. Your just cannot do one without understanding the other, so let’s get started.

Selective Focus or the “No Fuzz, No Fuss” rule

To deal with the photography “rule” of Depth of Field, photographers must first understand the concept of Selective Focus. Selective Focus refers to the subject in a photo being in sharp focus while everything around it is blurred out and fuzzy. I call Selective Focus the “No Fuzz, No Fuss” rule because this photo technique can only work if the photo’s subject is not blurry. To accomplish this, most photographers can simply center their camera’s viewfinder on their intended subject and press the camera’s photo-taking button halfway down. As long as the camera’s automatic focus is on, pushing the photo-taking button halfway down will make your camera focus on the object in the center of its view screen and blur everything else. Once that is accomplished, press the button down the full way to shoot the photo. As always read your camera’s manual to understand all of its functions.

Once you understand Selective Focus, we need to discuss how to use it in the different layers of a photograph. Although a photograph is a two-dimensional medium (i.e. it has height and length but not depth), a good photograph makes the viewer feel like they are viewing a three-dimensional scene rather than a flat image. To achieve a feeling of depth, photographs rely on three different layers: the foreground, the middle ground, and the background. As their names imply, the foreground is the front layer, the background is the back layer, and the middle ground is the layer in between these other two. A subject can be located in any of these layers as long as it is in sharp focus.

For examples of Selective Focus as used in different layers, please view the following links:

Photo with in-focus foreground subject:
“Yellow Quartet”

Photo with in-focus middle ground subject:

Photo with in-focus background subject:
“Pumpjack, No. 122”

Depth of Field or the Tunnel Vision rule

Once Selective Focus is achieved, photographers can explore the photography technique and rule of Depth of Field. Depth of Field draws the viewer’s eye into the photo’s scene by placing the subject in the middle or background layers of the scene. Just as it is in Selective Focus, the photo’s subject must be in sharp focus while the other layers of the photo are blurred out. Most of the time this also means that the other layers of the photo need to be simple and uncluttered so they do not distract the viewer from the photo’s true subject. I call Depth of Field the Tunnel Vision rule because good use of Depth of Field should really pull the viewer through each layer of the scene much like a commuter views a tunnel while traveling through it. For examples of Depth of Field view the middle ground or background links above or see these examples below.

More middle ground Depth of Field photos:

“Budding Serenity”

“Asteraceae, Gilded”

More background Depth of Field photos:

“Through The Hoops”

“A Cleft With A View”


Shoot at least 14 images with either Selective Focus or Depth of Field. Good items to try shooting: a colorful object surrounded by foliage, or an animal as seen through tall grass. Please be sure to keep your camera’s focus on the subject not the other elements and keep your backgrounds simple.

Personal Note

Almost all photos use Selective Focus no matter what other rules they employ, so make sure you really understand this one.

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!
[O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: Rules of Photography Presentation (Archive)

ArchingEleganceforMomACS3x5Howdy, all!

Next week I am giving a presentation about the rules of photography. I thought I would share the material from the full presentation with you for your edification and enjoyment. Work on the photo book First Fruits: 31 Flashes of Biblical Perspective is almost complete, so my online presences should improve later this month. I’ll pick up the in-depth Photography Rules series in July, but I hope you enjoy its overview now.

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!
[O*] Alycia


Photography as a Form of Art

Alycia Christine Sears ~ ~ 979-324-3458

A good photograph should inspire emotion and/or show a story.

Powerful photography relies on a strong composition to accomplish that end.

Composition is the way in which a photograph presents its main subject.

A subject is the most important part of the photograph. Just as a noun is the subject of a sentence, a noun is usually the subject of a photo. A photo’s subject is usually a person, animal, plant, place, or object.

Just as a musical score is composed of different notes, a photograph is composed of three different layers: the foreground, the middle ground, and the background.

Foreground: The “front” layer of the photo’s scene.

Middle Ground: The “middle” layer of the photo’s scene.

Background: The “back” layer of the photo’s scene.

A subject must be located in any of these layers, as long as it is in focus.


There are several RULES to help create beautifully composed photos:

Focus (No Fuzz Allowed!): A subject must be in sharp focus (not fuzzy or blurry) to help indicate to the viewer that it is the most important part of the photo.

