Photo composition at an early age

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Robert Watcher, Aug 17, 2013.

  1. Robert Watcher

    Robert Watcher Mu-43 Top Veteran

    I knew in the back of my mind that I had taken a couple of photographs of my parents when I was quite young - that I was quite pleased with, because of the moody soft look in the small 3" print. My mother never liked it because it was "blurry and not very good".

    I haven't seen the pictures since I was a teenager I think. Last night I was at my parents house and she had pulled them out. They were just as I remembered - soft moody low warm lighting. Mom had cut the white borders off and had only the originals (far more faded and soft by now), and so I took them outside in the sun and copied them with my Olympus Pen camera.

    Now that I have been shooting portrait work for so many years, I noticed different things in the photos. First - here are some of the details:

    These photos were taken in the summer of 1965 when I was 8 years old. My parents, my younger sister and I were on a ferry heading to Manitoulin Island. My mom always had her Kodak Instamatic with her. Because of the cost of film and developing, I was never really allowed to take pictures as it would be a waste of precious few frames.

    On this evening, I insisted that I take a picture of the two of them. When we went outside, the sunlight was low and there was a mist in the air. I took the shots and then anxiously waited until mom got them back. I was in love with the images that I had captured and never forgot them.

    In fact, when I look at these prints now I see how the style that I developed over a long career as a professional - is evident in these two prints. My style is mood and romantic and relaxed. Some of the softness is a result of motion blur from pushing the boundaries of shutter speed in the lower light levels, I believe - which I still deliberately have with many of my pictures. What struck me this time was how well I posed them compositionally in the frame (these are both the full frame).

    No one told me that I should have them standing close together with heads tipped in to each other or that the heads are placed in the top of the frame instead of the middle or that posing for diagonal lines (when I insisted that mom stretch her hand out on the rail) works well or that I should place them where the light comes in on a nice angle to them or that placing them against an unobstructed background free of horizontal lines cutting through their heads was best or cropping at mid-thigh instead of knees and ankles - - - - but those are things that I am seeing in these pictures. It may be that shooting with the Instamatic and being exposed to the look of the square prints much of my life, is a reason that shooting or cropping to a Square 1:1 Format has always appealed to me - especially during my Medium Format days when even my 6x7 Mamiya negs were often cropped for square prints.

    I am so pleased that I now have digital copies of my earliest portrait photographs. I know that these might be uninteresting old snapshots to others, but I think they do show how sometimes we may worry too much about technical things and that we can produce very satisfying photographs without knowledge, experience or ability or gear. Just let our own vision come through - - - and maybe it is that our vision - though unrefined - is there from an early age.

    I look forward to your thoughts and maybe your own experiences.



    Here is me at 8 years old when I took the above portraits (a pic my mom took at another time during the trip)


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