The 5 Keys to Award Winning High Impact Photography
2/5.......The 2nd Key: Subject
This is going to sound completely crazy, however I believe one of my biggest improvements in my photography came when I discovered the power of taking photos of "Something" rather than pointing my camera a large areas of "Anything".
Actively including subjects in your photos not only makes photos much stronger, having a subject also makes story telling much easier and makes composition choices much more simple.
You only have to flick through your favourite photography magazine and I bet in the majority of the featured photos you can easily identify the main subject.
If we look at the numbers, when studied through the photos that did well in international landscape photo competitions a huge 80% of photos contained a strong subject. Try this yourself, go to your favourite photo competition and count the amount of photos that contain a subject, something you can easily point as the subject of the photo.
Subject, Story and Drama.
Like a movie without a lead character, photos without a subject can struggle for impact.
News photographers are some of the best when it comes to including a subject to help tell the story they are trying to convey, its really no different for us landscape photographers, in its simplest form it is our job to tell compelling stories using just the photo itself. If you can tell interesting/compelling stories without any narration you will be well on your way to creating powerful, emotive Photography.
The Inclusion of a Subject makes story telling much easier, regardless of wether the subject is a rock, tree, shack, or human, you now how an object to tell the story about.
The Inclusion of a Subject helps add emotion/mood to your photos. Once again even if the subject you choose is an inanimate object, your viewers will still be more likely to relate to that image by imagining themselves in the place of the main subject.
In the photo below. If this boat shed had human feelings can you imagine how it might be feeling? Do you get the sense of Loneliness, Alone, maybe even feeling of weight on your shoulders or a sense of depression? I have tried to tell such a story via this inanimate object. Telling a similar story without the help of a subject is much more difficult.
Subject and Composition
As I mentioned choosing to include a main subject often makes choosing your composition much easier.
Again lets use the above Boat Shed photo for an example, once you have decided on the subject you are going to photograph its just a case of deciding where the pieces of the puzzle look best. In this example I had a couple of choices.
The First: Did I want the jetty (leading lines) running straight down the centre? My answer almost always for jetty's / roads or similar is YES!
The Second: Now that I know that I want the jetty in the centre, where do I want to place the subject? Again I really only have a couple of choices: Bottom 1/3, Middle or top 1/3. Again on the day I felt the middle was the best composition. Below are some other crop options and Ill think you will agree the above composition is the strongest.
Subject and Simplicity
By including a main subject we are basically telling ourselves what we need in our image, the issue with not having a subject is that I often find myself trying to include too many details and I end up with a cluttered confusing photo with a muddled story. By focusing in on a subject I can leave out all the details that are not directly helping to tell the story and I end up with a much simpler, stronger story.
Almost always less is better in photography.
By including a main subject in your photos you will find you begin to capture more simplistic, stronger, emotive photos with excellent compositions.
Give it a try and tell me what you think.
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