Tag Archives: Distraction

Nine simple guidelines for great interior shots

• Dining Room • For great interior shots follow the guidelines

• Dining Room • For great interior shots follow the guidelines
Click image to view large
• Dining Room • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Photographing interiors is easier with simple rules.

We have all taken interior shots at some time. Indoor subjects are wide ranging. What about when you want to take a picture of the room itself? Here are some simple rules to help you get it right.

Why would you want to take a picture of the room?

Actually there may be many reasons. In the picture above the shot was taken because of the historical interest. It is a record shot. Of course there are lots of other types of shots you might want to take in an interior. Here are some examples…

  • Historical interest
  • Insurance record
  • Design interest
  • Before and after shot
  • House or room for rent
  • Hotel room for holiday snap
  • Hotel room for advertising
  • Colour and décor sampler for decorating plans
  • Sales and marketing photo for building sale purposes
  • Comparison with other places
  • Artistic impressions or interpretation

You get the point. Rooms can have a lot of reasons to be the subject of a photograph.

Some simple guidance…

1. Give yourself a clear purpose for the shot(s): Without such a purpose how will you know the best approach, what to include and exclude and how much of the room to take in. So know why you are doing it and what you hope to gain from the photograph. It helps to write it down.

2. Minimise distractions: As with any type of photography your primary purpose can be affected by distractions in the shot. Think carefully about the purpose of the shot. Remove anything that is discordant or will not add value to that purpose or will distract the eye. Take out objects that are too bright, nothing to do with the shot; something that may confuse the purpose of the shot.

3. Work on the brightness: Remember, the normal lights in a room will probably have a colour cast which will have an impact on the overall colour. If possible use daylight adjusted lights or off camera flash units. Use the flashes to light up specific areas of the room. Highlights like that add to the atmosphere in a room. Be consistent with the natural lighting and any artificial lights that may be in evidence as permanent fittings so the lighting does not look out of place. If you only have the on-camera flash make sure you have it set to a sufficient power to light the whole room. Arrange the furniture so that the light coming from the camera does not leave harsh shadows on the floor in front of you. Flash is inclined to leave such shadows which make the room look very angular and uncomfortable. Rooms that have soft, bright and well lit aspects are more welcoming and give an air of comfort.

4. Windows and doors: These are important parts of a room. Depending on your purpose you may need to show them. If they are looking out onto a bright exterior, or directly to the outside you may have a problem. The outside is quite likely to be much brighter than inside. More than two stops of brightness will almost certainly burn out. This creates a very bright white area of the shot. That’s very distracting. It will take the viewers eye straight away from the subject. One way to counter-act that is to raise the internal light levels so the contrast from inside to out is not so large. That will probably require some additional flash units or other lighting around the room. Alternatively, you could lower the incoming light by closing curtains or the door. However, you light the room remember to use the appropriate white balance settings on your camera. Colour casts can spoil the shot. It is also better to shoot in RAW so you can adjust the colour balance in post processing.

5. Straight lines and verticals: Rooms and interior spaces often look odd in pictures because the straight lines are not straight and the verticals are converging. You must prevent this if your purpose for the shot is to make the room look normal. Use a lens that minimises distortion and set your camera on a level for the shot so it minimises convergence in the upright lines. If you are unable to prevent the lines from bending or converging then make sure you can straighten them in an editing application in post processing. Of course if you are making this photograph for artistic reasons, anything goes.

Langley Library

Use furniture to give the impression of depth.
Place pieces so they look like there is a succession into the depth of the room.

6. Impart depth to the room: Taking just any old shot you will find that the room often looks flat, or lacking in depth. The effect of zoom lenses and maybe an on-camera flash will exaggerate that effect. You can do three things to off-set that effect…

  • Use lines in the room to give the impact of depth as they trend away from you (eg. the table in the top shot above).
  • Create a foreground, mid-ground and far point of the room. Taking a shot with a piece of furniture directly in front of you, something mid-way into the room and something on the far wall will do the trick.
  • Strategic placement of lights down the length of the room will draw the eye down the room too.

