Tips for capturing a strong image

Avoid Overstaging

I can usually feel the presence of the moment drawing near. When those seemingly arbitrary moments compel me to grab my camera and make an absolute fool of myself trying to capture something fleeting, I know I am getting close to an instance with substance. Capturing an image does not require you to ‘stage’ anything, or even leave your own home. Look for those little beautiful moments - the sweet kisses of a child, the muddy feet of your toddler, or the mess on your kid’s bedroom floor - there is a special kind of timeless beauty hidden in these images.

Search for the Story

A viewer should be able to ‘read’ a strong work of art. Not on a literal level obviously, but on a spiritual and emotional level, my viewers should be able to connect with, or feel a sense of, story inside my work. There is a tremendous difference in a piece created with faultless technical skill, which sits completely stagnant, and one that engages a viewer on a subconscious emotional level. A stagnant image is easy to dismiss, regardless of how well it was rendered. When you are capturing an image, make sure your subjects are engaging with each other- creating their own story. If the image seems fit for a photo frame, it is usually the wrong image to use as a painting reference. 

Focus on the Light

I am secretly obsessed with light and often find it dictates most of what I do in my studio.  Light is the most important element in a strong reference image.  Proper light can help lead the viewer’s eye around an artwork, emphasizing some features and downplaying others. It can also help the viewer ‘read’ the story in a certain order. I set light to evoke a classical, renaissance feel. To achieve the effect, I recommend lighting a subject with a diffused or window light, from above at around a 45 degree angle.