SG Photo Challenge #3 - Isolation

It's what makes an amazing portrait - separating your subject from the background. But it can also be used for inanimate objects or for artistic expression.

When we want the viewer's eye to move to a specific subject in our frame, we have to guide it there through several methods.

Composition: Imagine a lone tree standing in a wide open space. Or a single person floating in the middle of the ocean. By composing our frame we can place our subject in the middle of a wide open space and have it stand out right away.

Depth-of-field: A shallow depth of field is the advantage that DSLRs have over point-and-shoot cameras or smartphones. They are capable of blurring out the foreground/background elements of an image, making us see the sharpest part of the image (our subject) first. Do this by opening up your aperture as much as you can (that's the f-stop number). Opening it to f/2.8, f/1.8 or f/1.4...the smaller the number, the shallower your depth-of-field will be. Get your subject closer to the camera. Then place some distance between your subject and your background. The more distance, the blurrier your background will be. Lastly, make sure you have FOCUS on the subject's EYES (of course, if your subject is a person/animal). Voila! Blurred out background and a sharply-focused subject.

Colour/Shape: One of these things is not like the other. A white marble sitting in a pile of black ones. A yellow dandelion poking up from a lush, green lawn. A small pup walking amidst a group of larger dogs. There are many ways a single object can stand out from the rest from their appearance.

Framing: Picture a person standing in the middle of a doorway. The doorway framing the subject causes our eye to notice the subject first. The "frame" can even be something behind the subject. Think about what would make an effective frame for your subject.

Guiding Lines: I mentioned in one of Kate's photos in last week's challenge (the one with the mortar and pestle) that if the pestle was moved so that it ran from one of the corners inwards into the bowl, then the viewer's eye would be guided into the image. We can use similar objects/lines as guides to draw the viewer's gaze towards our subject. In fact there were a couple of great examples of isolation in last week's challenge (like Jason's shot here and Kate's shot here).

Here's something to get you started: Pick your subject first. It could be any object easy to move around. A doll. An apple. An old shoe from your closet. Anything. Now try to find a location and composition to place it that serves to help isolate it. Try multiple places, angles and settings to see what works.

Or pick a small detail of a larger object, like a building or a car. Something that stands out already (due to shape or colour) or that you can isolate with your camera position and settings.

Remember to let yourself have some time this week to get out shooting. Reward yourself with an hour as a break and head out with your camera.

Get your shots in by noon on Sunday March 9th. Submit them through the form over here. And share the SG Photo Challenge! Anyone with a camera who's looking for something to shoot can get involved at any time.

Happy huntin'!