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"Art Out Of Art"

An art or photo exhibition isn't the easiest thing to photograph. You can't take a straightforward picture of someone else's picture because that is meaningless in terms of creativity. You have to try and capture some sort of interaction between the viewers and the pictures which does actually say something original, whilst still respecting the original work or happening.

This crazy shot has one of the strangely disproportioned visitors emanating enough radiance to herald the second coming, while another shadier figure is content to just look on bemused. Even the photos in the exhibition itself are joining in with the fun. Quite disturbing really.

Key points
You would be quite surprised at how boring this event actually was, photographically speaking. I don't mean the photos on display, which were great. I mean the opportunities for creating a memorable shot. It was one of those art collective type events, where bare prints were attached to washing lines with clothes pegs like so many drying socks swaying in the breeze. Admirers, the curious and 'friends of the artist' milled around while I told myself 'Hey, you're a photographer... what can you do with this, then?'.
I decided to try and give the pictures some life of their own, and again try and integrate some of the visitors in a weird, supernatural type of shot. I'm pretty pleased with the result, but I couldn't really have predicted how it would turn out - that's one of the joys of photography.
The bright figure's head and neck are nicely framed by four of the photos on the black backdrop. Although he is looking rather out of the picture, the space between him and the left-hand side is filled with a very dark face which creates a marvellous contrast.
The large bright part bottom right is countered by the same bright part at the top, and the little sliver of brightness bottom left helps maintain the balance.
The two pictures which seem to be emanating rays of light in the top left quarter are particularly well placed around the smoking head, and are balanced by the four less prominent pictures on the right hand side.
You can see how important balance and contrast are in creating an effective composition.


As scientific principles and a bit of luck would have it, this photo reduced down to an effective range of warm colours from rich sepia and deep orange through to very pale yellowy cream.

This is a characteristic of the lighting in use here, but it nevertheless lends itself to warm, intimate and atmospheric pictures.


One of the best ways of getting a striking result in a situation where not much is going on is to zoom in or out with your lens as you take the shot.

With a lowish ISO like 400 you have loads of time to play with as the diaphragm stays open trying to let in enough light. If the exposure is taking a second or so, you might want to start zoomed in on a picture or a person for about half a second, then zoom out for the other half second. This gives you a strong image of the picture or person combined with a ghostly whizzing effect during the zoom phase.

Flash is not normally allowed and in general gives awful results unless you are really doing something creative with it.

Photo Ideas
  • Next time you are in an exhibition of any kind, make the exhibits interact with the visitors in some way. This could be as simple as someone gazing at a figure which seems to also be gazing back. Remember, nothing is actually real in a photo, and you can do anything you want.
  • Use unusual angles to add your personal take on somebody else's creation. Hold the camera up in the air or take the shot from ground level looking up people's legs and noses as they admire the exhibition!
  • Zoom in and out as you squeeze the trigger to add movement to a static scene.
Then comment on this lesson in the Photo Blog with a link to your best result - we all want to see them!

  • atmosphere - sometimes you have to inject some life into a rather boring situation - try to imagine what you could do afterwards to add atmosphere and choose your composition and technique accordingly
  • composition - sometimes you will decide on some elements of the composition later, as you crop the shot, but don't forget basic elements such as framing the main subject in some way and maintaining balance
  • colour - deep oranges and browns tell you that you are in some gloomy bar or interior space somewhere, even if it isn't actually the case! Be aware of what your camera does automatically with different light sources such as direct sunlight, shade, fluorescent and tungsten, and become familiar with the white balance control if you want to use this creatively
  • technique - zooming in and out with a slow shutter speed is a great way to add movement and excitement to static shots - but this is much easier with an SLR and a detachable lens

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