7. Adjust comfort levels to suite your purpose for the shot: Every room has what I call a comfort level. It the room is cold and uninviting the comfort level is low. If you intend your room to look like a medical clinic then find ways to give it a low comfort level. Harsh lights, angular furniture, sparse layout… anything that will make it look uncomfortable.

If you want to sell a new home to a home-loving family then you need to raise the comfort level in the room. Soft lights, soft furnishings, rounded corners, bright and inviting cushions… these things help people to feel comfortable. Your pictures should reflect the reason you are taking the picture.

8. Use appropriate lenses: Different lenses have different effects. If you use wide angle lenses they will distort the long dimensions. Use it in portrait view and the lens will appear to make the room look high. If you use a wide angle lens down the length of the room it will make it look long and thin. If you use a zoom lens it will have the effect of foreshortening the room. A 50mm lens will tend to show the room much as the eye would see it. Every room or interior space is going to be interpreted in different ways. The best guidance is to look for a lens that will best exaggerate sizes, or complement dimensions to suit your stated purpose for the shot.

9. People: The inclusion of people in a room can be either a good or bad thing. It all depends on how you want to portray the space and the purpose of the shot. In an entertainment space lots of people enjoying themselves will make the shot good. In a warm, homely room one or two people chilling out and enjoying the comforts will also sell the shot. On the other hand, a record shot should really be about the room, factual and un-distracted.

If it is solely the room you intend to show then it is probably better not to include people.If you do include people then make sure it complements the purpose for the shot.

Interiors are satisfying to photograph

There may be lots of reasons to take pictures of rooms, but that makes it important that you think about what you are trying to portray. If you have a clear purpose for the shot then you can match the layout, furnishings, lighting etc to meet the purpose you have set. Think about layout, depth and finishings. Think about people. There is a lot to consider. However, interior shots can be very satisfying indeed. Practice makes perfect, so work on the points above.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Implied Lines in Composition

Implied lines can be created by a direction of travel of a moving object

Implied lines can be created by a direction of travel of a moving object. The eye naturally moves down the line to see where the object is going. (Click to view Large).

You don’t need actual lines to direct the eye

Here is some astonishing news! You don’t even need some types of lines, for them to be effective compositional elements. Implied lines are important to help direct the eye around the picture. But they are not actually there.

Influenced by implied lines

When you look at a picture you are often influenced by the contents or some feeling or impression it gives. The influence may not be conscious. Subconscious feelings, impressions and influences play an important part in in how we appreciate and view a picture. In fact, composing a picture is the process of looking at the contents of your frame and try to find ways to make the best of your subject. In so doing you are hoping to influence the viewer and to draw them into the image, make them see something that you have picked out in your scene.

The general principles of composition with lines highlight the effectiveness of lines as a method of drawing the eye of the viewer into the picture. Possibly the use of lines is one of the stronger and more effective compositional elements. Certainly Horizontal and Vertical lines manage to provide strong leads to the way we view a picture.

Some lines in your picture do not even need to actually be there. They can be effective because they are implied lines. Perhaps one of the most common implied lines in a composition is direction of movement. When composing a picture where movement is a key component the eye naturally travels along the movement line. When you do so, you are using the implied line created by the direction of travel. A good composition will leave plenty of room in front of the moving object so it looks like it has somewhere to go – a space to move into. The implied line is then satisfied by the space.

Implied lines can be created in lots of ways. The ‘Tin Mine’ below uses a strong implied diagonal to knit the picture together. Diagonal lines are strong, dynamic, uplifting lines in composition. They promote a feeling of power. The crop in this picture, a square, creates a diagonal which intersects with all three chimneys. It also defines the left hand bottom corner of the picture. Such a strong, and yet subliminal, line is a great way to pull all the elements of the picture together creating a balance. However, sometimes it is difficult to see such a line when composing. You have to be aware that lines can be implied in order to draw on them as part of your composition.

Implied lines can have a major impact, like the major diagonal across this picture.

Old Tin Mine - The implied line as a major diagonal in this picture helps knit the picture together and give an uplifting feel to the picture. (Click to view large).

