Tag Archives: Differences

The Zen of photographing collections

Collections of things are fun and easy to photograph. Everyone loves a collection.

Collections of things are fun and easy to photograph. Everyone loves a collection.
Click image to view large. “Pencils” By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Collections are everywhere

For some reason us humans love them! So taking photos of collections seems natural. The shots pull viewers in. They are easy to photograph too. In this post we’ll get you started on this fun photographic frolic!

First, what is a collection? Simply a number of items in the same category. Pencils; pens and pencils; crayons or all three are different collections of things in the same category. If there is a common theme mixing things it’s fine. Or, you can have all the same objects in your collection. Normally I find a large number of items is best. That is helpful to cover a whole frame of your shot, and it also gives you scope to vary the way they are laid out.

Organised collections

Organised collections are those that show a neat arrangement. Of course this can be a bit boring. So lovely arrangements really help here. There is plenty of scope to develop your artistic talents. Here is a series of photographs that have both beauty and organisation, but a limited range of the collected items: Thousands of suspended buttons made as common objects External link - opens new tab/page.

There are so many beautiful photographs of pencils in neat arrangements online. Here is a link with image ideas… Collections of pencil photographs on Google ImagesExternal link - opens new tab/page. It is worth trying out a few to see how you get on.

Pencils are particularly fun to photograph. They make great arrangements and have wonderful colours.

Pencils are particularly fun to photograph. They make great arrangements and have wonderful colours.
Click image to view large. “Arrangement” By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Both of my pencil photographs here are carefully arranged to be “different” in a small way. At the top of the page the pencils are arranged so some are pointing out, and some point in. It’s just added interest. Can you spot the one difference in the picture “Arrangement”? The idea with a neat collection is to introduce a random element to capture the imagination of your viewer. Or to raise questions in their mind. That way they are pulled into the shot and become absorbed. Then your picture has succeeded.

Disordered collections

There is even more potential for disordered collections than with ordered ones. Wow! Think pebbles on the beach. An infinite variety of arrangements right before your eyes. However, this can trip you up. What do you look at or photograph first?

The first principle is to look for something that you think is interesting. Look around for a while and find some pebbles that are brightly coloured or that have particularly good markings. Then you can assemble them as if that was the way you found them.

I have often found that you can find something completely different to break up the pattern. Then the pebbles become a background. I have on different occasions in the past introduced seaweed, a leaf, a small piece of driftwood… you get the idea. The one-off object placed in your collection relives the monotony and highlights the collection at the same time.

Of course disordered collections can have ordered elements to relieve the monotony. In the image below I introduced a little pattern. It may not be immediately obvious. But the idea is that the pattern comes out after a short time looking at the picture. The viewer is pulled in while trying to establish order – then suddenly finds it.

"Stones and Shell" - creating order out of chaos

“Stones and Shell” – creating order out of chaos
Click image to view large.
“Stones and Shell” By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Disordered collections are quite fun when you have multi-coloured items and only a few. I have seen some great cotton reel shots. Brightly coloured stationary items are fun too – I love paper clips. Those make great backgrounds for all sorts of purposes. I have taken drawing pins, buttons, polished stones… all sorts of collections.

I have shown many collections in exhibitions and competition too. They always attract attention. It often depends on the way they are photographed of course. In various situations the importance of light comes to the fore. This next photograph was taken for a client. The subject matter is perhaps not the most inviting. However, the interesting shapes, shallow depth of field and the moody light changes the “clinical” to the “interesting”. The shallow incidence of soft light also helps define the shapes which might otherwise have been lost in a full high key lighting situation.

"Medical lancets" - shallow depth of field and moody light softens the appearance of the collection.

“Medical lancets” – shallow depth of field and moody light softens the appearance of the collection.
Click image to view large.
“Medical lancets” By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Over the years I have had a great deal of fun working with collections and creating shots. They provide plenty of interest for the eye and can involve great colour, geometry, pattern, chaos, form and shape. Have a go – you will find collections are very stimulating subjects. And, the endless variety offers so many photo opportunities.

Hobby collections

There is a great deal to be said about hobby collections. Each item in such a collection is prized and valued. Displays and lighting are a special part of the presentation and the actual photography. So I am not going to tackle this subject in this post. It is an involved and deep subject which relies on the particular hobby. However, it is worth mentioning that often photographs of hobby collections are about taking a record shot. In the links below I have put some links relating to hobby collections that may be worth you following up.

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has also 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+.

A composition tip to make you look like a pro…

"Old and new" - one of the many ways to make a contrast

“Old and new” – one of the many ways to make a contrast.

A punchy composition gets attention every time.

The way you make your audience sit up and look at your work is to catch their eye. It is not always easy. However, a strong composition helps. One way you can really make them look is to use sharp contrasts.

What is a contrast?

In photographic composition a contrast is when we see a striking difference between one thing and another. We want to identify something that may have the same origin as things around it. Yet, despite that, it’s strikingly different, or strikingly out of place. We picture it because it is extraordinary that it should be there and at odds with its surroundings or others of the same origin.

Often when we compose a photograph we are looking to maintain a consistent approach to the scene. We want it to look as if all the elements in the frame belong there and fit in. Beauty or aesthetic success depends on the composition being well adjusted and contains the things we expect to be there. In a photograph with a contrast we are trying to do the opposite. We are pulling out the strong differences, opposites; the extraordinary among the ordinary.

How to find contrasts

Contrasts are difficult to spot simply because they hide within the range of our everyday lives. The familiarity we have with them makes them almost mundane. Yet when they are pointed out the power of the contrast comes out. Here are a few things to look for…

  • Category contrasts: Modern buildings in a business park with one very old building (like my picture above)… These are where you show something of the same type, but demonstrate they are very different in the shot.
  • Colour: A picture with strong tonal variations throughout on one colour invaded by just one contrasting colour at some point in the picture. Black on white; red on green.
  • Opposits: right-way-up verses upside-down; many of one opposing one of another; back to front; normal vs. inside-out.
  • Same but different: People – man vs. woman; Cars – old against new; Young vs. old
  • Objects: soft vs. hard; strong vs. weak; round vs. angular; broken vs. complete
Where are all these contrast?

Its true to say that the most striking contrasts are often missed. They are so much a part of our modern life that it’s often only photographers and comedians who see them. Comedians explain them simply – the absurdity makes them funny. Photographers depict them simply and make them stand out.

Because many of the best contrasts hide in plain site there is one really good way to bring them out. Separate them from the surroundings. Isolate the contrast so it can be openly seen. For example, a tiny tree in a forest is normal and not striking. But, a bare windswept and rocky hillside with one huge tree and one tiny one amongst the desolation brings out the contrast.

It is your job as a photographer to look for things that are ordinary, but different. Look for things that are the same, but strikingly displaced from the normal. These contrasts are fun. They make great subjects. They catch the eye and challenge the mind of your viewer.