My first photo assignment (part 2): Composition and light

As I mentioned in my previous post, my first photo assignment turned out to be indoors and at dinner time. The subject was a family having dinner. I knew the photos do not necessarily have a story element on their own, and I should later add more photos taken in different environment. So, I just concentrated on composition, and tried to shoot as many photos as possible, hoping that something interesting would come up.

The family were sitting next to each other at a round table. I took photos from different angles, keeping “the rule of thirds” in mind. The child was a bit sick and was not eating very well. At one moment, they said something in Turkish and pointed at me, I guess to encourage her to eat! She looked at the camera while her father was pointing at me. While I knew the girl was looking at the camera and her father was pointing at me, I thought it was still interesting to shoot. You can feel my presence in the photo, but I didn’t ask for it.

little girl pointing at camera

I like the photo, because it’s so ordinary, and shows a nice family moment. The girl’s face and hand are in focus, and her parents are blurry. The dinner table is also well-exposed. I don’t know if this is considered a good photo in terms of composition or not. I think it is, because the main subjects of the story are all on one of the lines of the rule of thirds, so the rule of thirds is observed.

I like the following photo as well. I tried to take the photo in a way that her face is fully visible, but I didn’t have much room to move, because of the dining table. I sat on the ground and took this photo. While her face is half covered, I thought it is somehow interesting! What do you think about this photo? Did you wish to see her full face?

woman slicing pizza

After I saw the photos on my computer I realized that my main problem was the light. My camera is a Canon Powershot A80. It doesn’t have many settings, and I don’t have much control over the light. I took a few shots with flash, but they look so unnatural and the lighting looks even worse on them. Many of my photos that involved movement of the subjects turned out blurry. When the light is low, the shutters stays open more, and the chances that the camera vibrates gets higher. So I somehow felt that no matter how careful I’ll be with composition and the settings of my camera, there are things that my camera can’t handle very well. Also, almost all of my pictures look gray, which is a bit frustrating.
Now I’m thinking seriously about buying an SLR camera that gives me more control of the light. The Nikon D40 seems like a basic and affordable digital SLR (comparing to other digital SLRs), suitable for people who want to upgrade from point and shoots to SLRs. I’m going to test Curt’s camera soon too see whether I can handle working with an SLR, or I should still practice with point and shoots. These photo exercises and my classmates’ experiences are making me much more interested about photography!


10 comments so far

  1. Roja on

    Dear Sanam
    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. About The second photo: I think It is always good to engage the viewer by making them curious. Sometimes it can happen by not showing every single details. In your case I think it is god not seeing her face and her half hidden face puts your narration of their lives in depth: She is a Turkish women and preserved (at least in some of ) the traditional aspects of a Turkish life: for instance she waits for the husband’s permission as you mentioned. Your first photo becomes very important as you said because of your absence and presence at the same time: I believe in Photojournalism this is an important element. The look that shows the photographer’s presence is being acknowledged. the pointed finger toward your camera.
    Sorry I said too much already; Good luck!

  2. Sanam on

    Thanks Roja jan for the feedback. I felt the same way about the second photo. (By the way, how did you find this blog?!)

  3. Roja on

    Dear Sanam
    Your welcome, generally I am looking for blogers (mostly Iranians) who have an English blog like me. I was very thrilled to find out about yours. Also In the Google read, if you search Khorshid Khanom the first thing that comes up is Editor: Sanam. I

  4. soniaa on


    I really like the 2 photos you have shown here. The first one is very ordinary like you said but still special in some way. I like how the little girl is pointing at you and how we are immediately drawn to her when we look at this photo. In the second photo, I think I like that I cannot see her whole face. It gives something extra to the photo. Turns something so simple into a more interesting picture. Nice job although I’m still not sure what your story is about, but I am sure I will find out with the soundslides! 🙂

  5. Sanam on

    Thanks Sonia for your feedback. I still should take more photos of the family in different environments. Still, I think my story will be formed only after it is accompanied by audio, which I think is not a very good thing! First assignment you know!

  6. Eisa on

    I liked the second photo a lot. Her face half covered gave a very interesting effect, but more important, at least to me, is the pan she is baking with. I got an ethnic vibe from it and it made me realize that it is not an American family. It may sound awkward, but I truly felt this way.

    I think you have an interesting story, but shooting at one location will not fulfill the idea you want to present. I am also pretty sure that your new camera will help you get the images you want.

    After failing to get good pictures at my first photo shoot, I realized that buying a new camera would make this assignment flow more smoothly. At the end, it did, but I had a hard time adjusting to and understanding the new camera. I read the manual before my second shoot, and thought I got it right, but my pictures were still blurry—not as bad as the ones from the old camera though. I talked to Professor McAdams about it, and it turned out that she had the same camera. She gave me some tips about the light adjustments and the zoom features. On my third shoot, my pictures were great. I understand my camera more now, and I can’t wait for my fourth shoot in two days.

    So my advice to you is to make sure you understand your new camera. Read the manual but don’t rely on it too much. If you know someone who has the same camera as yours, let them give you some tips. Finally, take as many random pictures—I took many of my apartment— as you can before you begin your shoot. In summary, be confident in using your camera and you will see improvements.
    Good luck

  7. Sanam on

    Thanks Eisa for the feedback, and the tips about new camera. I just got the camera today. Should work on it a lot. Fortunately Curt has a similar camera, so he can help me a bit.

  8. Mindy McAdams on

    Oh, I’m so happy to hear Eisa’s having better luck now with his new camera!! I was worried about him!

  9. ammermle on

    Sanam – I too like the obscured face in the second photo. I think it adds nice detail and a little intrigue. It works nice because the cloth that covers part of her face isn’t totally opaque and it has nice interesting details and cutouts to it. It’s a very graphic look.


  10. Sanam on

    Thanks Laura for the feedback. It seems everybody likes this photo. I might put it at the beginning of the slideshow then!

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