Creating implied lines

There are many ways to create an implied line. Perhaps one of the most common is the line-of-sight. This is where a person or animal in the picture has a very clear fix on someone or something in the picture. The direction they are looking creates an implied ‘sight-line’. Of course there is no actual line. However, the viewer is drawn to follow the viewing line to see what they are seeing. The classic form of this is a picture of two lovers staring into each others eyes. This is a strong connection. Usually the viewer is drawn back and forth between the two people when there is such a strong correspondence between them.

Another type of implied line is to use some feature that acts as a line or pointer. In the picture below the fence points out into the lake. As it does so the viewer follows the implied line into the picture. This form of implied line is common in landscape and seascape photography.

Fences can be used to create implied lines to take the viewer into the shot.

Fences can be used to create an implied line to take the viewer into the shot. (Click to view large)

Using graphic devices like arrows painted on walls, signs on roads is another way to point in a direction through the picture. In fact almost any regular pattern which tends to follow a path but which may be discontinuous can create an implied line. Footsteps on a beach are one such example. Your eye will follow them and be drawn into the picture.

Sometimes it is easy to miss an implied compositional feature. When you compose your shot in the camera you can miss the connections between things that cause implied lines. If you are not looking for them the stones on a beach laid out by a child may point to some feature that is not your main subject. If you don’t spot them the viewer will be confused. Other potentially implied features can do the same. So watch out for things that have a connection in unexpected ways. Your composition could be made or broken by such implications.


Implied lines can take many forms. Mostly they are imaginary, but create a way for the viewer to be lead into or around the picture by the implication of a line. You can be creative by using discontinuous objects that together create a line. For example, footsteps or stones on a beach. Alternatively you can create an implied line by starting it off and letting the viewer keep on following the line after is has finished. Whatever you do, be aware that implied features in your picture can still convey a strong compositional impact. And, even though they do not exist, implied lines can form major compositional elements in the picture – they create a powerful impact on the viewer. Be careful that features of your picture do not create an implied line without you intending them to do so. Remember, you are in control of the composition and so you should be aware of, and in control of, all compositional elements.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Horizontal and Vertical Lines

Birch stand - strong vertical lines are a compositional element

Birch stand - strong vertical lines are a compositional element

Vertical Lines

In a picture with vertical lines the eye is drawn up and down the picture. Many of our experiences with vertical lines involve strength, height, grandeur, growth and expansiveness. This is not surprising since trees, buildings, our fellow humans and many of mans most impressive achievements use vertical lines and make us look up. Using verticals in our pictures is one way of conveying these feelings to the viewer. They are strong compositional elements and provide a powerful incentive for the eye to follow them. Often the use of an upright, vertical frame to the shot also strengthens the feelings these elements give us.

Horizontal Lines

Lines that go across the page promote a wide range of feelings. Because the horizon is a strong horizontal line it is also regarded as a strong compositional element. By association other strong horizontals include prone or lying people and animals, roads in landscapes, the beach/sea line and many more. The feelings promoted by strong seascapes are almost universal, similarly with skys – they both invoke something primeval, stirring and uplifting our feelings. As with vertical lines the orientation of the picture can strengthen the horizontals. A ‘landscape’ view flatters horizontals. A ‘letterbox’ crop of a picture can also improve long horizontals as the eye is drawn across the picture and through the scene by the exaggerated length.

Sometimes horizontals can be negative. When a horizon is not straight, or any strong horizontal is off-line with the edges of the picture, it can be very negative. Make sure that you keep the horizontals lined up and true-to-nature. A strong horizontal foreground element can block entry into the picture. The eye travels down the length of the edges of features and pop out of the picture at the end – that’s when you lose the viewer. Barbed wire, when directly horizontal across the scene is a strong negative, reinforcing our cultural view of it. So be careful what you pick to create your horizontals.

Composing with Horizontal and Vertical Lines

When you see horizontal or vertical lines in your frame during composition of the picture you should look out for the way that they impact on the viewer. It is the viewer of your picture that will, consciously or subconsciously be affected by what is in the picture. So you need to be aware of any potential impact the lines will have. So here are a few points to look out for when considering the use of verticals or horizontals as compositional elements.

