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Fill the Viewfinder!

Staring through the viewfinder on the shore

Did you ever look at one of your photographs and feel it was not what you originally saw? When I am in the landscape, working on a photograph, I can spend as long as forty-five minutes looking through the viewfinder on a single image. I spend the time to make sure the photograph is how I want it and so I do not need to edit it when I am back at my computer. My goal, while in the field, is to create as close to a final version of the photograph at time of exposure. This includes filling the viewfinder with as much or as little as I want so I do not need to crop later. I do not like cropping photographs; the loss of resolution bothers me and I feel like I made a mistake. Therefore, while making the photograph, I crop out the unnecessary i.e. undesired empty space, open regions or areas that do not add to my photograph (or detract from my subject); I remove anything that clutters the image. When I exclude unnecessary elements, the ultimate viewer’s eyes will not wander and he or she will be more engaged with my photograph.

Filling the viewfinder can be done by controlling the perspective, selecting the correct lens or changing the distance to your subject. Perspective is the position to your subject, not just distance; it is angle too. A zoom lens may be helpful, especially in inclement weather; with a prime lens, get closer, if possible, to fill the viewfinder with your photograph.

I prefer cameras that have as close to 100% viewfinder coverage as possible. Coverage means, what I see in the viewfinder is what will be exposed to the film or sensor when I make the exposure. Cameras with less than 100% viewfinder coverage will have more on the top, bottom and sides of the resultant photo; this may change the perspective. When I look at my photographs, I want my subject to be how I decided it should be, I expect to see my decisions. Often, after I make an exposure, I use a loupe on my camera’s digital LCD and study the photograph to make sure it matches what I want. I check the perspective, light and dark areas, the edges, corners, center and more. As the artist, I make every decision, nothing should be decided by the camera.


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