Friday, August 14, 2015

3 tone guide to composition

My background in illustration and graphic design has offered me a unique view in analyzing lighting, composition and overall layout. Photography and illustration share many of the same visual guidelines so I tend to use my training in illustration when post editing my images. Specifically when working to establish the point of interest (the main theme or main subject).

When a photographer creates a photo there is an unwritten dialog between the author and the viewer. A topic is presented that will hopefully engages the viewer in a dialog. The dialog comes through the interplay of the viewer's eyes over the content of the image and is controlled by the photographer through the use of certain techniques (rule of thirds, leading lines, depth of field, contrast, and so on).

One technique I rely on to direct the viewer's eyes to my subject is through the manipulation of light. After all, we are using light to capture our scene, establish mood and shape our subject. This light can be manipulated in any number of ways: In a studio by placing the lights and adjusting ratios, or with natural light by using light shaping tools or the careful consideration of positions and backgrounds. There is also postprocessing manipulation of light in an image. All these techniques can be used to manipulate the light to where you want it.

As you come to study and understand light you will hear the term, "seeing the light," quite often. In truth, what this refers to is seeing the interplay of light and shadow and how it affects your subject. Color tone, saturation, contrast, edge transfer, specularity, are all qualities you will need to recognize but, for now, let's simplify things to three simple tones; white, middle gray and black. While this is a big oversimplification it will help make the process easy to understand.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Thoughts about the vernacular of photography

As a photography instructor I find myself paying very close attention to my choice of vocabulary. Words that otherwise are interchangeable by the novice have to be carefully separated in order to avoid confusing students during a lesson.

Take the following words for example; picture, photo, image, exposure. Out of context they can all refer to the same thing but in context they can be confusing, specially if the context adds to confusion. Look at this sentence, for example.

"If you want to get a good exposure you need to set your exposure properly."

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Save your seconds

In my Digital Workflow workshops I discuss many of the problems digital photographers deal with, including storage space. This seems to be a major issue with many less experienced photographers and includes what to do with all those extra photos. The duplicates, the not so good ones or the ones that may never get used or see the light of day. These are what are generally referred to as seconds.

Seconds is short for secondary image choice or secondary image selections. In culling through images the photographer selects images that represent the best for a given shoot. During this process some images are deleted (because they're unusable due to blur, misfires, camera setting errors, etc.) and the remaining are the seconds.

Let's suppose, for the sake of this example, that the photographer selects 10 of the 50 images to process. Of the 40 remaining, 10 of them are tests, errors or so blurry that they get deleted. That leaves 30 images as seconds from this photo shoot and they get segregated and saved. It doesn't stop here;

The photographer then turns over his primaries (the initial 10 he edited) to the client. Of those ten images the client will select only one for print. The remaining nine then become the client's secondaries. So now you know what secondaries are. Yeah, I know... long explanation.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Color as a social statement - Carrie Mae Weems

Continuing on with the discussion on "Color and emotion", I can't think of a better example of how color, subject and message integrate seamlessly than with the works of Carrie Mae Weems.

Carrie Mae Weems is an contemporary American artist who works in a variety of mediums but is best known for her photography work. Her work centers around the socio-political world of African-Americans and how society perceives them, though lately it has evolved to encompass more of the human condition than race.

One particular set of works that caught my attention were a series of portraits collectively called Colored People (1989-1990). In this series of portraits Mrs. Weems plays on the labels associated with a class of people in a straightforward, unabashed and reflective manner.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Color and emotion

Prism at work
Color is determined by the light reflecting off an object. It is a physical process with a constant set of values resulting in a predictable conclusion. It is basic physics.

Sir Isaac Newton established many of the basic principles of light through his experimentations with prisms. Simple as it seems today, this toy was instrumental in laying the foundation for particle based physics.

Scientifically that's all well and good but, as an artist, I could care less about particle physics. What I am most interested in is the psychology of color. Psychologically, color has more properties attached to them than mere luminance values, RGB values or even their common names. Sure, you might understand what the numbers 255,0,0 represent or that the term red is the common name for those numbers. Let's face it, we don't go around looking to photograph 255,0,0 or 87,53,64 or 15,8,164 or any other assortment of digital combinations between 0,0,0 and 255,255,255.

The interest in color on a psychological level, rather than an artistic level, is that I want to appeal to viewers on an emotional level. Sure, I can put orange and purple together in an image because they compliment each other. I would much rather place those colors together because they create a sense of tension and drama.