Creating depth and interest in images

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by Donald Miller, Dec 30, 2005.

  1. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Beyond the use of lines and vanishing points, diminishing degrees of tonal value or saturation, and overlapping componants of an image, what other artistic compositional aids can be used in creating and capturing a photographic image?

    Thanks to all who respond.
     
  2. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Composition is a great tool of any artist/photographer.

    In my opinion IMPACT makes for a stronger image.

    Universal human themes or interests will probably "beat out" a compositionally correct image every time.

    Technical expertise is great and something to strive for but it sure is not the "end all" in making great images.


    Michael
     
  3. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Color for one. There are certain colors that are perceived to be closer to the view than others; for example, when viewing an image of a red rose, the rose is the dominant feature, with the green leaves fading into the background, even if they are on the same plane. Unfortunately, I don't have any of my reference materials with me at the moment (I'm at work), but remember this from some of my color studies.
     
  4. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    Donald,

    It is long been my thought that, although we all use the "compositional aids" that you speak of, many "photographers" rely much too heavily on these types of things in their creations when they should be looking into themselves, their experiences and emotions when making images. There are a gazillion images of rocks, trees, rotting wood, peeling paint, walls, windows, doorways, gorgeous sunsets and naked women. The ones that sing to me are the ones in which I see the photographer's spirit. The multitude of all others, no matter what chemical hoops have been jumped through or how technically perfect and sharp from corner to corner, simply bore me. All the tricks, tools, gimmicks and "aids" in the world don't make a great photographer. After all the education and mastery of one's tools, photographers and all artists are left only with themselves. This, in my mind, is the only compositional aid you will need.

    Bill
     
  5. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    Depth of Field can be used effectively to separate distances or isolate a subject from the background.
     
  6. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    Color can also be used as a crutch to make an otherwise common image striking. Color for color's sake never does much for me personally. I am certainly not discounting color as it has been used magnificently by a lot of well respected people, but pull the color out of many images and you simply have another mediocre composition.

    Bill
     
  7. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    I go along with Michael's comment about "impact" - assuming the definition used for "impact" includes meaning, relevance, and significance. If something is important enough to photograph, I think it helps to understand why it's important and what story the thing has to tell. Then, it's far easier to determine how best to tell its story in the photograph.
     
  8. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    Christopher Burkett's DVD about his work ( www.christopherburkett.com ) that is concurrent with his book "Resplendent Light" discusses the way, with extremely careful color balance, a photograph can seem to radiate light from within. I happen to be lucky enough to own one of his large prints and I can attest that I get that kind of sensation when viewing it.

    In b&w I've been able to see lots of photographs at the last three AIPAD shows by excellent photographer/printers that have that kind of quality as well. The contrast and brilliance of the prints seem to generate their own inner glow.

    I think the vernacular word for this might be "pop!", but whatever one chooses to say about it, it is definitely a characteristic of really excellent photography.
     
  9. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Christopher Burkett's prints are a thing of beauty; I've seen some of his 40x50 prints. Stunning!!! I have one of his books as well as the DVD. BTW, he is going blind from what I have been told, so if you have one of his prints, I would hang onto it.
     
  10. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I will go along with the idea of impact only to a certain degree. A well composed, designed image of a particular subject will be far more effective then a poorly designed one regardless of the subject. If you look at the work of Eugene Smith his images are effective because of the design and composition of the image as much as the subject matter. That is why he is a master and so many others poor imitators.


    To be more specific to your question Donald, I think there are a couple of tools that can be employed. One is not only tonal seperation but how blocks or regions of tonality balance each other in the frame. I know you are a fan of Brett Weston. Go back and look at various images and see how he balances and weighs areas of the print to guide the viewer.

    A second is the use of the border of the print itself. If you look at the work of Kertesz or HCB you will see how the border of the print is a compositional tool. Not simply from the standpoint of framing the image, but used a conscious device to create tension and define or contain the image. To often a photograph is made with only a vague idea that the image exists somewhere in the void between the edges of the frame.

    In considering the edges of the frame, I don't believe one must be obsessed with using the format presented. If one recognizes where in the subject croping will be required in printing, that is perfectly acceptable.
     
  11. Whiteymorange

    Whiteymorange Member

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    I come to this question as a painter and could not agree more strongly with Jim Chinn. Content "impact" is great, but the point I tried to make in the thread on pictures of the year stands true here as well. You can make an unremarkable picture of a remarkable thing or event. It's hard to screw up the proverbial catch of the baby thrown from a burning building, I admit, but there are rules (not tricks) of composition that make any picture much stronger. They are rules of thumb - to be broken at will when something else trumps them but they are rules.

    Some simple ones:
    Watch the sweet spots (or "the rule of thirds") A viewers eye, in western culture, goes naturally the spots where the lines of a tic-tac-toe game drawn on the picture would converge - one third of the way from one edge to another, vertically and horizontally. Placing an important element in one of these spots gets it noticed more easily - especially if it is a subtle element.

    Negative and positive space balance one another in an image. This has been talked about as the push and pull of foreground / background, the interplay of light and dark, the balance of being to emptiness... lots of things. All it means is that you should pay attention to the concept of balance in the image. Great emptiness can balance a small spot of energy in an image and make the whole thing work. This is the lesson the impressionist painters finally learned from Japanese and, eventually, Chinese images imported to Europe in the second half of the 19th century.

    Imbalance can cause energy. Use it wisely.

    Edges count. Hard edges draw our eye and act as pointers.

    Vertical lines organize, horizontal lines quiet and diagonal lines energize. Think "Baroque."

    The outside edges pull against the middle - most of all in a square composition, I think, but that's my take on it.

    The more balanced and centered a picture is, the more "gravity" it has. Think religious, political or even corporate portraits. Also, the greater chance it has of being deadly dull if the content doesn't carry it.

    There are more, but these are a sampling of what I mean. Using these ideas as organizational tools, great photographers have made wonderful images of eggs or leaves, kitchen tools or rocks. Are these images less impactful than a good picture of a war casualty? Of course they are, but they are not without their own strengths. Think of what a great photographer does with the rules of compositionand great content!
     
  12. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Thanks to everyone who have shared their experience. I particularly drew a lot from Jim Chinn and Whitey. Thanks again everyone.