Expressing ourselves is more than just clicking the shutter button when we see a scene we like. The point-and-shoot photographer says little to the viewer beyond blandly representing the scene before them. That is probably why the dreaded “holiday photo evening” is so acutely boring. Those images speak only to the author and family. To go beyond our close associates and reach a wider audience, the photographer has to be able to say more. We must speak to the viewers and open a dialogue with them through our images.
Expressing ourselves when the viewer knows the language of images
We photogs are communicators. As such we often forget the audience is more literate in our art than we realise. So personally, we are able to decode images with success, but think the audience can not interpret our work. As a result, we work too hard to try and say something. Perhaps we try to say too much or over-complicate the message we want to send. Taking the simple approach is what is really needed. In photography, as in all art, simplicity often has the most powerful impact. With a simple point, our images speak to the audience.
Remember, it is the thought you put into a photograph that makes it work, not the rapid capture on the spur of the moment. Think, and you will communicate. React and you will merely render. We should try to go beyond mere rendering of a scene. Our images need to have a point if they are to be a success. With every image we should seek to make a point. With every image we should speak to the viewer.
To make the meaning of a photograph clear takes some thought. Knowledge of the “Elements of Art” help us to develop the visual power in the image we can create. However, thinking about how we communicate gives us the language we need to actually create images that convey messages. That is about trying to show your viewer something. For example, if we wish to create the “Aaaahh!” experience of the fluff-ball kitten with big eyes, then focus on that. Exclude background clutter, the baby near-by, the toys on the floor. Get rid of distractions. Instead, get right in, close, and show that kitten with all its endearing qualities.
Expressing ourselves in images is a primary skill that successful photographers work on as they develop. So, think carefully about what you are trying to say before you make your image. Work with your subject to include only the elements you need to make your point. Exclude other things from the shot, so your point is clear.
Video – an insight to expressing ourselves
The video below is about expressing ourselves through visual art. The lesson is simple. We are all fluent in the language of images without knowing it.
Knowing that the viewer can decode our images helps us. With a little thought, expressing ourselves as photographers is easier than we think. Make the image simple.
In this short, hilarious video, Christoph Niemann, illustrator, opens up the language of images. He shows us how artists (and by extension photographers) can tap into human emotions and thought. This simple visual tour can help you understand how we express ourselves effectively as image makers.
You are fluent in this language (and don’t even know it)
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Article AuthorDamon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training courses in digital photography.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.