Today’s “Disneyland Photo Tip of the Day” is a compositional concept that looks at the outer regions of our photos with a peek into Negative Space.
For me, the process of using negative space in my photography is a somewhat new concept and one I am just beginning to scratch the surface of. It’s not that my photographic composition was bad before, but when I look back at some of my photos, I realize that there are times when I should have censored my normal tendency to crop an image and get as much of the subject in the frame as possible.
For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, Negative Space can be defined as all the empty space in a photo that is not occupied by the subject or other objects. Simply put, it is the space that gives definition and meaning to the subject that occupies the positive space. Negative space is crucial in any composition because too much or too little of it can completely ruin an otherwise good photograph.
We talk (ok I talk) a lot about getting close to your subject and/or cropping photos to eliminate anything that is a distraction from the story it is trying to tell. However, if there is no empty space included in the frame, the viewer would not know where they are supposed to be looking. If there the proper amount of empty space around the subject, the viewer has nowhere else to look than at the subject and then can fully appreciate it without confusion or being distracted by other things.
Many photographers, including myself try to crop out as much negative space as possible and never examine the possibilities that it can do to help tell the story.
I knew I was going to be doing this tutorial so when my wife Diane and I were at Disneyland for the 4th of July weekend, we spent some time experimenting with this concept and really enjoyed the addition of this thought process to our picture taking. Even though it was our first time really thinking about negative space when composing a shot, we were both amazed at how it helps create a certain atmosphere and/or emotion in the photo. It can give the subject room to breathe or even more importantly proper placement in the scene that defines what the subject is all about.
To illustrate my point, let’s take a look at some photos and different compositions for each one.
Diane had been studying a shot of Sleeping Beauty Castle taken in 1956 by the very famous photographer Diane Arbus and now owned by Steve Martin. (he was working at Disneyland the night she took it.)
Anyway, my Diane was shooting with our old P&S and as she likes to do, shooting in Black & White. Here is her shot of the castle. By not just zooming in on the castle and keeping the walkway, lights and dark sky, she has enough negative space around the castle to give it a sense of scale and atmosphere.
If she had framed it like this, it’s an ok looking photo but it doesn’t have any air of mystery or story.
This is a nice shot of it from the other side and the castle looks great, especially for being taken with a P&S in monochrome.
However, in this shot she left a lot more negative space around it and that negative space gives the feeling of the castle sitting on high, majestic and powerful.
As we were walking up to the castle, we came upon this popcorn cart near the Partners Statue. I pointed out how cool it looked because it was so dark around it and the light from it on the brick was so nice. If you look at it how most people (including myself) would normally photograph it, the shot is nothing special and would probably end up in the recycle bin.
If there is a little more negative space around it the composition is a little more pleasing but still doesn’t make you want to look at it for very long.
Now, with a lot of negative space around it and by putting it further back, in a Rule of 3rds composition, the darkness around it gives it a sense of place and tells the story of a popcorn cart at the end of the night, all by itself, quietly hoping for the last guest to stop and pick up a late night snack.
This doesn’t only apply to architecture or black and white with the negative space being black. It applies to any type of photo.On the 3rd, we spent the day in DCA and stumbled across two twin girls in Tinkerbell costumes playing in the water play area in A Bug’s Land. (SO CUTE!) I got down to their eye level (as I like to do when shooting children) and watched the two of them for a few minutes before taking their picture. Here is the original shot of one of them running in the fountains. As you can see, there are other kids in the frame that create a distraction and take your eye away from the subject that Iwant you to look at.
If I were to crop out all the distractions and just center the girl in the photo, it’s cute, but it doesn’t tell you why she is running or where to or why she is having fun.
However, if I crop it like this, putting the girl on the left side, using the Rule of 3rds, you can see the environment around her, that it is Bug’s Land and just catch the stream of water she is running into. Now the photo has a sense of place and purpose without background distractions. There is enough negative space around her to tell the story but not make your eye wander through the photo.
Now this part always amazes me about twins. I find it so fascinating how two twin sisters can have such different personalities.While the first girl was running and laughing without a care in the world, her sister got wet once and had had enough. She wanted nothing to do with the fountains, no matter how much her parents tried to coerce her into playing with her sister. The harder they tried, the less she wanted to. She got a little upset and went to the back sulk. I edited this shot two ways and to be honest, I can’t decide which one I like better. In the original, there is a lot of negative space around her, which works well in giving her a sense of isolation and loneliness, thus justifying her expression.
I also cropped in tight on her which I also love simply because her expression is SO DARN CUTE! I didn’t think about it at the time, but she is really channeling some of the spoiled and pouty expressions of Tinkerbell.
