What is that special quality in an image that makes the viewer look more than once? Why is it that some images demand more attention, while others don’t. Both may be beautiful, visually. Both may have an interesting subject, but the image that stands out goes beyond all that; it makes you feel something. It tells you a story about the subject. That story may or may not be exactly as intended by the photographer, but it’s there.
Whether we know it or not, if we work at our craft long enough, and take it seriously, we usually end up developing a certain “style” and set of favorite subjects. Certain subjects capture our imagination. We frame them in a certain way, and we process them in certain ways. What drives us is that inner need to tell the subject’s story, and tell our own story though that capture. We want to convey that feeling that drew us to take the image. When we get back home and begin processing the image we recrop, lighten and darken, and do our best to bring out that story.
Excellence in photography comes from being self-aware enough to understand this process of story telling. Think about your best images. What do they say? When you stop to capture an image, what is it about that subject that made you look? How can you capture that aspect of the image? When you process the image, what can you do to help the viewer see and feel what you saw and felt? To do less than that is to take “snapshots”; brainless, thoughtless, images with no feeling…no story.
Try this exercise. When you post and share your images, give them a name; not a name describing the subject, a name describing the story. Instead of naming a scene “Yosemite Valley”, name it something like “Where the earth meets the sky”. I know for myself, I love landscapes and have great awe and respect for nature’s majesty and power. I strive to have my images convey this quality. Give it a try…name your images.