Summer Photo Tips: #5 – Making Photos With the Rule of Thirds

July 21st, 2014 21 comments

summer photo tips leading linesleading lines summer photo tips photography
When something catches our attention like a bird soaring overhead or a car passing by, we normally shift our eyes so that the subject is centered in our field of view. Perhaps because we do this naturally, when photographing there is also a tendency to place the main subject in the center of the photo. Photographers refer to this as “bulls eye” composition. While centering a subject is fine in some situations, it is less effective in others and can make for visually boring or uninteresting photos if overused.

Understanding The Rule of Thirds

     To add visual interest, variety and sometimes drama to a photo, consider placing the main subject off center. A popular technique used by photographers to achieve that is called the “Rule of Thirds.” While looking at the example imagine a grid like the ones used in a “tic-tac-toe” game that is created using two horizontal and two vertical lines. Placing the main subject in a photo off-center and at the intersection of any two of those imaginary lines can help make the image more compelling and add visual interest, energy and sometimes even drama.

rule of thirds photography

Photos made using the Rule of Thirds also reveal more of the background in the scene which can help to convey a sense of the place where the image was made. The four photos above show examples of off-center composition based on the Rule of Thirds. If you study each one closely you’ll notice how the main subject is located near the intersection of those imaginary grid lines.

IMPORTANT: Although it is called a “rule,” the Rule of Thirds is simply another technique you can select from in certain situations to add interest and help guide the viewer’s eye toward the main subject. And, like other techniques, if overused can lead to boring photos.

ND Grad filter - graduated neutral density filter

Summer Photo Tips: #4 – The Power of Leading Lines

July 14th, 2014 34 comments

summer photo tips leading linesleading lines summer photo tips photography
Summer photography presents many opportunities to easily practice various ways to improve your images. Taking time to compose or arrange a scene in your viewfinder before pressing the shutter can do much to improve your photos. Good composition can also help direct the viewers eye when viewing the final photo to help them see and better understand what you set out to photograph.

There are many techniques you can draw on to guide the viewers eye. A “leading line” is one of those techniques and one that in many situations, is easy to include. A leading line is one or more elements within in a scene that is intentionally included to direct or guide a viewers eye. The photo below shows a simple example of a photo containing a leading line.

photography tips leading lines

When looking at the photo above, most likely your eyes went first to the yellow line in the road near the bottom edge and then moved upward into the image. Leading lines help to move the eye from one place to another or, from the edge of a photo directly to the main subject. They can also convey a sense of intrigue because at some point they disappear into the background. Roadways, bike paths, airport runways and even hiking trails can often be used as leading lines.

leading lines photo tips

You can also use leading lines to direct a viewers eye “within” a scene. In the photo above, for example, the biking trail which seems to appear from out of nowhere near the center of the image gracefully guides the eye on a curving path downward and then out through the left side of the scene.

Begin watching for and including leading lines in some of your photos. The more you practice and study the results the more you’ll begin to understand how they can help you tell a story and help the viewer enjoy the photo even more.

photography tips leading lines

And The Five Contest Winners Are …

July 13th, 2014 9 comments

rick braveheart photography tipsphotography tips
Thank you to everyone who entered the Blog Followers Giveaway Contests. Each of the more than 5,000 comments and over 60,000 Likes submitted by followers during the past five years has made the blog even better. And, during my many month-long photo assignments, have helped get me out of bed each day, long before dawn, so as to have new photos and stories to share. To everyone I extend my heartfelt thanks for subscribing and following along. Last night I received the list of contest winners. Here are the results.

Contest #1: Thank You Subscribers
Winners: Lori B (littlesundog) and Rod S. (
Each winner will receive their choice of one 11×14″ (matted size) limited-edition photograph from the new Zion National Park series.

Contest #2: I Love Those Comments
Wally J ( and Pat B. (
Each winner will receive their choice of a limited-edition 11×14″ (matted size) photograph, fine-art poster or set of greeting cards from the Zion National Park series.

Contest #3: Most Comments Ever Award
LuAnn O (
Having posted more than 115 comments over the years, LuAnn has won the Most Comments Ever Award. She will receive her choice of one limited-edition 11×14″ (matted size) photograph, plus one poster and one set of greeting cards from the Zion National Park series.

I’ll be contacting each winner today with more details. And, thank you again to everyone who has followed this blog over the years. Your comments, words of support and encouragement have and continue to make a huge difference.

zion national park night photography
zion national park night photography

Special “Thank You” Photos, Posters & Cards For Blog Followers

July 11th, 2014 6 comments

rick braveheart photography tipsphotography tips
During a month-long assignment at Zion National Park, Utah I posted photos and stories about that experience on this blog. Twenty full color and B&W images from that work will soon be released as fine art photographs, posters and note cards. To express my gratitude and sincere thanks to everyone who follows this blog, I have created special “artist edition” versions of those photographs, posters and note cards that will be available only to blog readers for the next 60 days.