For a last example, I’m a little torn between these two photos as well. I really like this first one because of the emotion that it evokes. I caught it as the sun was low in the sky and I was walking through Condor Flats. The rocket was spraying a heavy water mist and people were walking through it. (I took this right after the shot of the Taste Pilot GrillI posted the other day) The sun was bright and coming right at me, which made the people a silhouette in the mist. The father and son holding hands, walking into it was just too good of a story to pass up. I call it “Time is Short” because the sun is setting on another day and before he knows it, that boy will be all grown up and doing the same thing with his son.
That is the cropped version of it which works well to isolate the father and son but it doesn’t quite give the sense of making them smaller in the overall cycle of life. Here is the original shot, which is exactly how I wanted it framed, to make the scene, especially the sunset more centered in the fram and the people smaller. I think it evokes the feeling of “Time is Short” and how I wanted it conveyed a little better than the cropped version. I also want to emphasize (harkening back to the previous discussions on Exposure Layering and Exposure Compensation) that I originally shot this as a bracketed exposure of 0, -2, +2. This photo is the -2 exposure. I liked it as it was because it toned down the sunset and gave me the light rays and lens flare that I wanted and kept the people as silhouettes.
So in conclusion, whenever you are composing a shot, keep in mind the entire environment and think about how the negative space around your subject might help it convey the emotion that you want it to.
My choice is to shoot raw, which makes post-processing easier in some ways. Then I convert to JPG for posting. Color and detail in dark areas can be easier to recover in RAW. Downside: they're larger files.
I pledge allegiance to the Earth, one planet, many gods, and to the universe in which she spins.
Love photos you show and just what to know what is the best Jpeg or Raw for shooting?
If you have the capabilities of shooting in RAW, definitely do it. You can get away with a lot more difficult shooting situations by shooting in RAW. In RAW, the file is still an open piece of data and can be manipulated without damage.
For example, you are shooting late at night on Main St. If you have your White Balance on Auto, the lights and the buildings will have a yellowish hue to them. If you shot it in RAW, you can adjust the color temperature down to Tungsten, which is what those bulbs are. If you shot it in Jpeg, you are stuck with that color.
There are also many times when I want to do a shot as a HDR but it has trees in it and the wind is blowing. If I shoot 3 exposures and process the HDR, the trees will be blurry. By shooting in RAW, I can take one single sharp image and change the exposure in the computer to a +2 and a -2, then make the HDR out of those and have a crisp photo where everything lines up properly.
Yes, the file sizes are much larger but that is what larger memory cards are for.
RAW vs JPEG is can be simplified to be 'when do you want to do the corrections.. in the camera at the time of shooting, or in post processing?'
RAW allows you to adjust things like exposure and white balance in post processing in the same way the camera's software would adjust it when taking the original shot. So think of it as a 'time warp'.. if you didn't get the white balance right when you shot it.. you can easily go back and adjust it in post processing in a native method that isn't sloppy like using a filter feature or other image manipulation tricks.
It doesn't change the quality (sans compression) of what you shoot, but rather simply leaves the door open for you to come in afterwards and kind of 'replay' what you could have done at the time of the original shot. Adjusting white Balance and exposure compensation is where people use the freedom RAW offers the most.
For my 200th"Disneyland Photo Tip of the Day" I wanted to share one of my new favorite locations in DCA for taking pictures. Yes, this is my 200th one of these and to be perfectly honest, I'm kinda stunned that I got this far. My goal was, and still is to do 300, so I hope that the next 100 will be of some value.
I recently spent a good deal of time in a pretty small, under explored (photographically speaking) and I think under appreciated area of Disney California Adventure that I call Paradise Beach. I don't know if that is what it is actually called or if it even has a name since it is so small but that is what I like to call it.
There is a very small walkway between the Zephyr and the Silly Symphony Swings behind the Jumpin Jellyfish that offers some fantastic photographic opportunities, especially in the late afternoon when the sun is a bit lower in the sky approaching the golden hour. That little pathway looks out across Paradise Bay to the east and Jumpin Jellyfish and all the new eatieries to the west. For such a small area, there are a lot of ways to photograph things. Using a Wide Angle lens can really add to the fun because you can explore more unique compositions. When I was there on July 3rd, there was hardly a soul around me and I got to play with my new Gorilla Pod attaching it to the railings and positioning the camera in all kinds of unique angles.
Here are a few of the views that I captured that day. Some of them might seem redundant but I was just having fun, relaxing and looking at things from a point of view that I hadn't really explored before.
I really liked the way the Jellyfish looked when I positioned myself in such a way so the sun was directly behind them.
