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Work the Scene


Our guest blogger Ralph Velasco is back with a new installment and photography tips from his travels to India. Here’s his guest post about working the scene!

Guest blog post by Ralph Velasco, travel photographer

Whenever possible, be sure to thoroughly work the scene you’re trying to capture.  By this, I mean avoid taking just one grab shot and moving on.  Even the simplest of environments can offer a variety of photo opportunities.

In this scene, which I recently captured outside the Jama Masjid Mosque in Old Delhi, India, I noticed a man smoking a cigarette.  He was taking a break from his job as the person who ensures that all those entering the mosque check their shoes at the door and are properly dressed.

In the first shot I simply captured him as he had just taken a drag of the cigarette, and chose to shoot this image in a landscape, or horizontal orientation.  When your subject is moving you want to be sure to take a number of pictures because it’s often difficult to capture them at just the right moment.  Using the rule of thirds, which we spoke of in a previous post, I chose to put the man on the right side of the frame with what’s called negative space on the left, thus giving him room in the frame to look into.

A man work the scene, sitting on a ledge smoking a cigarette.

With this second image I chose to still use the rule of thirds, but to break from the norm and have my subject on the left side of the frame, looking out, with the negative space behind him.  I just moved the camera slightly to the left to come up with this composition.  The reason I did is because I much preferred the more ornate detail of the building in the second image than the plain wall on the left in the first, and I knew that this would be part of a series in which I’d discuss this very topic.

A man work the scene, sitting on the steps of a building smoking a cigarette.

Lastly, with this third image I’ve simply turned the camera 90 degrees and took a portrait, or vertically oriented shot of the same smoking man.  All cameras work from a variety of angles, not just in landscape mode, so be sure to turn that camera on an angle as much as you can.  The best time to take a vertical image is after you’ve taken a horizontal one, or vice verse, and I would venture to guess that 90 percent of photo opportunities lend themselves to both orientations, so don’t just take that one shot and walk away, again, work the scene.

An old man work the scene, sitting on the steps of a building.

Look for a variety of framing possibilities whenever you’re shooting and you’re sure to walk away with a number of similar, but still distinct images.  This is a great way to give yourself a variety of options when it comes to making a slideshow or a book, or for putting on your website or blog.  You never know when a portrait version of the same scene will serve to tell the story better than the landscape version.

So work it, work it, work it!


About the Author:  Ralph Velasco is an award-winning travel photography instructor and international tour guide who has photographed in more than forty countries on six continents. He’s just released his first app for iPhone and iPod touch called My Shot Lists for Travel and is the author of “Ralph Velasco On Travel Photography: 101 Tips for Developing Your Photographic Eye & More.”

Ralph has led cultural photo tours to Egypt, Eastern Europe, and throughout the United States and for the past two years he was awarded “Open Photographer of the Year” by the Professional Photographers of Orange County.  You can subscribe to his blog, recently named one of the “11 Best New Travel Blogs of 2011” at