Lines should do something…

  • lead the viewer into the picture
  • draw the eye along them
  • point to something
  • emphasis or minimise the impact of something
  • create a pattern
  • develop a way to go
  • indicate something to reach toward
  • develop a sense or feeling of some sort
  • make you feel you want to follow them
  • create a frame in the picture

Lines should not…

  • create a barrier to getting into the picture
  • preventing the viewer seeing other things
  • upset the balance of the picture
  • unintentionally draw the eye out of the picture
  • create unintended chaos
  • complicate the picture beyond understanding
  • draw the eye away from the subject

Of course there are two sides to every story. Using lines effectively could mean deliberately using negative things about them. You might be trying to shock or make the picture complex. The point is that we use horizontal and vertical lines a lot in our lives. There are always ways to do it differently. That is part of the creativity that makes us photographers. The most important thing about the use of lines as compositional elements is that you are in control. When composing, pick out the ones you need and try to minimise the impact of the others. It is about trying to ensure you know what effect the lines will have in the final picture. Work to make them effective and lines provide great ways to move the eye around, create patterns and to emphasis things. Ignore them and you will lose your viewer. They will not be able to get into your picture if the lines prevent them from doing so.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Definition [L] [V] [H] [Lines] [Horizontal] [Vertical]

Compositional Lines – Principles

Horizontals and Verticals - your eye naturally picks out the lines

Horizontals and Verticals - your eye naturally picks out the lines. In any picture you can use natural lines to bring out features in your picture.
Flag - by Damon Guy (click to view large).

Composition has many different elements. One of them is ‘lines’. Perhaps ‘lines’ are not something that people automatically ‘see’, often they work subconsciously. However, they are crucial to how the eye moves through a picture. We naturally look for patterns in nearly everything we see. Lines are strong patterns and simple ones too. So it is natural for the lines in a scene to draw the eye and to lead the viewer. So how can we use these lines?

When we compose a picture the best thing we can hope for is that the viewer is drawn into it. We want them to be absorbed by the picture and to be impressed by it. Lines provide a way to help the eye around the picture, to be pulled into the experience that it provides. A good composition using them will generally do one or more of the following with lines…

  • …make a pattern that is eye-catching
  • …draw the eye around the picture
  • …lead the eye to something in the picture
  • …create the focus/subject of the picture
  • …create a dynamic feeling of force or motion
  • …create a feeling of harmony and balance

On the other hand an unsuccessful composition with lines would tend to do the opposite of these. It may…

  • …create a chaotic view – the eye does not know what to follow
  • …distract the eye to an unimportant place in the picture
  • …block the viewer from getting deeper into the picture
  • …oppress the view, dampen the mood, upset the balance
  • …point or draw the eye out of the picture
What is a Compositional Line?

Basically, anything in your picture which is long and thin can be a line. Or it could be something that is a strong edge. There could be features in the picture that provide multiple lines. A river has two banks and the water itself, three lines. A road has several lanes and roadsides and lines drawn on the road for drivers to follow.

So lines could be anything well defined that have a length many times greater than the width. Your line could be a long thin set of clouds. It could be a fence. You could have a vertical line as a person standing up – they could be lying down (horizontal line). Many things together could be a line – traffic, railways, a queue, piles of something… I could go on and on. If it can be long and thin, implied as long or thin or an edge of something well defined, you have a line for the eye to follow. There is a lot of compositional flexibility with lines.

Of course lines could be more than just horizontal or vertical. Lines can be curved, diagonal, angled, shaped, chaotic, ‘u’ shaped – in fact anything you can envisage that you want them to be. And all the features that lines exhibit can be used in compositional ways in the picture. Basically, you are looking for ways your picture can be enhanced. With practice you will be able to spot them in the frame when you are composing the picture. Then the trick is to look for ways the eye can flow along the lines to draw you into the picture. Alternatively you can show the viewer things you want them to see. Again, you can make the lines into a pattern. Or, you can even ignore them as a compositional element.

What you must not do is let lines be in your picture without having some idea of how they influence the viewer. Use lines, or ignore them, but try to work out what the impact of the lines are. If they don’t enhance the picture then find away to get rid of them or minimise the effect. If they do enhance the picture then compose to make the best of them.

Have fun with your lines!

Principles of compositional lines

A complex of lines can join up. Making the lines work together can help compose a picture where the eye flows around the scene. Click to see full size.
- By Damon Guy

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Definitions [L] [Lines]

Don’t Stick the Horizon Line in the Middle!

