This post is my learning log for exercise 1 “Fitting the frame to the subject” in TAOP project 1: Looking through the viewfinder.

The purpose of the exercise was to take and assess four pictures of a selected subject: One without much consideration, one where the subject fills the frame as much as possible, a close-up of a detail of the subject, and one where the subject is shown in the environment.

Fig 1: The final image

I took a walk to the nearby churchyard, looking for interesting headstones, and came across this one for Mary Sarah. With its backdrop of fallen, orange leaves and a nice light on the ground, it almost begged to be photographed.

Fig 2: The first casual shot

The first image (Fig 2), taken without much thought, didn’t work. There are a few very bright pink flowers in the bottom left corner, and Mary Sarah’s stone overlaps with a few smaller stones nearby. The solid black spot in the top left corner is unattractive, and the shiny surface of a sign almost in the centre of the image creates a very bright highlight that draws the eye away from the main subject. The picture in general looks cluttered and messy.

Fig 3: Filling the frame with the headstone

I then tried to fill the frame with the headstone (Fig 3). Although it’s an accurate representation of what the stone looked like, it’s not very interesting. The borders of the image constrains the subject almost to the point of suffocating it.

Fig 4:Close-up of the inscription

On Fig 4, I went in close and focused my attention to the text and texture in the stone.  The narrow DOF was an attempt at adding a little visual interest, but looking back at it, I’m not convinced it worked. In fact, in order to make an interesting image of a close-up of the stone, I should probably have brought a macro lens and gone really close and tried to make an image out of the texture in the green moss on the stone.

Finally, for the fourth picture (Fig 1), I placed myself on the left of the headstone. This was to avoid the problems identified with Fig 2, but also because from this angle, the bright sunlight coming through the trees at the end of the churchyard could be used to frame the headstone, rather than just having a black void behind it.

In this sequence of pictures, it’s quite easy to decide which of the four shots works best. The headstone clearly benefits from being shown in its environment, so Fig 1 is my favourite.

All four shots were taken with a flash in a softbox just outside the frame on camera left aimed at the headstone.  I dialled in an exposure suitable for the background and then added the flash as fill. In the final image, I changed the white balance in the post processing to warm it up and further increased the saturation of the green and orange tones to emphasize the autumnal feel.