iPhoneography: A Great Photo is No Accident

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What draws you to a really good photograph? Is it the soft or dramatic lighting or the image composition? It’s both. The Greek meaning of photography is “drawing with light”. Composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements. To create a ‘great image’ one needs to be aware of both lighting and composition. Sometimes you don’t have control over the lighting of an image, but you nailed the composition, this is where post processing comes into play. The difference between a good photo and a great photo is when both, thoughtful lighting and composition, come together, creating that magical moment within the photography process.

For the next 12 months, I will take you on a photographic journey, demystifying lifestyle, fine art & food photography, and other ‘professional’ photo techniques. I will share my favorite apps and tips to creating the best image possible, all with your iPhone. I’ve spent the last three years slowly fazing out my large DSLR camera and almost completely replacing it with my iPhone. I love how both my camera and my favorite photo editing apps are at my fingertips, making my passion for photography extremely portable…and less expensive! So today, lets start with an introductory to the art of lifestyle photography and a lighting and composition overview. Over the next year, I will continue to go over these important elements and how they apply to new and different subject matter and shooting conditions.

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Photos by Kyra Ames

For the last four years my husband and our kids have visited Yellowstone National Park more in the winter than in the summer. One reason why it has become such a winter wonderland is that there are so few tourists and there is a sense of mystery and adventure around every corner. With 15 miles of boardwalks throughout Yellowstone, a fun stroll along the Mammoth Terraces boardwalks is just one of many easy day outings that never grow tiresome…and neither does the photography.

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In the winter, the lighting at the Mammoth Terraces is constantly changing. On a cloudy, overcast day or because of the rising steam, it can be a wonderful time to take photographs of people and the scenery. The lighting is absolutely perfect because the sunlight is diffused by the clouds or steam, eliminating any harsh shadows across a persons’ face or blocked up shadows throughout the landscape. The landscape lends a sense of quiet calmness, especially if it is snowing. Another great time is on a clear day, very late in the afternoon, almost at sunset, when the landscape blues and whites pop. Shadows are long and as the sun sets, the lighting becomes almost crisp in the sense that every detail becomes crystal clear and again, portraits have beautiful light with no harsh shadows, lending to very little post-processing!

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There are a lot of photography compositional rules and guidelines. One of my favorites is asymmetrical balance. Simply put, it has equally interesting things randomly distributed throughout an image, creating a ‘natural’ balance, more variety, visual interest and liveliness. Asymmetrical balance is less formulaic than the Rule of 1/3’s, extremely versatile and just plain fun.

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As with any new and constantly improving photographic technology, you won’t get the image quality as a high end DSLR (yet), but what you will get is creative freedom literally at your finger tips! I have a lot to share, so lets toast to a new year of great adventures and the amazing photos that tell the stories!

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