DownHill View

Downhill View.
Putting the horizon off-centre helps maintain a more dynamic feel to the picture.
Click image for full size.

If you feel the temptation to put the horizon smack bang in the middle of the shot – Don’t! We all wrestle with the need to make our photos neat and symmetrical. And, because of that, we end up with a horribly ‘ordinary’ feel to the shot.

Take a careful look at your landscape when doing your composition. Size up the position in the frame of all the compositional elements. Then decide which is more important – the foreground through to the horizon or the horizon to the top of the frame. Once you have made that decision bias your shot to give you more of the best part of the picture.

More emphasis on one side or another of the horizon has benefits…

  • Viewers are not distracted by the least interesting of the ‘land’ or ‘sky’.
  • There’s more room – make the interesting segment big in the frame.
  • Develop all features of the biggest segment in full detail.
  • Give room for the most interesting part – show all its variations.

Really make a *big thing* of the part of the shot you have emphasised. If you can not do that, then you have chosen the wrong part of the picture to focus on. Alternatively, you really don’t have a worthwhile shot. A photograph with impact is one that has the main subject right out in front and big! The subject just has to grab the attention! So do it justice and make it important.

So where do you put the horizon? Well a good guide is on the upper or lower third. Remember the rule of thirds? Well, use it.

Why does this off-balance placement work? Well, it makes the viewer step into the picture to try and see why the balance is wrong. It emphasises the big part, the eye-catching part, the part you want your viewer to get into.

Have fun with your camera!

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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Photographing Clocks – some tips

Clocks are easy to photograph, difficult to make exciting

Clocks are easy to photograph. However, it is difficult to find new ways to portray a clock in an exciting way. This was taken using a fish-eye lens.
(Click to see full size).

Why photograph clocks?

Why take photos of a clock? Some straight forward reasons include for Insurance records and to enable identification and valuation in the event of a theft. People also buy and sell clocks – especially if they are collectors items. So a competent shot is important for these purposes.

As photographers our interest is more likely to be focussed on clock symbolism rather than identification and adverts. Clocks are an important part of modern busy lives. The humble clock is often used to characterise our concept of time. However, as a representative of time, clocks are a cliché. The difficulty is to find a new, interesting or exciting view.

I will be looking at how best to photograph clocks and some ideas on how to view them differently for the more unusual view…

Taking a great photo of a clock

What are the problems with taking photos of clocks? Simple, highlights and reflections. Typically clocks have a convex glass front. Often visually appealing clocks are highly polished, or reflective. Using flash may spoil the shot with ugly highlights and flash bounce. Of course bright flashes and nasty highlights aside, the odd reflection in the glass can be a picture enhancer – if it is done right. So it is important to think around the subject when taking pictures of clocks. Here are some simple points to take care of first…


Dirty clocks ruin the picture. Make sure the glass is polished, there is no dust on the clock body, and the area around the clock is clean too. Dust often becomes suddenly visible under flash. In photography cleanliness can really save the day. Finger prints should be avoided too. When handling objects after cleaning I wear white cotton gloves to avoid remarking the object. Keep a cloth handy during the shoot to wipe up as you go along.

Get close…

Fill the frame! There is little point in taking a picture of a clock if you can see most of the room and no detail of the clock. This is especially important for record and advert shots. Detail is critical.

Shot angle…

Carefully consider why you are doing the shot. If you are selling, advertising or cataloguing a clock – present the clock square-on to the camera. Odd angles and peculiar views may put off buyers and obscure details that will be of interest, especially for valuation. Often, especially for antique clocks, the provenance (item history) can affect its future value assessment. A clear, easily viewed angle will help the future valuer to make a judgement on how the clock has been treated. If you are selling the clock, especially if it is quite large, consider using several shots showing more than just the front/clock face.


Really close shots are great for clocks. A macro lens, macro tubes or camera macro mode (look for the flower symbol) are a great way to bring out specific details. Also these magnifying shots allow you to get close enough to, say, a watch. Macro mode on modern point and shoot cameras is great for this type of shot. Get right in and take say, a quarter of the clock face. It will show the detail, condition and general appearance of the clock really well.


