Simplicity – Made Complicated…

I am just kidding about simplicity being made complicated.

My goal as a photographer is to capture images that make a clear statement. My integrity, character, skill, morality and intent respectively should not/cannot be with-held or disguised. This is not a case for a lack of discretion but rather the purpose of clarifying our visual communication.

Visual communication is vital to many areas of life, like business, self-preservation and interaction (both personal and professional). Communication by hand signs is called Sign-language. Sign-language combines motions or gestures that give intuitive and definitive meaning as well as a visual alphabet. These signs are simple and distinct from any other sign making its meaning clear.

This is purpose we want to have in photography, so several things should be brought to its least complicated form to communicate well.

Glass trinket box

First, what is my object or subject? What about my object or subject am I communicating? What draws out the subject? What clarifies my point of communication? What distracts from my subject? What obscures my point of communication? These questions seem tedious and a waste of time, however I can assure you that as soon as these questions become sub-conscious and your actions to correcting these issues are instinctive your image quality will rise with all haste.

The picture above of a glass trinket container is an example of keeping the setting simple. This image communicates the object is the glass container and that the design is important because of the glass clarity.  The surrounding set-up is designed to support the showcasing of the glass container and its design. The lighting of the object is important or there would be no exposure to see the container or its design.

A simple surrounding, focus on the object, light the object well and if necessary add intriguing lines. Enjoy!

Lighting Is Not Everything

I keep bringing everything back to light from almost every post. So perhaps some illustration  and explanation are in order on how lighting is important but “is not everything.”

You may ask “I don’t understand! If lighting isn’t everything, what is lighting?” Without light shots are practically impossible yes. Lighting is important, however just adding light is not the “cure-all” for poorly lit photography. The key to added lighting is its positioning. Light positioning came up in our 6 part article on “Back Lighting” and “Jewelry Photography” single, but how about “simple scenes”? What can be done to improve a shot with “house-hold lights”?

I want to caution anyone who may consider scenes “simple”. It may not  be difficult to see or understand, although a “simple shot” is exactly the photo with which you will come away. Simple shots often do not have depth, intrigue or definition, thus they appear “flat” and are not “interesting”. Lighting properly placed can change this in seconds.

Photographers who specialize in portraiture are aware of the technique “3/4 (‘three quarter’) lighting”; if not by name, I am certain they do in practice. A brief explanation of “3/4 lighting” and I will show you how I applied it in my illustration.

3/4 Lighting is strategically placing your light to the side of your subject and no more than 45 degrees below. From the starting position for lighting directly in-front of your subject’s face, pivoting the light around the side of your subject and then lowering the light in that plain to achieve your desired effect. Positioning a light in such a way will light about 3/4 of the face, thus “3/4 lighting.”

Lighting is not just a catalyst for capturing a photo, but also the important ingredient for making an image which has intrigue, contrast, clarity and definition.

Simplifying The Message

I find it difficult to discern the line between too much interest in a photo and too little. Let me give you some background about myself and some things which I have found helpful when I am on a photo shoot.

In college I was required to prepare and if called upon, give a public speech which was at-least 25 minutes in length and not to exceed 45 minutes. This can be a challenge! How does this apply to photography?

  • How do you gather enough interest or information for a photo (or to last 30 minutes)?
  • After putting together what I have, how do I put it in order?
  • Once a “dry run” is complete, how do I pare it down and still make sense?
  • What are the “key words and phrases” I must include?
  • How can I “beef” it up to be more than reading a script?

These are all very valid questions. Let me start by saying that in photography there hardly is ever a concern for “gathering interest”. I am grateful to have such beauty and splendor around with which to use as a back-drop!

The difficulty often comes when trying to put it all in order. Most of the time I take shots in neatly manicured gardens so that I do not have to set things in order. They already are in order! So, what about when I do not shoot photographs in a garden? I make sure of my subject (the person or object which the photo will display) and find a way to use the best available scenery as the back-drop.

Now to leave out the things that do not matter or take attention away from the subject. Getting closer to the subject or zooming closer in is a quick and easy solution, but do not be shy about moving around and changing the perspective of the shot to avoid specific things. Do be sure to keep your attention on the subject so that the shots do not come out with an odd feel because you were focused on not including “…that!…”

Our next to last question is even more subjective than the previous three, because this is part of your “style” as a photographer. I have seen many friends’ engagement photos and thought to myself, “I would have shot that different”, “I would have included this…” or “I would have excluded that!” That is just fine. Just because someone else would have done it another way does not mean that they are right, but shows the difference in style of photography. Remember: couples will usually ask for a portfolio of your work and it is your style that will grab their attention and get you the contract (providing of course prices are competitive and people skills are not horrible). The point is, price and people skill may be great, but if they do not like what they see in your portfolio, it probably will be a “no go.”

So whether you are shooting pictures of your adorable kids, or fascinated adventurer with a camera, remember; keep it simple and let your story be told!