The Subject Doesn’t Win the Award!

You are walking into a photography exhibit and a friend who is leaving tells you to check out the great photograph of the red flower. You find it and agree, but is it a great photograph of a red flower, or a great photograph because it is a red flower? Is it simply an accurate representation of the flower or an image that is compelling in spite of the subject matter?

Good images are good because of many things such as mood, color, composition, balance, leading lines, visual impact, and a host of other variables. Subject matter is often the least of the determining factors. Documentation and photojournalism may make the time, place and content of an image rise to a higher level of importance, but most photography has little to do with the subject matter beyond our initial reaction.

We begin to see images using the left side of our brain, the side that recognizes content. The right side of our brain is analyzing the light, the tone, the color, and most importantly, the structure. Essentially, the right side of your brain is making the image an abstraction and checking it for balance and composition. It is deciding whether or not the image “feels” right with respect to what we understand from our experience and study of other art and photography.

That means we can train ourselves to be better. The more experience we have with good images, the more our brain can help us decide whether we really like what we are looking at. It can help us be better photographers. The more you challenge the right side of your brain with good images the greater the database it creates to use to determine the quality of your own work. This is how you can teach yourself to be a better image maker.

Another way to look at it might be this. If all you see, all you investigate are average photographs your own image making will not likely exceed that benchmark. You can actually create a roadblock to your own creativity if you do not look at better images. Stretching the limits of what you see as possible can help you recognize what is simply ordinary.

I will be speaking this coming Monday, April 4th, 2016 at the meeting of the West Shore Photography Club. The meeting is at the Bethany Towers Community Room on Wesley Drive in Mechanicsburg, PA at 7 p.m. My topic for discussion is post processing, including tips on setting up Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw for efficiency. I will illustrate my post processing workflow with an emphasis on what can be done in Photoshop or Elements to move beyond initial raw processing for greater impact.

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