A plethora of articles, photo tips, blogs and more have been composed offering readers the keys to better images. I’m one who writes about that topic weekly as I enjoy sharing what I know, hoping it does assist those who read my Tip of the Week. I’ve been a teacher all my life and will continue to instruct until I take my final breath. It’s who I am. So what separates this week’s tip from any other I’ve written or from any other blog or magazine article? What makes this one so different or special? Hopefully, you’ll be able to key into a definitive answer as you unlock the words and study the accompanying images. The control key is in your hands and the benefit of flagging this week’s tip is you can use the return key to revisit the concepts when you desire.

Use Piano Keys

Photography and good music are a huge part of my life. I find many comparisons between the two. You want your photos to sing so viewers find harmony in the compositions you create. Avoid awkward mergers where subjects overlap, which makes it difficult to differentiate the subject from the background or, in the case of multiple subjects, be patient and let them separate rather than have them fall into chaos. Keep the compositions melodic so the “notes” blend. The last thing you want is to have the viewer describe your images as “off key.” There is no minor key when it comes to this—it’s ALL major key. Use your tuning key to get dialed in! In the photo of the two elephants, they stand out from the background because there are no distracting elements. Also, even though they’re touching, there’s harmony in the connection.

Skeleton Key

Give your photos life. Make no bones about it! For every subsequent shutter click you make, toss the skeletons in your closet that keep you from attaining the next level. No more photos for you that have to be brought back to life. The key way to add life to your images is with the strategic use of light. Get up early to use the gorgeous light of sunrise to capture virility in your images. Stay out late and capture the last light of day to add viability to your photos. Use moody light such as fog or mist to create mystery. In the photo of the Mitten formation in Monument Valley with the sunstar coming through the thumb, I had to be there early and at the right time of year to line up the rising sun with the opening.

While I’m on the topic of light, incorporate high-key and low-key light to separate your images from others. High-key light suggests positivity and is very upbeat. It’s bright, airy and pure. There’s an openness to it that’s unique. On the other hand, Low key is comprised mostly of shadows and dark tones. Many old black-and-white film noir movies were filmed using this technique. Think of the dark alleyway where the man wearing a derby was in the shadows lighting a cigarette. Seek out both types of light and begin to integrate them into your repertoire. It’s one of the keys to better images!

Smart Key

In the days of my youth, I never would have conjured the fact a key can be “smart.” The ONLY key I knew was used to tighten metal skates to my Keds. With regards to photography, I bestow a Smart Key to all so you begin to use light in a smart way. Read the manual so you become familiar with how your gear works and learn its potential. Be smart when you put the camera to your eye to create a composition. Use the rule of thirds—it’s proven it works! Create balance so one side of a composition isn’t weighted too heavily while the opposite side doesn’t capture the viewer.

Be smart when it comes to lens choice. Don’t continue to always use the same long lens to make wildlife photos. Quite often, an environmental portrait can be very powerful. Break out the wide angle and include the animal in the scenic. In the photo of the bear walking the tidal flats, I decided to show the environment in which she lived and adjusted my zoom to the wide setting.

Master Key

The use of the Master Key is up to you. As the words define, you’re the master. You’ll determine what you do to get to the level you want to attain. You are in control. How much effort you apply will impact your success. How much determination you show will be reflected in your images. Do we all have bad photo days? Absolutely! Don’t let them get you down. There are days I head into the field and never lift the camera to my eye, but I persist. Do I have great photo days? Absolutely! I feed off them but maintain a level head knowing they’re special and to not expect this each day I go out. Celebrate the good days and revel in them. Celebrate the bad days knowing they’ll get better. Every lock has a key—be the Master!

Key To Success

Don’t keep this week’s tip under lock and key. Share it with your photo buds so they can unlock their creativity. Use it as the Golden Key to open any new photo door you wish to explore. Break out the alt key to “exhaust all possibilities.” It’s one of my key expressions when I work with people in the field. Grab your ignition key from your pocket, start your photo engines and get out into the field and make some great images. I use this as my command key to get you to abide by the above!

To learn more about this subject, join me on a photo safari to Tanzania. Visit www.russburdenphotography.com to get more information.

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