Jeju Island is without a doubt one of the most scenic places on earth. From the slopes of Hallasan to the shores of Jungmun, it’s one endless photo op.
While everyone has a camera and is anxious to show off this island paradise to friends and family back home in frigid Minnesota or baking Queensland, taking pictures that do it justice can be tricky. With the help of photographer Brian Miller (no relation), I’d like to offer a few pointers that will improve any photo.
Once you’ve got a great subject, two of the most important elements in good photography are composition and lighting. We’ll address both.
Everyone has heard the expression, “every picture tells a story,” but what many pictures taken on Jeju say is “here is me in front of Yakchunsa,” “here are my friends in front of the tea fields,” here they are in front of a dolhareubang…” you get the point.
As Brian puts it, “There's nothing worse than someone who's just come back from vacation somewhere and has 300 hundred photos of themselves giving the peace sign in front of various landmarks.” Exactly.
It’s what we in the news business call a “tourista shot”: subject stands with head in the dead center of the frame, photographer stands at the same level, aims and shoots. The result: one boring photo after another.
Try putting your subject to one side of the photo instead of dead center, and put their head in the top third of the frame. Dead center is deadly dull. If you are trying to capture a large object behind them, like a temple, get down on your knees about 15 feet from your main subject, and shoot up.
This will change the perspective so the subject appears much larger, and they both fit in the frame. Everyone has seen the humorous shots of someone “holding up” the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Same principal.
“Be careful with your composition, be aware of what's being included in and excluded from your photos,” Brian said.
For group shots, try shooting from an angle rather than straight on, or have the subjects placed in different parts of the shot, rather than lined up like they were facing a firing squad. We call that the “line ‘em up and shoot ‘em” pose.
I prefer to avoid posed shots if at all possible. People look much more natural, and you get a better storytelling feel, if you catch them unawares. In this case, it’s OK to play the paparazzi.
Finally, pay attention to everything in the frame. It can’t be said enough times, nothing ruins a shot like a palm tree growing out of someone’s head. Usually just a step or two in either direction can eliminate these unfortunate alignments.
While cameras have come a long ways from the days of hand held light meters (ask your grandparents), paying attention to lighting can greatly enhance your photos.
Light for photography is best in the early morning and late afternoon, and worst at noon when the harsh light can wash out subjects and flatten shadows.
The later afternoon and evening light on Jeju Island, just before sunset, is like something out of romance movie. The soft pink glow can add warmth to any photo, and you don’t have to have a pro camera to take advantage of it. Position yourself (not your subject) so you have the sun to your back, and it is casting a nice glow on their face.
This low light also looks nice captured to the side of your subject, so the shadows play across their face. Unless you are adept at setting your camera to compensate for harsh backlighting, or are specifically trying to shoot a silhouette, it’s best to avoid this angle.
Keep these simple things in mind, and see if it improves your photos. And if you get some shots you are really proud of, please consider submitting them to the “My Jeju” photo feature in this paper. We’d love to see them!
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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