All these vibrant colors and palm trees can give you a lot of options when it comes to post processing as well. For this one I wanted to really accentuate the feel of the setting sun and the memories of a fun day at the beach. I don't know why but it just reminds me of a Beach Boys album cover from the early 70's.
Another great place to snap some fun photos from there is by heading over to the Silly Symphony Swings.
You are allowed to walk up the exit stairs and take pictures of the swings if you like. (make sure you ask a CM first)
And, one more blue hour shot from the spot where I waited to shoot the World of Color Show from. (Not a good spot to watch World of Color though.)
So, the next time you are in DCA and wandering by this area, do yourself a favor and wander down this path. I think you will really enjoy spending a little time there.
Looks like you took a different approach to processing on this one. Good stuff! I like the shadows on the floor.
Good Eye! I did do something a little bit different. I took the original RAW file and changed the exposure to a +2 and then a -2, and processed it as a HDR. Then I applied a Velvia film effect to it to change the hues on it ever so slightly.
7-29-11 Today’s “Disneyland Photo Tip of the Day”revisits Mickey’s Soundsational Parade with a new location tip and some examples of why I said in the first post about this parade that you should use a flash, even in the day time. Warning: this one is going to be very picture heavy.
On July 4th, I spent almost the entire day camped out at the end of Main St. My plan was to photograph the Parade at 4:00, then the flag retreat ceremony, then the parade again at 6:30, then stay in the same spot to shoot the fireworks. Once the fireworks were over, I planned on staying right there at the end of Main St, without moving my camera and photograph Main St after closing so I could layer the shot of the fireworks with the empty Main St photo, making it look like I was the only person there for the fireworks. Unfortunately, the fireworks did not cooperate and I didn’t get one useable photo of them. As soon as I saw how bad the fireworks shots were, I bailed on waiting till closing and spent the rest of the night wandering around taking pictures of whatever caught my eye.
Fortunately, Mac Daddy joined me in the early afternoon and we had a blast photographing all this stuff together. We positioned ourselves right dead center at the end of Main St. up on that curb so the parade would be coming straight at us. As soon as it made its way around the hub and started down Main St, we were both giggling like 14 year old girls at a Justin Bieber concert because the view was so great. I have to say that it is my new favorite spot to shoot the parade from. Having it come straight at you with nothing and no one between you and the performers is really quite special. It feels as if the parade is for you and you alone. There is a drawback to this location, which is that it is popular spot so you have to stake out your territory about an hour before the parade starts. Another one of the great things about this spot is that it isn’t very big and there isn’t room for people to be behind you on the curb. You can just sit there and enjoy the parade without strollers hitting you in the ankles or trying to push you out of the way.
Before the parade began, I was taking pictures of the balloon vendors on Main Stwith the castle in the background. For those I had my aperture set to F/9 and like the excited kid that I tend to be, I forgot to open it up when the parade began. Since I did have a reasonably small aperture, I did lose a few shots because they were a little blurry due to the slower shutter speed. I did however remember to put my external flash on, which turned out to be a life saver. I will show you in the photos the difference between no flash and flash so you can see for yourself what a difference it makes.
So without further ado or verbal spewing on my part, let’s get on with the show….. Here is the first float heading our way.
This shot of Minnie is with the flash off.
Now here she is with the flash turned on.
The Main Mouse himself…
I really, really enjoyed having everything coming straight at me. You will see in several photos what a great point of view it provides.
More examples of how a flash can help light up the faces of the performers.
Just to show that not using a flash isn’t a total disaster, this shot is the original photo with the flash turned off.
I lightened the shadows and then put just a spot of light on her face to brighten it up in post processing. It works fine but if you can save yourself the time, it’s just easier to do it in camera.
Photographically speaking, one of the best things about having the floats coming straight at you is how you can line them up behind the performers.
Here’s a perfect example of lining up the performer with the float in the background. It doesn’t get any better than this.
And another example of Flash On:
Now, the important thing to remember is that this location is only good for the first showing of the parade. When it goes back the other way later in the afternoon, all you see is the backsides of everyone and everything. I was camped out there, so I did photograph it on the route back but only got a few decent photos.
My wife Diane was using the old P&S and I think she got the shots of the day on the second parade. This one was taken right before it started when this kid kept running back and forth in front of us. He would not sit still except for this one split second when he got tired of waiting and sat down in the middle of the street. I don’t know why I never seem to see these things, but I’m sure glad my wife has a great eye for them.
She also loved the way the floats looked against the afternoon clouds and took advantage of that point of view.
So that was it. I hoped you liked it and I hope you give this spot a try some day. It really is worth the extra time camping out.