Photography Tip- Space Heads

Brandon Baumgarten

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I was on the mountain at the scenic overlook and a group of military cadets skied up for a photo. I was really excited that they wanted to get a picture, so I wanted to do a good job. I frequently see them on the mountain training and I always belt out a hardy mountain yodel to say hi, as they ski by!

We chewed the fat for a few minutes and they all posed for the photo. Cuuut! Ok, I could tell they were not models, sure they were a real nice set of guys, but they were not posers. They needed a little coaching to get a good shot, that's why they came to me. With a group like this I'm not going to get fancy. The first thing I want to do is tidy up their ski clothes so they look good. This entails closing their pockets, zipping up their zippers, you know details, details!

I stepped back to shoot the photo and looked at the group. Tip: When you step back to shoot the photo always do a quick scan and look for things you can improve. The cadets looked good with their ski gear on, all lined up, with the beautiful Sierra mountains for a backdrop. But, something was out of balance? It was the spacing between the cadets. Actually they were pretty evenly spaced, it was just the spacing between the cadets heads was not even.

I had the cadets stand up straight and proud, and had a few of the cadets adjust slightly left and right until the spacing between all the heads was perfectly even. This is called Horizontal Subject Spacing. I grabbed several shots, with and without smiles and then I gave each of them a card with the photo viewing information and they skied off. This was a simple example of how the head spacing can make the photo look better.

So what is it exactly, that you space out? The cheeks, hair, hat ? Nope, Imagine a dot on the nose, right between the eyes. The dot is the spot to space. Now it's just a matter of connecting the dots!

Try this experiment. Next time your shooting a group of people set the photo up as you normally would and shoot the photo. Then take a moment to space the dots out perfectly and shoot another shot. Compare the composition of the images, WOW!!! What a difference, you'll notice when you get the dots spaced just right, the photo has such a nice professional look to it. A money shot.

Now that your familiar with Horizontal Subject Spacing in your portrait photos, get creative and combine it with Vertical Subject Spacing. By using your models heights and having the subjects sit, kneel and stand, combine vertical and horizontal subject spacing. Try forming geometric patterns with the dots. You can make circles, ovals, triangles and more, get creative!

This is a quick tip is a photography technique you can incorporate into all your group portrait images, to improve the quality of your work. Use uniform subject spacing and watch your photography sales grow with your next shoot!

Brandon is a professional digital photographer from Lake Tahoe, California. Brandon specializes in on-mountain action and portrait photography during the winter months photographing skiers and snowboarders on the slopes. Brandon also has a popular digital photography website which is full of excellent techniques, products and services. Read digital camera reviews and comparison shop for photography equipment.


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