     The idea for “artist editions” follows in the tradition of well-known photographer Edward Weston (1886-1958) who regularly offered limited amounts of his work to friends and collectors at prices well below market value. His wish was to make collecting and sharing photographs with others more affordable and possible for everyone. It is with this same wish that I have created these photos, posters and note cards. I hope you will enjoy them.
photography tips

20 New Color & B&W Photographs – Only $39 – $65 Eachplant photography star trail
These specially sized, full color fine art photographs are priced at only $39 or $65 — roughly 50% below the standard retail price. I personally print, sign, number and mat each one with the same equipment and materials I use for preparing exhibition and gallery works. Click on the color or B&W images below to learn more.

Posters and Fine Art Photo Note Cards
plant photography star trailI am pleased to announce the release of two new full color posters and boxed sets of note cards featuring images of Zion National Park. Each is offered at a special introductory, artist edition price. Click on the poster or greeting card image below to learn more.


Thanks to everyone who entered the “Thank You For Following” contest to win free photos, posters or photo note cards. The results are currently being processed by a local marketing company. I’ll receive the names of the winners late tomorrow and will post the winners of each contest here on the blog this coming Sunday, July 13th. Good luck to everyone who entered. ~ Rick

zion national park night photography
zion national park night photography

Summer Photo Tips: # 3 – Cleaning & Changing a Camera Lens

July 6th, 2014 17 comments

photography tips
While photographing yesterday on a windy mountaintop here in North Carolina I found myself needing to clean and change lenses several times and want to share some tips and techniques I use here in today’s blog post. Although clean lenses can help you capture sharp, beautiful images, even small amounts of dust, dirt or a fingerprint on the glass has the potential to ruin a photograph. Also changing lenses always presents the possibility of introducing dirt or dust on the lens and camera sensor.

photography tipsChanging Camera Lenses
If you use more than one lens with your camera, changing lenses, especially outdoors, can often be tricky since it exposes the camera and lens interior to potential dirt and dust. Here are a few ideas that can help reduce the problem. First, when changing lenses, always point the camera downward toward the ground as you remove and replace the lens. Doing so helps reduce the chance that dirt or dust might fall or flow onto the camera’s mirror/sensor.

Second, if the wind is blowing it’s wise to change lenses in a protected area such as inside a building or car. But if that’s not possible, at least turn your back to the wind or place the camera under a coat or jacket when changing lenses. Lastly, practice changing your camera lenses several times so that you can do so fairly quickly. While you don’t have to become the world record holder for fastest lens changes, the longer the camera and lens remain uncovered the greater their chance of gathering dirt or dust.

photography tipsCleaning Camera Lenses
Eventually, all camera lenses gather some dust, dirt and/or fingerprints. While a lens with only small amount of dirt or dust is rarely visible in a print, a truly dirty lens can result in unwanted dots, marks or blurred areas in every photo. Before heading out with the camera check the lens and if it’s dirty, take a few moments to clean it. Once you get the hang of lens cleaning you’ll discover it only takes a few moments to do.

Lens cleaning requires a few simple and inexpensive tools including a small brush, microfiber cloth or lens cleaning tissues, a bottle of lens cleaning solution and optionally, a squeeze-type blower. A bulb-style hand blower is a rest way to gently blow dirt or dust off a lens without anything touching the surface. Canon, Glottos, Zeiss and a number of others offer lens cleaning kits that contain almost everything you need for about $15 USD and the optional blower can be had for roughly $10 USD.

When you notice dirt on the lens, try lightly brushing or blowing it off. If dirt, dust or fingerprints remain, place only a few drops of lens cleaning solution on a lens cleaning tissue or microfiber cloth. Then, beginning at the center of the lens, press it lightly on the lens and move it in concentric circles from the center to the outside edge of the lens. (Moving in circles helps minimize streaking.)

Here are some things NOT to do when cleaning your lenses. 1) Do not clean a camera lens with paper towels since they often contain wood or fiber products that can scratch the glass. 2) Never use canned air to blow dirt off a camera or lens since its force could damage a sensitive part. 3) Never use a commercial window/glass cleaner on a lens since some of the ingredients could damage the coated optic surfaces. 4) Use caution if you try blowing dirt off a lens with your breath. While it is definitely possible to remove some dirt or dust this way, more often than not people also blow moisture/water vapor from their mouth onto the lens which creates a water spot that is can be difficult to remove. Remember, a clean lens is a happy lens :-)

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