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July 9, 2020

3 Ways to Make Work that Stands Out

Interview by
Benjamin Hardman

When I first started taking photographs, my mind was always focused on capturing as much of my surroundings as possible. To capture the beauty of an entire scene in one shot. The best way to do this is by using a wide-angle lens, for me it was a 16-35mm. Soon after picking up that lens and beginning my first trips in Iceland, I started to realize that the most pleasing way I could frame a shot at wide focal lengths was to use the rule of thirds principle. From then on, placing the point of focus on one of the lower intersecting third lines at 16mm became my go to composition. 

As my photographic eye has developed over the years, my lens selections and composition techniques have definitely shifted, and my reliance on wide focal lengths has vanished. Building a closer relationship to the landscape in Iceland, it’s the subtleties that have begun to take my interest. The variance in the hues of moss, the first dusting of snow over the high mountains, a specific rock or mountain peak that you have to zoom right in to find, these things are all around us but can sometimes be lost in the grand beauty of a scene as a whole. In The Photographic Style & Aesthetic Workshop, you can see firsthand the amount of work I put into each and every photo to make sure it stands out.

1. Tighter Focal Lengths and Panoramas

Using focal lengths from 85 - 200mm, you can compress the layers within an image, or to put it simply, make the background seem larger in the frame relative to the subject. Through this principle you can get creative with your framing and work with specific elements in the landscape while retaining your foreground subject.

At tighter focal lengths it can of course be harder to capture the whole scene, but don’t let that stop you. Keeping in mind that each image must overlap, take a series of images with the same camera settings and you’ll be able to create a stitch using the panorama function in Lightroom & Photoshop. The added benefit of this principle is that your final result will be a much higher resolution file, which means you can print huge!

2. Focusing On The Detail

Whether it’s on a macro level or simply pointing your camera at something obscure in the landscape, capturing the details around you can be a great way to increase the impact of your images, especially as a set when paired with a wider image (pssst. use the stitch!) that gives the viewer some context of the scene.

Macro images can often be hard to interpret at first glance, which could mean that your viewer will spend more time analyzing the details and story behind the image. Provoking that sense of wonder can be powerful, becoming an additional discussion point that may have otherwise never existed when looking at the wide-angle frame alone.

3. Color Balance and Cohesion

Something that I focus on more and more in my work is the balance, quantity and combination of the colors in my photographs. Thinking of color as a form of contrast, I tend to stick to having just 3 colors in my images, usually one primary and two other neutral hues to balance and offset. Working with color in this way can be a great way to increase the simplicity and impact in your images, which in turn can help to portray the story in a more direct way as your subject will become more easily isolated in the frame if you can get a clean background.

Playing the waiting game for specific weather conditions can also be a great way to offset the color in a landscape scene. For example, if your surroundings are filled with vivid color, perhaps with the Autumn trees or a vibrant coastal scene, wait for a cloudy day so that you can use the grey sky as an offset. Or if you’re in a winter scene with bright blue skies, wait for the next day of snowfall so that your subject will have more presence in the frame against the stark white background. Taking the extra step to plan and refine these three principles, you will yield a cleaner and more simplified visual style that can amplify the story and voice of your work.