The biggest mistake when advertising clocks is a soft or blurry picture. This goes for record shots and valuation shots too. Ensure a steady camera. Use a tripod! [Hama Star 62 Tripod with Carry Case] If you don’t have one, use any of a whole range of other fixings… Joby Gorillapod for mid-sized SLRs, table top, The Pod red 13 cm R 0017 B. If you are taking clock shots regularly you will be well advised to buy something to hold your camera in place for the shot. Sharpness is essential with anything that has fine detail. Clocks really justify care in this respect.


The good character of a clock is really ruined by bad surroundings. If you have a really nice setting for your clock the setting may not look good close-up. So think about isolating the clock and show it in a simple way. A bright white background is the traditional way of showing clocks for sale. Look here for examples. You can easily place the clock on a white board. White mount-board can be bought for about £2 or £3 (around US $5) from art suppliers. If you have more than one board you can place an upright behind it while shooting. If the clock is intricate or detailed it will always be improved by a simple background. If you do leave the clock in its current surroundings it is best to try and make them as simple with as few distractions as possible. Anything substantial nearby will distract the viewer and lower the impact of your clock.


The glass of the clock can easily become a mirror, especially after polishing. So be careful what you allow to reflect in the the glass. A few years ago a photo circulated the Internet. It was of a kettle for sale on Ebay. The hapless individual who had photographed it was in his birthday suit. He had failed to notice his unclad reflection on the kettle! Not inspiring for viewers/buyers! Try placing a white board nearby, out of shot. It should be placed in such a way as to ensure a white reflection in your shot. I have occasionally put black strips down it so that there is a little variation on the glass reflection in the shot.


Try to ensure your clock has continuous soft light if you can. Direct strong light creates highlights and strong shadows (see: on hard and soft light). When lighting your clock using bright but diffused natural light, slightly from the side is the best option. However, you may need to use a long exposure if you want to get the best brightness, especially indoors. If you are using indoor, non-photographic lights then beware of colour casts and set your white balance properly. If using flash, it is best to use off-camera flash. With a unit which is not directly in line with your shot you can create better shadows. However, strong shadows will make your clock look especially angular. So try to diffuse the light (see below). With on-camera flash you have a more difficult task. There are ways to diffuse the light even then. Be careful to avoid those highlights. If you are forced to use direct flash do the following… turn the flash down (refer to your manual on how to do that; make sure a white reflector card is in near range to at least introduce some diffused light.


There are many accessories to deflect the camera flash. Avoid highlights at all costs. So if possible try to get the flash to point at something bright, preferably white. Then use the reflected light from it to illuminate the clock. If you are using a point and shoot camera you need to find a way to diffuse the on-board flash. I have found that a small strip of translucent paper/white tissue paper can be stuck on to the middle of a piece of sticky tape. Then make a slight ‘U’ shape with it and stick it to the camera in front of the flash window. The tape will stand off the flash and allow some light to escape either side. The rest will go through the tissue and be highly diffused. You may also need to play with the flash power, lower settings are often better, especially close to the clock.

Diffused light always makes a better picture - avoid highlights

Diffused light always makes a better picture - avoid highlights. This was taken using a Canon G12 with a 'tape and tissue' flash diffuser. Click to view large.

Flash-reflection is very effective at diffusing the light. If you have off-camera flash it is even easier. You can diffuse the light through a photographic umbrella, or by using a ‘soft-box’ – a box with a fine white mesh on the front. This diffuses the light over a wide area. Using the off-camera flash from the side helps to define the clock, but try not to do it too much. I have seen some shots where the shadow from the clock hands is very sharp and off to one side too much. It makes it look like there are more than two hands. So, remember to think of the shadows as well as highlights.

High Key Shots…

If you want a bright white background to your clock you need to brightly light a background white surface some distance behind the clock. The light which lights the board will need to be behind the clock too. Then, focus on the clock face and get the light exposure correct for the clock face using diffused light from in front of it. When you take the shot the white light will ‘blow out’ or go pure white. If you are using a histogram on your SLR you will see flashing white/black for the background. This is correct because the background will be brilliant white in the picture. However, you have taken the shot of the clock as will be lit how ever you set up the light for it from the front.

