How to take a better photo in the Greenbelt


The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, the Professional Photographers of Canada, and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection are holding a photography contest to celebrate the people of Ontario’s Greenbelt.

We've already received a ton of great photos - and it's not too late to submit your own! I'm an avid photographer myself and recently took my family to Pioneer Village where I practiced a few of the tips I’ve gotten for taking a great photo.  They’ve help me so much that I wanted to share them with you. 


Use a frame within a frame: it really helps locate your subject and make an image more dimensional.  Here a worker demonstrates a loom in use.  One option is to shoot her next to the loom, but the better option is to locate her within the frame.  Now the viewer feels like they're right there in the room. 



Use window light:  It's very dramatic.  Both these shots are by natural light coming through one or more windows.  And windows produce light a lot like those giant soft boxes you see fashion photographers using, or the powerful lights used on Hollywood movie sets.  They give objects, people and spaces either a cinematic three dimensionality or a soft flattering wash of light, and unlike the equipment on movies sets, they're totally free!  Two more tips about windows.  They’re frames too, use them to look outwards and inwards.  While most of us think about outside spaces when we think about the greenbelt, the interior of a barn is just as much a part of life on the farm, and the light streaming through cracks and dust can be wonderful and moody.  



Get close to your subject: and for leaves and flowers try shooting them with light coming in from behind.  Most leaves are transluscent and the colours of foliage in particular become deeper when a light shines through them from behind.



Look for candid moments.  Some of the best moments happen when people (and animals) aren't posing.  Today cameras are everywhere, especially in public places, so people quickly move on to more interesting things.  Get to know your surroundings, stay out of people’s way, and just be a fly on the wall.  When people are at ease around you, you'll begin to see special moments happening all around you. 



Look for colours.  This shot is of a worker demonstrating daily activities at pioneer village.  Around her were a gravel path, a fire, and some log buildings.  But on one side cornstalks were alight with mid-afternoon sun.  By just crouching down a little, I was able to centre this portrait against a beautiful background.  The wonderful autumn colors are just around the corner, and the Greenbelt if full of foliage and fields that light-up when the sun hits them.



Take lots of pictures, but concentrate on a theme.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Nature:  The colours of the landscape change with seasons.  So does the wildlife that moves within it.  A dramatic and beautiful cycle whether you see a whole landscape or just a single species, or both.  Flora and fauna all tell the story of Ontario’s Greenbelt. 

  • Farming:  Your image tells the story of how we feed our communities, a tradition as rich as the soils that grow our food, and kept by dedicated people from a unique countryside. 

  • People:  The people who live, work, and play on the Greenbelt are just as diverse and fascinating as the land itself.  Show us your best images of lives being lived on the lands and the waters we protect.
  • Close Ups:  The incredible details within the smallest living things are revealed by macro photography, a perspective that shows the always fascinating and often surreal beauty of the tiny species we sometimes overlook. Get close to nature.


Finally, don’t be shy.  Share your photos and your experiences.  Submit your entries to the contest at  tweet your favourites (and your favourite spots) and encourage your friends and family to pick up their cameras and explore the beauty that’s all around them.


Hope to see you out in the Greenbelt. 


--Director, York Region

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