Capturing the Landscape: National Gallery Flickr photography challenge

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  1. About the competition
  2. Top photography tips

Top photography tips

Here are some top tips from photographer Dave Lewis to get you started:

While Constable’s ‘The Cornfield’ tells us about the English countryside in the early 19th century, your photography should take on the challenge of telling viewers what your own surrounding environment is like, from the perspective of an early 21st-century image maker.

It is important to look carefully and research the work that you will be responding to. Historical fine artists' use of light, composition and colour are often applicable to you as a camera user.

Other tips that may be useful:

  1. Fill the frame! Notice that in Constable’s painting, the whole picture area has been used. Trees, clouds, ground and lake frame the activities in the scene.
  2. Looking at the painting, we can divide it into three main areas: foreground, middle-ground and background. In each of these areas there is something for the viewer to consider: the dog and boy drinking; the labourer; and the village, respectively. This ‘rule’ is a good way to capture viewers’ interest in your photograph.
  3. Use colour. Among the greenery of the trees and fields, the boy’s red waistcoat stands out and draws the eye. This muted red works well among the other ‘green’ colours of the painting, as do the red flowers around the tree on the immediate left.
  4. Notice how the path leads the viewer’s eye through the painting. It is as if Constable is deliberately using this as a device that cuts through the middle of the scene, leading us to notice the other elements of the painting.
  5. Work around your subject. In short, don’t just take one picture and go home! Experiment with different angles and heights in both portrait and landscape. Try and produce your own unique view.
The Cornfield
John Constable

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As part of the National Gallery’s first major exhibition of photography, Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present, three 'interventions' of contemporary photographs by Richard Billingham, Craigie Horsfield and Richard Learoyd were displayed within the Gallery’s collection alongside great 19th-century paintings by Constable, Degas and Ingres.