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.
The purpose of this little web site certainly isn’t political, but since I made some art recently that clearly expresses my feelings….I guess I’ll call this “art”. What a glorious time to be an American! Enough said…I’ll let the reader guess where I land on this one.
This month’s photo assignment for our local Photoclub is “Gratitude” in recognition of November being the month of Thanksgiving. That’s an admittedly difficult assignment, but worthwhile on many levels.
It’s been said, ” The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.” If that is true we as artists ought to be able to reflect our own personal gratitude in our images.
Attempting to portray gratitude this month has an important effect on our members beyond merely the pictures we will take or select. Attempting to portray gratitude makes us think more deeply about why we take photographs and by doing that explains us more clearly to our fellow photographers.
I personally believe the best photography comes from a deep sense of awe within. That sense is simply our inner gratitude for what we see. We may not call it gratitude, but what else is it? If we recognize it as gratitude, we’re richer for it because gratitude recognizes something greater and more important than ourselves. Our images attempt to show or connect with greatness, hence the awe.
It starts with pre-visualizing the shot. We imagine or see something that touches us. We frame and compose the shot to capture what caught our eye and imagination. As a rule the best images focus on what it was that mattered, and eliminate the superfluous.
More often than not, at least for me, I don’t succeed in fully capturing what I saw in my head, hence the power and reason for re-visualizing in post processing. Even then the final result rarely reaches the heights we’d like to achieve.
The power of Gratitude as a photo challenge is that it makes us strive; to think. Not a bad thing when trying to create art, and even a better thing in light of the Thanksgiving holiday. My hope is that this assignment will cause some of us (including myself) to attempt a deeper connection with our art.