Introduction: In the Spotlight: How to See & Create Single Subject, High Impact Photos

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Some of the most powerful images are sometimes some of the most visually simple. Knowing how to capture a powerful image is important, but honing your observational skills so you can make the most of being in the right place at the right time is a big part of the process. We'll look at some tips and tricks here, for seeing and capturing single subject, high impact photos.

Step 1: Look for Stand Out Colors

Look for one color that stands out brightly against a backdrop of other colors. White flowers can be pretty nondescript in a bouquet or cluster of similar flowers, but pull one out of the crowd and now you have something else entirely. White flowers can be especially striking on a rainy day, since they pick up ambient light well and are naturally highlighted against the muted tones of a cloudy day. The rose stands out for the same reason.

Both flowers shots are taken with a zoom lens, creating a nice macro-like image that blurs out the background and really makes the single flower stand out distinctly.

Step 2: Accentuate the Positive

Leaves can be tricky. By nature,they often love a crowd (of other leaves). But during certain times of the year, the solitary leaf may catch your eye- like the last dangling maple leaf on late fall tree, or a frost rimmed hold out in winter.

In the case of the maple leaf, shooting up against a pale sky with the zoom lens gave me a nice white canvas, that I further helped along with some photo editing saturation, although not much - nature did most of the work. The frosted leaf was actually among several. I just hunted about until I found one that I could photograph in isolation from the others.

Step 3: Go Eye to Eye

Looking is easy. Seeing takes time. Don't hurry the process. Sometimes the best way to see things is to stay in one place for a while. While peering closely at a daisy, trying to find a nice angle to photography it, a big bee came along and parked itself in the flower. Now I had a ground level view with some unique contrasts - the yellow flower set off against the white sky, and black bee whose wings darkly mimic the flower petals.

Dragon flies are not only photogenic, they're often very cooperative subjects. They like to find the tips of grass blades or reeds and perch. Get down (or up) as close as possible to your subject's level for your best shot. Be another dragonfly, looking at your neighbor.

Jumping spiders can also stand pretty cooperatively for a portrait. The trick with something that small, though, is finding the right lighting to make it pop. In the case of the arachnid with attitude, the bright light coming right at him, lit his fantastically grumpy, multi-eyed little face, and even threw a nice shadow under him for extra effect. Then he regarded me seriously while I fired off a few shots with my long lens.

I actually prefer using the long lens to create macro-like shots rather than using the macro setting on a lens. You may have to get a bit of a distance away, but the effects are fantastic, since you can get everything in focus much better on your subject, and still get that blurred effect in the background, as with the butterfly.

Step 4: Be Open to the Anachronous Moment

Look for that anachronous moment - that slightly out of sync view like the white feather on black water - to find the perfect spotlight image.

The brown thrasher perched atop the archery frog sculpture in a garden was just a wonderfully humorous moment, and the bird hung around long enough for me to frame the shot. I took several of them to make the most of the moment and improve my chances for the best shot. That came when the bird looked in the direction the frog sculpture was aiming, to give that nice sense of "assist". Don't be afraid to take lots of photos - the more you take, the better your chances of getting that one perfect shot!

The cow eye shot occurred to me while photographing a rather friendly bovine. I noticed that I could see the entire pasture in the cow's eye, and also liked the way the black eye blended with the black and white color of the cow.

Step 5: Get Off Center

While most of the single subject photos I've used were taken with long lens, sometimes a wide angle shot can create that spotlight single subject image. In the case of each of the photos shown here, putting the sole human subject off center frames each one in the immensity of the landscape around them.

Step 6: Look for Contrasts

Sometimes what makes a subject stand out is a change of color, and sometimes it's a change of texture. The plain wooden door makes a thoughtful subject for a couple of different reasons: the off-set stone steps, in contrast to the wood of the rest of the house, and the vertical planks of the door itself, contrasted against the horizontal slats of the walls around it. A frame of ivy further sets it off.

In the lavender door shot, just the fact that it's a bright lavender door with matching steps, set in a while stucco building makes it a sufficiently photogenic subject.

Step 7: Happy Seeing!

As you go out and about in the course of your daily life, practice seeing things - look for the things that stand out for their shapes, colors and textures, for that solitary moment that catches your eye. Keep your camera nearby to practice capturing those moments.

The more you look, the more you'll see and the more amazing the world will be!

Happy Seeing!


You can see more spotlight photography at my Fine Art America Gallery .

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