Composition – Don’t Shoot Yourself In The Foot

I am not kidding. Really, headstone photographs that include the photographer’s feet do exist! I have seen them on the internet. Your toes do not belong in the photograph! Move your feet back, or zoom in, or both.

I was framed

I like a bit of grass, or dirt, as a border around the headstone to “frame’ the photograph. I then don’t have to fuss with making all of the edges line up right at the stone. I have tried to photograph the stone by itself with no border, but usually cut some part of the stone off that way.

Play with moving in and out, or zooming, to find how much border appeals to your sense of balance.

Below is an example on the left of not framing the photograph, I cut off the top of the marker. The photograph on the right was taken later, after I had learned a bit more about composition. Even though it “breaks the rules” by being taken on a sunny day, in this case I like the lighting better. Experimentation can produce good results.

It is OK to rearrange the furniture

It is common to find decorations at a memorial. It is your choice to leave them in the photograph or not. In the photographs below, the cross is fine, but the perspective is a bit too high. The photograph on the right looks better to me, not because I moved the cross, but because it was taken at a lower viewpoint and the inscriptions are easier to read.

It is also common to find an urn between headstones, particularly when a husband and wife are side-by-side. The urn or flowers may cast some unflattering shadows, or be large enough to encroach on a closeup photograph of each individual headstone.

In these cases, I will take a photograph of both stones that includes the urn, then move it aside temporarily to make a closeup photograph of each headstone. The first photograph below documents the grave sites, and I moved the urn and moved a bit closer for the second photograph that has fewer distracting shadows and is easier to read.

It is OK to move military flag holders, flags and flowers, but please return them to their arrangement exactly as found. Sometime all I need is to hold the flowers back, but usually I have to move the urn.

I discovered, the hard way, that concrete urns filled with dirt are heavier than they look, particularly when they are also full of water after a long rain! So, make sure that you are able to move your obstacle away and also move it back into place. When in doubt, of course, don’t move it.

Be careful, and please put everything back as you found it.

For highly decorated graves you might be ahead just taking the photo as found, but be sure flags in the photo do not move, or they surely will obscure the stone the very moment you click the shutter!

Watch your back

Pay attention to the background. I prefer my headstone photographs without the car in the background, thank you. Luckily for me, I realized where the car was, moved it away and took another photograph before I left the cemetery.

Keep families together

When I find a family I take group photographs, often from both the front and the back, to show the family together and those who have been placed next to each other, and then I take a photograph of individual headstones.


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