Monday, February 22, 2010

Instructor's Tip: No Merging Allowed

Photo by Russ Burden

I hope you enjoy this week's "Instructor's Tip" by one of my favorite instructors, award winning nature photographer Russ Burden. To learn more about how Russ captured the above image, join him on one of his photo tours. Visit Russ Burden Photography to get more information.


While out on the road I often see yellow caution signs - “Lanes Merge - Drive with Care.” I love to ski and being the careful person I am, I take care when I see a sign that says, “Trails Merge - Slow Down.” I’ve heard boaters talk about how careful they need to be when they go through a narrow channel where different waterways Merge. As photographers, we need to heed the same warning when it comes time to create a composition.

Avoiding mergers is a very important guideline to follow when making a composition. A merger occurs when important elements in the photo overlap, touch the edge of the frame, or blend in tonality preventing separation, all in awkward ways. The quintessential example is the tree growing out of Aunt Sally’s head. In that the tree merges with her, it gives the appearance that the trunk or branches are part of her being. You’d think it would be obvious and very easy to avoid, but the fact of the matter is the photographer is usually so zeroed in on the main subject, the rest of the image area is overlooked. I encourage you to study the entire viewfinder for any and all mergers before pressing the shutter. This takes practice and patience but it will net you better images in the end.

Take a class with Russ or a fellow Digital Photo Academy instructor in your area, check out the Digital Photo Academy. I took Russ' intermediate and advanced courses last year, and he continues to be a strong source of knowledge and encouragement as I progress in my photography.

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