Photographers share tips

The Ladysmith Camera Club invited award-winning Nanaimo photographers Ken Meisner and Inge Riis McDonald to speak

Whether you’re just beginning to take photography seriously or you’ve been practising the art for years, there’s always more to learn.

The Ladysmith Camera Club invited award-winning Nanaimo photographers Ken Meisner and Inge Riis McDonald to speak at its monthly meeting Jan. 27 at Hardwick Hall. The guests’ two-part presentation, “Become a Better Photographer,” offered the audience tips on evaluating photographs and provided insight on how photos are judged for competitions.

Riis McDonald studied at the New York Institute of Photography in the 1990s, and she imparted some of what she’d learned there using slides of her own work. The photographer, originally from Denmark, said that in 2011, she challenged herself to take a new photo every day to share with family and friends. She encouraged photographers to ask themselves if their image is achieving its objective of showing an idea or communicating a message, mood or feeling, and said they should consider whether it is sufficiently creative.

“We may wish to inform, influence, entertain or simply record something that moved us,” she said. “A good photo has a clearly identifiable subject or theme.”

She explained that according to the New York Institute of Photography, the three guidelines for great photography are: “Know your subject/theme; draw attention to and focus on the  subject; and simplify your image.”

“A good photo is about something,” she said, and she suggested that photographers consider what originally caught their eye. She used an example of a group of dancers in colourful costumes on a street and showed how by cropping and focussing on a single, swirling skirt, the photo made much more impact.

“One should include only the elements that tell the story.”

Riis McDonald also discussed the importance of filling the frame, the placement of the subject within the frame (using the rule of thirds, though she admitted that “rules are made to be broken”), and how photographers can take advantage of leading lines. Regarding framing, she demonstrated how one can effectively use natural elements, like silhouetted trees or splashing water, to “frame” the subject. She stressed that “a good photograph is a simple photograph.”

“We are not trying to take ‘pretty’ pictures … we are after meaningful photographs,” she said.

When capturing photos of people, for example, the photo should give some clue to the person’s character, life or experience.

For Meisner, photography is both a passion and a way of life. The long-time member of the Foothills Camera Club in Calgary said that one can learn much about photography via judging it. He explained how the Canadian Association of Photographic Arts sets its criteria for competition scoring. Photographs are judged for their technical quality, composition, and impact. A top score would be 30.

“When evaluating photographs, judges should start with two positive comments before offering a way to improve the image,” said Meisner.

Both speakers expressed the role that subjectivity plays during judging.

“One should never say ‘I like’ or “I don’t like” when evaluating an image,” said Riis McDonald.

Next month’s presentation Tuesday, Feb. 24 at Hardwick Hall at 7 p.m. will be on the subject of night photography. All are welcome.

Shelley A. LeedahlFor The chronicle