Anyone Can Take A Photograph, Right?

Most of us have a smartphone with a several megapixel camera.

Most of us also have a Facebook account, and love to post pictures of just about anything we think our friends might find interesting; even our lunch.  Many of us use Instagram with its photo-effects software, to make ourselves look prettier.  In the modern age, most of us use a camera, and the majority, the one on their phone. 

So, that makes us all photographers, right? Well, only by means of describing the function we are carrying out at that particular moment.  I am typing this on my computer, and sometimes when it reports a problem to me, I can fix it.  It doesn't make me an IT expert, though.  Likewise, I can do certain repairs on my car, but it doesn't make me a mechanic.  I can wire a plug, paint a wall, mix concrete, and if my lovely wife asked me to, I could make a coffee table out of wood, screws and metal brackets.  None of these things however, make me a professional electrician, decorator, builder, or carpenter.

Enter stage left, a professional rock photographer.  Someone that has dedicated their whole career to creating images, rather than just snapping what’s in front of them. That professional photographer created this image of Nick Cave. 

So, if you’re thinking, ‘I could have taken that’, here are a few reasons why that just isn't so, unless you're a professional photographer yourself, of course...

  1. Draw an imaginary line vertically down the centre of the image. See how it bisects the subject's head, perfectly.

  2. Notice the composition of 'stuff' in front of the subject, on the table. These items are not there randomly.

  3. Notice how the teaspoon and the square plate are composed. The teaspoon touches the edge of the image, while the plate has a small corner cut off at the opposite edge. This arrangement produces a perfect balance of in front of the subject, adding to the value of the entire image, yet not detracting from the subject himself.

  4. The background is in soft focus. Something that gives any portrait photograph that look of professionalism that most can see, but not figure out why.

  5. The hedge in the background is perfectly at 90 degrees to the sides of the picture. Now, take a look at pictures of your own and see just how many have wonky backgrounds.

  6. More on the hedge... It is placed two-thirds of the way up the image, vertically. This conforms to a common practice known as the one-third/two-thirds rule. This produces visually-pleasing images, for no other reason than it just does. It's something to do with the way our brains work. Pro photographers know this. Most amateurs, even those with nice kit, don't.

  7. Measure visually, the distance between the top of the subject's head to the top of the image. Do the same between the teapot and the bottom of the image. Notice how they're almost identical. This is no accident either.

  8. Generally, look at the entire composition. See the composure of the subject. Look at the expression. The angle of his head. The look of thoughtfulness. The reflection of the table and its artifacts in the sunglasses' lenses, and of the plate in the shiny table surface, adding depth and dimension. All of these things are composed. Almost curated, if you will.

  9. Then there's the editing work to consider, once the picture has been taken, but that's a whole new blog, and one that might get just a little too technical. (Sometime in the future we may well give it a go, and try to make it interesting, but for now, please just trust that it's there.  In spades, and worthy of another nine bullet points.  At least.  

So, next time you point your smartphone, take a snap, look at it proudly, and upload the resulting image to your social media app of choice, spare a thought for the pro photographers, for whom activating the shutter on their cameras probably took place after hours of set-up time, to be followed by even more hours of processing and editing.  

Only then, do you get to see their work...

Phil Nicholls
RPC Creative Director

David Trew
RPC Marketing and Operations Director