Improving Fundamental Design Elements: Part I. Photography

In graphic design there are many opportunities to work with different mediums and techniques that not only enhance your work but also expand your capability of mixing media for more complex pieces. This blog assumes that you already have a basic understanding of graphic design techniques and you want to perfect fundamental techniques beyond computer layout and alignment.

I suggest that every beginner designer practice implementing and mixing these 6 design elements; photography, illustration, typography, cut paper, collage, scanning textures and/or original artwork. Over the next few weeks, I will post a series of blogs each dedicated to one technique or skill that will help you improve your design work. This week’s post will focus on ways to improve photography.

Photography can be a great way to add depth and color into your designs. However, bad photography can be detrimental to your work so it is important that you practice taking good shots. It is much easier to work with a good photo than to try and “fix” a poor photo in editing. Below are some tips that I watch out for while shooting.

1. Composition + The Golden Ratio
Try to create an interesting composition. One thing to try is moving your horizon line to a lower or upper third, rather than immediate center. This rule can be applied to all composition and layout projects.

2. Color
Count how many colors are in your photograph. If your list is too large, you may not have a strong color palette. Avoid busy clothing in foregrounds.

3. Foreground / Background
A strong photograph should have depth and one way to do this is to make sure you can recognize a foreground and background.

4. Cropping
Designs are much more interesting when they bleed on and off the page. Play with how you crop images and where your foreground and backgrounds land. An interesting crop can turn an everyday scene into something truly magnificent.

5. Read the manual
Learn how to use your camera. It sure is nice to have a fancy SLR camera (which these example shots were taken with) however, if you know how to use your camera, you will more likely use the correct settings for different environments and get better results.

6. Take lots of shots
The more images you shoot, the more you have to work with. Remember that your concept sketch may not execute as well as you originally planned and it is great to have backups.

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