One of the skills in photography I try to work on is composition. The easiest aspect of composition to focus on (pun!) is what is in or out of your frame. For example, not ending up with a sign post in the background sticking out of the head of your subject. Or, not cutting off your subject’s hand. Or not chopping off the edge of a shape in an awkward and inexplicable way. These are things I pay attention to. Sometimes, I pay attention to them after the shoot, in which case, I say “shoot!” in a different way.
Shooting loose is a cheat. This means leaving lots of space around your subject so you can crop later to get what you want in the frame. I’m not very good at shooting loose. I always end up with some awkward position where I have to either cut off the subject’s hand or foot to get the framing I want.
For this reason, I try to come home with at least the framing right. This is not to imply that how you frame a shot is the only thing to think about when it comes to composition.
In any case, shooting at the haunt over the weekend was a completely new lesson in composition. When I was shooting in unlighted areas, I literally could not see my subject at all when I looked through the viewfinder. My technique was to take a shot with my flash, look at it on the LCD screen, and then try to guess where I was positioned and which way I needed to move to get the subject completely in the frame.
This is a case where shooting loose was absolutely necessary. I ended up with a lot of headless people on my first shot. Then I would zoom out a bit to make sure I at least got the heads included in the second shot. After a few dozen wasted shots, I finally started getting to where I could get the subjects into the frame in one shot. On the one hand I was excited I was managing to get subjects into the frame. On the other hand, I was really wishing I had a floodlight I could use to frame up the shot I wanted.
As a side effect of shooting blind, I ended up with a lot of strange things in the background. This is also the side effect of shooting at an event. There are lots of people milling about so you end up with someone’s nose sticking out of your subject’s ear or a rear end in the background next to the head of your subject–sometimes my flash was just a little more powerful than I really wanted it to be. This all led to more time in Aperture cloning black areas over top of unwanted objects.
Perhaps that’s a life lesson: shooting blind leads to spending more time cleaning up the mess.