Depth of Field (Tunnel Vision): The photo’s subject is in sharp focus while the other layers of the photo are blurred out. Most of the time, this also means that the other layers of the photo need to be simple and uncluttered so they don’t distract the viewer from the photo’s true subject.

Centering (In a Bull’s Eye): The subject can be centered within the photo like a bulls-eye is the center of a target.

Rule of Thirds (Think Tic-tac-toe): Sometimes the photographer will divide a photo into thirds like the sections of a tic-tac-toe board. The  photo’s subject is then aligned in one third of the photo or at an intersection between two of the invisible tic-tac-toes lines.

Balance (Watch the See-Saw): Placing the subject off-center, as with the rule of thirds, creates a more interesting photo, but it can make the rest of the photo feel empty. To correct this, a photographer can add another object of lesser importance to help fill the space and add “weight” to the photo. Balance and leading lines can help establish relationships in a photo.

Leading Lines (Roads and Rivers): Lines in the photo draw the viewer’s eye to the subject. Leading lines often help link different elements in the photo to each other and usually start at the corner of the photo.

Framing and Flanking (We’re Surrounded, Sir!): Lines in the photo seem to frame (completely surround) or flank (border on only two sides) the subject. Frames can be any shape, but flanking must have two parallel lines running along either side of a subject.

Color and Contrast (Make it Pop!): The color of a subject will help distinguish it from the rest of the photo. In this case, the subject is the extreme in color compared to everything else — either the brightest color or the darkest color of the photo.

Close Ups (Way Too Personal): By being the largest thing in the photo, the subject is easily noticed by the viewer. This works especially well to help minimize distraction from a busy and cluttered background.

Patterns and Symmetry (The Oddball Rule): Sometimes an interesting pattern can make a great photo subject. When this occurs, it is important for the photographer to break up the symmetry or pattern in some way. Doing so will introduce tension and add a focal point (a mini-subject) into the scene.


Other things to consider when shooting photos:

Saturation (Please Overdo it!): Saturation or saturated shooting refers to taking multiple photos of the same subject. This technique allows the photographer to experiment with the different photography rules to find the most dynamic and interesting shot.

Vertical or horizontal photos (Tall or Long?): All photography rules can usually work whether a photograph is vertical or horizontal, so feel free to experiment.

Viewpoint (It’s all about Perspective!): Shoot photographs from different angles and viewpoints. Instead of shooting everything from a standing position, try taking a photo of the subject from a kneeling or prone position. Also try shooting something from above the subject. The change of angle and perspective can add can add lots of interest to each image.

Cropping (You Cut off My What!): When shooting people and animals especially, photographers must pay attention to where they crop their subjects. The last thing that you want to do is make your subject look amputated! Crop where there are no natural breaks in the body such as midway up the thighs or just below the shoulders.

Sizes (Is Bigger Always Better?): Different photo sizes can change the photography rules. A standard photo has a ratio of 2:3 like that shown in a 4×6 inch photograph. Prints come in standard sizes of 4×6, 5×7, 8×10, 8×12, 11×14, and larger. If you are worried about how the image size will affect rules like Leading Lines, Rule of Thirds, or Framing, stick with 4×6 or 8×12 prints and corresponding frames to minimize the damage done to photo composition.

Lighting (Get out Your Highlighters!): Lighting is THE most important part of photography composition! You cannot shoot a photo without light. Be careful to make sure that no part of any photo looks “bleached out” or “way too dark.” Balanced lighting or its lack will make or break any composition. Using light to “highlight” a subject will help it stand out against the rest of the photo.


Finally, the RULES are more like GUIDELINES anyway!

Feel free to experiment and have fun!

Flashes of Perspective: Framing and Flanking (Archive)

ColorfulPerspectiveWebFraming is a photography rule and technique that often relies on leading lines to work. As I mentioned in the February 6 blog, leading lines are lines used within an image to draw the viewer’s eye to a certain point (known as a focal point). In the case of framing, however, leading lines cannot be the subject of the photo. Instead they are used to surround your photo’s subject so that the subject stands out in a unique way.

