Tag Archives: Design

Images should make a point… photographic meaning

No Image Today - put photographic meaning in every image you make.

• No Image Today •
There should be a point to every image you make. An image is a communication. Without meaning it is just a picture.

What is a true image?

If your picture has succeeded it has to conjure an image in the mind of the viewer. But if your picture is just that, a picture, it will not succeed. For the genuine photographer, nice is not good enough. A picture should have a meaning, a point, something that makes it a communication. It should have something that makes it an image in the viewers mind.

Photographic meaning… the punch in the picture

Uncertainty about the validity of an image is a necessary part of creativity. Especially in the sense that you should always question, “Have I actually said anything in this picture?” Photographic meaning is an important idea. To really comprehend it, ask yourself if your picture says anything. Be sure you have really transformed it into an image.

I remember once sitting by an autumnal birch tree. It had lovely little yellow leaves and was a nice shape. I took a picture of it. But in the end that picture was simply a nice tree. It spoke to me because of the few minutes pleasure it gave me as I admired it. The picture had nothing to say to anyone else. I never showed it to anyone else, ever. It was about my feelings. It said nothing and was of no benefit to anyone else. It had no photographic meaning. It’s now lost in the obscurity of hundreds of thousands of my other images. ‘Nice’ is simply not good enough to achieve photographic meaning.

We could be picky and obtuse. “Well, it had a non-fatalistic statement to make about the environmental impact of an autumnal tree in its cardinal state, doing what birch trees do… etc.”. Actually, saying anything about it would be mere fluff on the wind. It was a non-picture. Devoid of photographic meaning, it satisfied nothing in the viewer.

You could say the picture now has a ‘raison d’etre’ following this blog. But that was not a necessary, or sufficient, reason for the picture. It’s a post hoc justification for its existence.

The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos

When I first read this I wondered how useful it would be. But I learned the importance of photographic meaning. Composition in all its forms is critical to great image-making. Read this book. It is a visual treat as well as a great insight to the power of design and composition in your photography.
The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos


Think of all photographs you make as a way to communicate something. That birch tree picture did not speak to an audience. I remember it now because I sat and stared at the picture for ages thinking, “What was I thinking about to take this picture?”. As an image it conjured nothing in the mind of the viewer. As a picture it failed to pass the photographic meaning test.

Nice is not good enough – images must carry photographic meaning

The ‘birch tree’ incident, not the picture, serves as a reminder. Creativity should have a point – be an actual communication. Otherwise it will have no photographic meaning and little else to commend its existence.

A dedication – Photographic Meaning

This is dedicated to my friend Alison. She struggles to understand her own significance as a communicator. Actually, her astute photo-observations convey a lot of photographic meaning.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon 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 for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Simple ‘Principles’ of photographic composition

Photographic composition happens on two levels.

First you should work to understand the scene at the basic level – the ‘elements’ that catch the eye and draw the viewer in. Then you should think about how to construct the overall composition. A photograph is all about the impact you create in your viewers mind. Composition is about constructing that impact.

The principles of art, design and photography

In Easy introduction to ‘visual elements’ in photographs we examined the elements of a photograph. The visual elements in a scene are the components that enable us to distinguish objects from one-another. They are the patterns we see from which we make sense of the world.

Organising the visual elements into a coherent photograph requires a higher level of composition. This is the layer of design. It is the layer that artists, including photographers, use to create an overall composition. One that lies above the native elements of the scene.

These principles pull together the elements in the scene. There are eleven of the “Principles”. However, some are so intimately mixed that people sometimes combine them. They are all in there however, they are presented. Here they are:

  • Balance: The state of creating visual equilibrium between elements in the picture.
  • Contrast: Conditions within the picture that emphasize differences, conflicts, opposition, between the elements.
  • Emphasis: The establishment of a focal point, or centre of dominance in a picture.
  • Variety: The visual interest that draws a number of different elements together.
  • Unity: The concept behind the picture, the comprehensiveness of the scene, the oneness of the message.
  • Harmony: Overall visual continuity achieving the unity in the theme; the wholeness of the elements; simplicity; uncluttered; conditions that emphasize similarity, peace and flow.
  • Proportion: Controls the size relationships of the different elements or components in the scene.
  • Rhythm: The use of visual elements to induce regular movement, a visual repetition or tempo.
  • Movement: Can be either a combination of elements to depict action/movement; or a dynamic design to draw the eye through the picture.
  • Pattern: The repeating of one type of element to create a picture (or form a major part of one).
  • Repetition: A combination of elements used many times to create a harmonious whole.

More after this…

Examples – a slide show!

It is difficult to take these principles out of context and understand them straight away. Here is a short slide show by Chandler Studio Art. The examples pull the concepts together. However, you should remember the ideas from the post on Easy introduction to ‘visual elements’. Because the ‘Principles’ pull them together. The author revises the elements in the beginning and asks you to remember them again at the end, before summarising the Principles.

Click the bottom arrows to move back or forward on the slides. Use the four arrow symbol (Right end) to expand the slide to full screen size.


Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog 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 for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.