A class exercise placing points in an interesting position within a given space. A simple task that was not at all easy.
Grouping dots on a page is easy, but altering the apparent distance between subjects isn’t. The most effective way of achieving this is through perspective control especially when the subjects can’t be re-arranged... like buildings, for example. Altering how subjects appear to be grouped together can be an effective way of creating subliminal perceptions.
Usually when we contemplate how we want to photograph a subject we also combine various design elements with other forms. Forms can be texture, colour, tone or reflections. The lighting quality, quantity and direction will have a dramatic effect on revealing the surface texture of a subject. When using ambient light, choosing the time of day and the atmospheric conditions that prevail are your main methods of controlling texture.
In Image 6 an example of point has been used in combination with tone and colour. A tonal value called a highlight will gain a viewer’s attention first and foremost. In this case it has been combined with texture and colour as well. This technique is often referred to as emphasising. Image 7 is a page on the subject of emphasising from the class workbook and illustrating other types commonly used. With the introduction of digital imaging, emphasising such components as colour and tone can be achieved much more easily than it was using ‘analog’ film. Before digital, much of the emphasising techniques in this respect were dependant on the subject material.
Rhythm is another advantageous tool that can be used to convey your message to the viewer. Some of the terms that could be used to describe this element are ‘slow’, ‘exciting’, ‘lyrical free form’ and so on. Another page of paste-up – Image 8 – illustrates various forms of rhythm. Image 9 demonstrates what would be classified as ‘tranquil rhythm’.
Examples of using point in images and the methods used to achieve it.
Rhythm can be influenced by things like the shutter speed because this influences motion blur. Further control can be gained by combining the shutter speed with the effects of fill-in flash and how much ambient light you allow to bleed into the shot. But, for the most part, rhythm is subject dependant and all the photographer can do is ‘go with the flow’ and work with the subject.
To finish the first part of this article I would like to have a look at the use of repetition as a design element. One of the things human beings are good at is repeating things. It can be in the form of architecture, a theme or pattern, to name a few.
The image of the vineyards in Tasmania is a good example of the use of repetition of a theme combined with an emphasis on colour. There are deep-seated psychological reasons as to why repetition appeals to us, but this discussion is really outside the brief of a magazine such as this. Rest assured, though, it is a design element that also exists in nature and is often used by photographers and artists alike to create
More is not necessarily better. Some images that contain many different design elements and which you thought, at the time you pressed the shutter button, would create a strong image don’t work at all well when you see them on the monitor.
Even if the subject material itself is uncomplicated, the shot still becomes messy when the viewer tries to unravel the many messages they are discovering. I guess it comes back to the old ‘KISS’ adage... keep it simple, stupid.
In the next part of this series I will look at other design elements such as the golden mean, value, mood, centre ground confusion and symmetrical versus asymmetrical balance. In the mean time revisit some of the images you have taken in the past and that you really like, and see how many of the design elements outlined in this article you have used. I
don’t think you will have to study them long to identify more than one.
Thanks to photographers Pete Condon, Anthony Tyller and Chris Moody for the tear sheet images used in the work book.
Andy Cross is an expert in image prepress and printing techniques, both traditional and digital. He runs Visual Impact Photography in Brisbane which specialises in fine-art photography and making exhibition quality prints. He can be contact via email at email@example.com