Let’s Get Started

Most successful examples of framing have objects surrounding the photo’s subject on all sides; the subject is also often centered in the middle of the overall image. It is not required to have the elements of the frame make a square. In fact, frames can be shaped as any number of polygons including squares, triangles, circles, trapezoids, rhombuses, odd shapes, etc. as long as the frame elements properly surround the subject. While a little clipping is acceptable, frame elements should not block the central subject from view in any big way. Otherwise the photograph’s viewer may get confused about which object is meant to be the photo’s subject. The subject should also be the most in-focus part of the photo.

Sometimes you can simply surround the subject on just two sides; I refer to this technique as “flanking.” Unlike framing, the “flanking” technique usually does work best with fairly straight framing edges. As with framing though, flanking requires the subject to be in full focus and often differently colored than the objects surrounding it.

Many objects can be used as framing or flanking sides: roads, fencing, curtains, architecture, tree branches, wire, shadows, etc. The trick is to experiment until you find what works best.

Let’s Break It Down

For examples of framing, see the following links:

“Colorful Perspective”
One of the best examples of framing in my repertoire, “Colorful Perspective” gets its power and dynamism because my dark clothed male subject is walking just below the center of the hot air balloon’s circular envelope. The fabric’s folds and seems frame the balloon pilot perfectly.

“Beauty Beyond the Bars”
“Beauty Beyond the Bars” uses a very traditional framing element of a jail cell window frame to draw attention to the photo’s lovely female subject.

“Through the Hoops”
The lit hoops at the top of a carnival ride frame the decorative wheel of a different ride.

“Ambiance” is actually a double-framed piece. The white curtains frame the pink lamp which frames the cross of light.

For examples of flanking, see the following links:

“Floating Between Paths”
At first glance, this photo might look like an example of leading lines, but the roadway lines are actually flanking the hot air balloon in their midst rather than leading the eye to it.

“A Cleft with a View”
“A Cleft with a View” is a bit of a flanking rule-breaker because the blue rocks are not the only objects to flank the pale stalagmite formation behind them. The deep shadows above and below also flank the stalagmite and so this photo’s subject is highlighted from double flanking.


Shoot at least 10 images with either framing or flanking. Good items to try shooting: a person’s face as seen through a the hole in a box or tube, a colorful object surrounded by foliage, or an animal as seen through the interlaced branches of trees or shrubs a tree flanked by hills, or one piece of architecture surrounded by others. Have some fun with this one and be sure to keep your camera’s focus centered on the subject, not the framing elements.

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: Presenting Lovely Leading Lines (Archive)

Welcome to the photography “rule” of leading lines. As I mentioned in the December 6th blog, photography presentation rules like leading lines are more like guidelines than actual rules. And, yes, I did mean to include the terrible pun.  That being said, the leading lines idea is one of my favorite rules to use because they add so much depth to an image.

Let’s Get Started

Leading lines are lines used within an image to draw the viewer’s eye to a certain point (focal point), or occasionally, out of the image. Well-done leading lines make an image dynamic and powerful. They can add flow, structure, and/or visual interest to any photo’s subject. They can also be the subject of the photo. Fences, bridges, railing, even a shoreline can be a leading line. Anything can lead the eye with a definite line.

Let’s Break It Down

For examples of leading lines see the following links:

“Wed in Red”
In “Wed in Red” the curving line of the bride’s dress leads the viewer’s eye up to the image’s subject: the kissing couple.

The subtle line of rock and wave leads the viewer’s eye to the image’s focal point of the tapir’s soft face.

“Spike Curls”
The odd pattern made by the curling lines of this cactus is the image’s subject.

“Bleeding Purity”
The angled sides of the steeple lead the viewer’s eye to the subject of the white cross.

“Damsel Daintiness”
The wavy line of the flower petal leads the viewer’s eye to the damsel fly clinging to its tip.

“Four in a Row”
The invisible line formed between the hovering balloons adds interest to this photo and highlights the similarity between the balloons, which is the image’s subject.


Shoot at least 10 images with leading lines. Try to turn the camera so that the lines make the image really interesting. Good items to try shooting: railroad tracks leading off into the distance or to a train, the shoreline of a lake or sea, roads, fence lines, rivers and streams, skyscraper lines, landscapes like lines of hills leading to distant mountains, tree branches, an arched bridge or other architectural piece.

Personal Note

I find that photographing leading lines so that they seem to grow out of the corners of the photo helps make the image more dynamic.

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

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