Creative shots…

If you are trying to symbolise time or using a clock for, say, a still-life shot, then also consider the angle. However, in this case the angle may be more related to everything else you are trying to show. In this case the clock is more about conveying a feeling of time, rather than the detail of the clock. So you can be creative in how you apply the shot. Clocks lend themselves to a wide variety of creative shots. The only limit is your creativity. Here are some ideas you can work on to develop great clock shots that are a little different:

  • Open the clock up and photograph it inside (very diffused light and a macro lens is great for this).
  • Find a setting where you can emphasize the importance of a clock… on the seat of a bus stop? Out on the top of a taxi? On the head of a runner on the starting blocks?
  • Within a still life? Looking through a chess game to a modern digital clock; in a kitchen over a pie or other cooked meal?
  • Show the clock hands having moved through say five minutes. You will need to either take a number of shots and merge them in an editor later or use the bulb setting and very low light levels.
  • Show a sports event with a large digital timer in the background… or try merging a sports activity over the front of a clock face.
  • Photograph a pendulum swinging with a long enough exposure to show its arc and movement.
  • A clock with a time-lapse series of shots with the sun or moon moving across the sky above. Alternatively look up how to do star trails and superimpose your clock below them. Even better, adjust your light to very low on a clock to show the clock time duration of the star trail.
  • Show a clock with the right time on a sundial showing the correct shadow time.
  • Photograph a clock under water
  • Break an egg over a clock – show the yoke running down the face and the shell on the table next to it.
  • Show an alarm clock on the floor next to a sleeping animal – cute!
  • Take a shot with a teddy bear in the foreground and a clock on a small table in the background looking up to it – a childs-eye view of time.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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Examine Shots Before Shooting Again – Chimping

Seafront homes. I really exaggerated the keystone effect to try and emphasis the grandness. What I did not realise until later was that there was some ugly litter on the pavement (removed in Photoshop)

Seafront homes. I really exaggerated the keystone effect to try and emphasis the grandness. What I did not realise until later was that there was some ugly litter on the pavement (removed in Photoshop)

Taking care to see the scene

Take a close look at your picture after taking it. You might want to take another. You have the screen to thank for the ability to check out the details of the shot. The biggest step forward in digital photography was the screen. Now, you can look at your shot immediately after the event. You have a chance to try again to get it right in camera. Editing your picture back at base is fun – if you have a specific reason to enhance your shot. Editing every picture because you did not check it for ugliness, errors or good composition is simply a waste of time.

I took the picture above in a hurry. It was intended as a fun shot to highlight the grand frontage of these great seafront buildings. I was quite pleased with it on glancing at the screen. Then back at base I saw a different scene… I had not seen nasty pieces of litter lying around on the pavement. In a rush I had missed something that changed the scene. So then I was committed to a session with Photoshop to produce what you see now.

Capture it right in-camera. It is faster than fixing it up later. In my case two minutes picking up the odd litter pieces would have saved me 15 minutes on the computer.


What should you do to ensure the problem above does not arise? ‘Chimping’! Originally people laughed at the early digital photographers. ‘Ohs’ and ‘ahs’ were issued as they admired their handiwork on the back of the camera. Just like a bunch of chimps! Yes, as simple as that. The verbal exclamation of delight at your own creation amuses others but performs a great function.

When you are chimping make sure you are doing at least the following…

  • Check the shot edges to make sure you have the framing correct or messed something up
  • Look carefully for anything that is discordant (ugly and not harmonious in the picture)
  • Check that there are no nasty highlights
  • Is the exposure as you would like it (too dark; too light:)?
  • Are any parts of the screen blown out so all the detail is lost?
  • Are any sections of the screen showing deep blacks so no detail is there?
  • Is the horizon straight?
  • Are the uprights as you would want them?
  • Any blurred or badly focused parts of the shot?

The back screen is not just for fun. It’ll save you lots of time. Check the shot is as you intended. If it is not – do it again. Chimping will save you time. If you take a hundred photos on a shoot you will have a lot of post processing to do to make small changes to every one. Chimping will save you that work by getting it right in camera from the start.

Have fun with your camera!

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.