The old adage, "What You See is What you Get", does not work in photography. That is why it is important to understand some elements on composing an image.
Composition is an element in photography that most people take for granted. I see something I want to take a picture of, so, click. I then look at it on the LCD, looks good to me and off I go. This is the mind set of an amateur with a camera. That's all well and good if you are looking to take some snapshots of your vacation or a weekend jaunt somewhere. But what if you want to take some great shots. That's where knowing a little bit about composition comes in. You say to yourself, what is Composition all about?
Your eye can see almost 90 degrees left and right, that is due to peripheral vision. The camera lens on the other hand can only see up to a specific angle as determined by the focal length of the lens attached. Think of it this way; put a pair of blinders on your head so that your peripheral vision is restricted to what's in front of you and slightly to each side. Depending upon how far in front of your face the blinders extend, determines the relative angle of view.
When taking photos of landscapes let's say, you must ask yourself this question. What do I want the viewers to see in my image? When you think in this way, you will be able to begin composing some great photos. You may like what you see in the countryside, but consider various aspects of how you want your image to be viewed. Things to consider when composing a shot include; the main subject placement, shooting angles, light, foreground, background and depth of field. I will explain these items briefly for now, and at a later time go into more detail.
When composing an image, how much is too much?
Consider what you want to include in you image. Remember that you are telling a story and too much clutter can make the image confusing or boring. You want a good balance of items to project your thoughts and tell the story pictorially. I call it "Visions Through My Lens".
When shooting a scene, you will want to select something that will standout and be the main focus of the photo. This will be your main subject. Surrounding items will compliment the main idea and help relate an overall thought about the photo. One thing to keep in mind is the photographers "Rule of Thirds". This is where you will place your main subject, in a third of the image space. When you shoot, think of a tic tac toe board. It is divided into 9 squares and the subject should be placed on one of the intersections of the vertical and horizontal lines.
Notice how the main subject in the image below, the Red Ginger flower, is set off to the right one third of the image. In this case, the flower intersects one horizontal and two vertical lines on the right. The idea is to have the viewer see the subject then move around the image, taking in the entire photo and not focus on the center.
Angles can the difference between a good shot and a tremendous photo.
Look at the scene in front of you, then visualize it from another angle. Ask yourself what would make the photo more interesting. Walk around and look at various locations. Go left and right to view the scene from a different vantage point. Keep in mind that people normally look at things from a standing position. So what may make a better shot, how about from the ground or higher up like maybe on a hill or a tall building. Shooting low is really amazing when photographing flowers. Another way to make plant life stand out is to back light the leaves or petals. This will give some definition to the petal or the veins in leaves. Get close and shoot, filling the frame with an entire flower and use depth of field to blur the background a bit.
LIghting can make or break an image.
Lighting comes in many different forms. There's direct, indirect, natural, diffused, reflected, flash and strobe to name a few. The best time for taking photos outdoors is 30 minutes before and after sunrise and sunset. This is called the golden hour, because the light is softer and not as harsh as noon light. Direct light can make the image look flat, whereas shadows can provide some depth and contrast. I could spend a lot of time on this subject alone, but I just want to give some basics here.
Foreground and Background data.
When taking landscapes of mountainous areas, they are often quite far from you. So a good wide angle lens works to give as much of the scene as possible. I caution you about getting too much in the foreground, as it becomes distracting and uninteresting. You want to add things that will enhance the depth and provide some 3 dimensional aspect to a 2 dimensional photo. The photo above shows how the foreground cacti and bushes give depth, perspective and dimension to the image.
Depth of Field.
This is probably the most misunderstood concept of photography. It boils down to what is properly focused and what is blurred. You control DOF using the Aperture and the focal length of the lens. The aperture is how wide the lens opens letting light in to the sensor. The wider the aperture, the shallower the DOF, conversely, the smaller the aperture, the more DOF. When shooting with a large fStop (smaller aperture), you should determine how far away your main subject is from the front of the lens. This will give you a range that will be in focus and what is blurred.
The photo below, illustrates the use of DOF. Notice how the flower and the bee are in sharp focus and the background is slightly blurred.
If you a little confused yet, here is an example of what I am talking about.
You are using a focal length of 35mm and an aperture of f8 and the subject is 6' away. With this setting, you would have approximately 5-8' of sharp focus area. That would mean that part of the foreground and background will blurred to some extent
I hope that this helps clarify why parts of your images are blurred and the rest looks great. Like I said, there is a lot more to DOF than I covered just now. I will do a blog on this later in a little more detail.