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Archive 2013 · Food For Thought
Kaden K.
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Food For Thought

“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” Ansel Adams

Jan 08, 2013 at 05:05 AM
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Food For Thought

Liberty derived from fundamental truism.

The visual communication form is much like the verbal communication form. Grammar provides the "rules" for sentence structure, but a best-selling book doesn't restrict itself to always using them. Rather, it finds a way to grab the reader's attention, and weave the reader along a journey to facilitate arriving at a destination (message/point) or for the pleasure of a place to journey itself. The rules are there to help us develop a construct that will yield successful delivery of our communication. If we can otherwise develop a successful construct for delivery, the rules need not be considered as binding constraint. In such cases, they may be neither a means to an end, nor the end itself.

Many a "grammar correct" book/paper have been written that present lackluster journeys, or lack an ability to clearly bring the reader to the intended destination. Yet, meanwhile a legal contract must be scrutinized over every single word and punctuation to sustain its validity intact. This, in an effort to prevent an error from rendering it technically incomplete and subsequent to being dismissed for such inaccuracy. How greatly this differs from a written masterpiece that painstakingly attends to guiding the reader along a journey with tempo and mood.

Whether we produce images for review of legal accuracy / academic correctness or we produce images that provide our viewer a journey of pleasure or destination of message is entirely our choice. Rules are tools at our disposal to aid us in our goals ... but devoid of the ability to attract and guide the viewer's journey ... they merely represent / suggest lackluster safe haven from technical scrutiny or routine errors, predicated by ones underdevelopment of the media's communication capability and potential. Rules ... a double-edged sword of safe haven and limitation.

AA was also quoted as making comparison to the score and composition in a musical corollary. Whether the medium be the words of literacy and speech, the sounds of music, the smell & taste of culinary delight, the feel of sculpture or design ... of the sight of our images ... all five of the senses endowed to our audience (self or others) afford access to the recipient's mind.

What it is that you want to convey, and how you choose to proceed to do so is totally up to each of us ... be that in a technically correct, overt, sublime, poetic, satirical, contrasting or harmonizing (the list goes on) manner & style. But in all cases, the communication is designed to reach and stimulate the mind of our audience, with some aspiring to reach the greater depths of one's heart & soul. It is a true rarity when we produce a work that can simultaneously touch all three.

BTW, I recently immersed myself into Les Miserables (Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, etc.) ... powerfully & exquisitely massaging of the mind, heart & soul ... in a multitude of manner far beyond the limitations of rules. It is a masterful piece that can truly "touch all three", for which I think it is not possible to do when one ascribes to always keep the crayons "inside the lines".

Jan 08, 2013 at 12:52 PM
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Food For Thought

Adams was also the guy who also created one of the best known rule based systems for photography, the zone system.

He says this in the foreword of "The Negative":

"Photography, in the final analysis, can be reduced to a few simple principles. But, unlike most arts, it seems complex at the initial approach. The seeming complexity can never be resolved unless a fundamental understanding of both technique and application is sought and exercised from the start."

Conventions, which some see as rules, exist as a means for teaching more than for doing. They serve as educational benchmarks, not creative road blocks.

To the extent "creative" conventions like the "rule of thirds" seem rigid roadblocks to creative thinking, that's more a problem of rote application by both teacher and student without exploring and understanding the underlying cause and effect perceptually and emotionally, and what goals the strategy will successfully meet.

Rather than say "Put the focal point on one of these four points" if the teacher starts instead by observing that some photos seem static and some more dynamic would lead to an exploration about what causes those sensations in the brain of the viewer and how it affects their interpretation of the content in the photo.

There are no rules, but there is cause and effect for any decision. Centering a focal point will create a "static" impression because absent a clue where to go next the eyes don't wander. Moving a focal point off center will work to move the eyes across the photo creating an impression similar to standing in one place and tracking a moving object. Different goals, different strategies to meet them.

I think it is possible to look at any photo, react to it on an emotional level, decide if it "works" or not (based on your frame of reference) and then by applying different conventions you are aware determine which apply to the image and which don't to create a "blueprint" for creating a similar emotional reaction in a photo. The "blueprint" isn't a set of rules, just an understanding of the goal of the message and the strategies used to meet them in the image you critiqued.

If someone posts a portrait here with the head dead center in the frame how would you critique it? Applaud their creatively because they laughed in the face of convention, or suggest that the wife would be flattered more if the bottom of the frame was near the small of the waist instead of cutting her bustline in half? Would it be a suggestion to blindly follow the rule of thirds? No, it would be a suggestion based on giving the composition of body in frame better balance. It's just coincidence that the ROT usually works in people photos regardless of crop. Is that always case? No but you might suggest to a beginner trying to figure out how to compose people shots to first try the convention putting the eye line in the upper 1/3 of the frame (i.e. try the ROT) then try every other possible head positions, compare the results and see what looks best to them.

Trying lots of different options is what leads to progress on the learning curve. Giving someone a convention as a starting point isn't a roadblock to creativity, it's just a set of baseline criteria for comparing the results of everything else they try. Want to understand what camera angles flatter a face most? Take a camera and snap a shot every 15 degrees as you walk from ear-to-ear and you'll find out in about 2 minutes and better understand why the conventional full / oblique / profile views became conventions.

Jan 11, 2013 at 09:57 PM
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Food For Thought

cgardner wrote:

there is cause and effect for any decision.

+1 ... and every image is a multitude of decisions that are collective in nature. Those decisions can collectively harmonize, synergize or antagonize each other.

Beginning chess players are typically only focused on the current move before them. More advanced chess players can think through a multitude of scenarios over the next few moves. Masterful chess players can think through scenarios so vast and deep it is mind boggling.

While one must abide by the "rules of chess" in how to move ... much like the rules of aperture vs. shutter speed vs. motion & exposure, etc. ... but for the maneuvering strategies, there are no rules, just how well can you construct your collection of decisions to facilitate your desired outcome.

Beginning photographers focus on the task before them of things like proper exposure, not blurry and not cut off. As such, a centered image that is sharp and well exposed is very much their desired outcome. As photographers advance, they may begin to add more "moves" to their strategic maneuvering and how they incorporate them to harmonize, synergize or antagonize to facilitate a different desired outcome.

Kaden's desired outcomes are likely very different from most of us. But the collection of decisions that he considers relative to their inherent cause & effect toward his desired outcome is nonetheless integral to the process. He just has a few more levels that he considers than someone who is taking snapshots with their first camera. The process of learning cause & effect is integral to garnering control over your photographic image making, For some, we only want to think about 2 or 3 decisions involved with the image, while for others we want to consider 20 or 30.

Some of us find satisfaction in the advancement from 3 to 30, while some may settle in at 8 or 15 with yet others still only wanting to consider 1 or 2. Of course, this can vary from day to day or image to image for each one of us as well.

Jan 12, 2013 at 12:15 AM

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