How do you make a great photograph?
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How do you make a great photograph?

First year DP Visual Arts students are enjoying workshops given by expert photographers Lila Rodrigues and Andrea Janes. Both Lila and Andrea are Brazilian, and mothers of children at ISUtrecht. 

By Annabel Kjar, secondary teacher Visual Arts and Design

In the first of a series of four workshops, the students were greatly enthused by the pair’s experiences of the workplace and the hands-on approach and advice. Lila has experience in larger commercial photographic studios and has worked as a photojournalist and Andrea has a background in Design and has a photography practice based in Utrecht. The pair passed on their passion for making photographs and their love of how and what images can communicate. The tools of the trade – of how to make a great photograph – was the focus of the first session.

‘I had to see the light around me’

It’s the light”, claims Andrea, “during my journey in photography, I knew, intuitively what was beautiful, what worked. But it took me many years to realise I had to see the light around me and not only the subject I wanted to photograph”.

Andrea uses the light to make ordinary subjects extraordinary. “Light may be hard or soft.  Both have particular traits that affect the overall mood of your image. Light may vary in colour and it is different in different times of the year, and different times of the day. There are a numbers of ways of finding the perfect light and you will know when you find it”.

Composition and framework

You don’t take a photograph, you make it” (Ansel Adams), Lila expanded on the words of the American photographer Ansel Adams to how composition is the key to making great photographs. “First you choose the moment in which you going to photograph your subject and then think about how you are going to build your framework. Composition in photography is the organisation of the elements inside the framework, and it takes into account several factors such as: lines, shapes, textures, patters, colours, contrast, space, depth of field. It aims to make the viewer fix their attention to the point of interest chosen by the photographer”.

Using the grid

The students were set to take photographs firstly by using light be the subject and, in another assignment we set to compose their photograph by applying the ‘rule of thirds’; an invisible grid on the lens which ensures the area of interest is placed in a balanced and harmonic way.

The students are looking forward to 3 more workshops in which they will learn to create and build upon their own work. DP Art students are required by the IB to work across various art forms, including digital and lens-based art. In two weeks they will attend UNSEEN in Amsterdam. This is a contemporary photography festival at Westergas which showcases the latest developments in the field of photography practices by both local and international artists.

Mastering the use of your eyes

Experiencing art works firsthand and meeting some of the artists will help the student’s understanding and appreciation of photography and will hopefully inspire them to look at the world around them differently. Using their acquired knowledge about using light and composition to make photographs has given the students confidence and has allowed them to significantly improve the results of their photographs even after one session. But, according Lila and Andrea, taking great photographs is about learning to look. It’s less about the technical competence and much more about mastering the use of your eyes.

Lilia and Andrea run the after school photography club for both primary and secondary students at ISUtrecht.