Tag Archives: Meaning

A simple lesson in photography is the main study

Are your eyes wide shut?

Most people walk around with their eyes open. But not everyone sees the same things. Do people see the things that photographers see? What is it that photographers see that is different?

The way of seeing

After years looking through a lens I did not understand that photographers see things that other people do not see. Then I began a thorough study of composition. After a while of looking around at the world with my new insight I noticed two things. First, the lens distorted the view that my eye saw. Second, the compositional elements I had learned about changed my view of the world through the lens.

As I have studied photography, and in particular composition, I have found more and more insights. My view of photography as a discipline has completely changed from my early ideas. In my photographs I see many compositional possibilities that help me view the scene in front of me. The new things I learned about gave me new ways to see. There is nothing special about this. People go through rigorous professional training for years to get insights that affect the way they think.

The extraordinary thing is that I do not find it easy to explain what I see that is different. I just know that light, colours, lines, shapes, forms, colours and tones are all things I notice now that I did not before.

There are other things I see too. When we view the world we notice things that interest us and then filter out the clutter that is of no interest. Our brains simplify the world to make it understandable. That does not happen as readily in the real world. Yet when photographers get started they try to photograph everything as if the viewer can see past the clutter. In fact, in a photograph, the clutter gets in the way of the image. Photographers learn to distill the clutter from the photograph and present the image in a simplified way.

The other thing I have learned is that there is meaning in every image. That is something that is difficult to divine. Sometimes even the photographer cannot understand their own motive for shooting a picture or articulate the meaning in it. Yet there is always some personal, emotional, social or interest-based meaning underlying the shot. All sorts of hidden messages can be imparted by the image to the viewer – often in a subliminal way. These messages are readily open to being focused on by the photographer, amplified by the setting and the composition. The meaning becomes an important part of the image.

For me there are three dimensions in photography. The length of photography is seeing the light. By seeing and understanding light we see colour, dark, shadow, form – all the manifestations of the real world. The width of photography is the simplicity we bring to our images to make them understandable. By reducing the clutter and opening up the scene in the image for our viewer we let them in to perceive the point of the image. The height of the image is the meaning. By imparting a meaning, no matter how simple, we give the image a life which is detected by our viewers.

All the things which impact on a starter in photography become a sort of white noise. So it is difficult to see the core of what goes into images. Yet these three dimensions are there in every part of our work. It may not be easy to see straight away, but look for these things and your photography will improve.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

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’.

Simple philosophy, simple photography

The moment you look down a lens you see life differently.

It is almost as if what you see is disconnected from the ‘you’ standing there. Actually, as your photography develops, seeing through the lens becomes an extension of yourself. Photography is a continuous process of becoming connected to what you photograph. You want more detail and more insight as you see more through your glass.

It’s a part of the human condition to enjoy life, through which we gain insights. Such insights come also from the painful things we see. Pain and pleasure are two ends of the same scale. It is little wonder that photographers, and artists, through the ages have been both seers and the afflicted.

Our view of the world reflects the perceptive filter we use. If we see life as difficult – it is. If we see life as wonderful – it is. We turn on our own filter and see our own world. We create our own type of reality.

When we photograph we speak to the viewer. We tell them what we see. We transmit an image of our seeing. Our photographic insight is our communication.

As you grow in your photography try to say something important about your pain or pleasure. Perhaps not with every picture. Perhaps not every time you pick up your camera. But, do think about it. Do try to say something. Make it simple and meaningful. If possible, make it beautiful and insightful.

Succeed a few times in passing simple, beautiful messages, and before long your photography becomes your philosophy.

Photokonnexion is a regular Twitterer. We try to pass simple messages to make people think more about photography. If you would like to follow us we are @photokonnexion on Twitter.

Have you forgotten to account for colour in your shots?

Photographers often forget the importance of colour.

Painters and artists live their artistic lives with colour and ruthlessly use it. Photographers often forget that they can take pictures to emphasize and manipulate the colours they see. Here is an exciting video that opens up some avenues for you to explore in the world of colour.

In a previous post I have pointed out that colour can have specific cultural and social contexts as well as impacting us as biological organisms. Colour has meaning for who we are and it affects our behaviour. Pretty significant stuff! So, it makes sense to have an understanding of the impact colour can have when we take a photograph. Colour is an intimate part of the message we pass when we take a photograph. If you want proof of this then just see how many deep red and orange sunsets adorn photography websites world-wide.

By way of introduction to the video the authors say…

Color is one of the fundamental elements of our existence, and defines our world in such deep ways that its effects are nearly imperceptible. It intersects the worlds of art, psychology, culture, and more, creating meaning and influencing behavior every step of the way. Most fascinating are the choices we make, both subconsciously and consciously, to use color to impact each other and reflect our internal states. Whether in the micro-sense with the choice of an article of clothing, or the macro-sense where cultures on the whole embrace color trends at the scale of decades, color is a signifier of our motives and deepest feelings.
PBSoffbook – Oct 18, 2012 – Published on YouTube

More information on the content of this video can be found here  External link - opens new tab/page.
Produced by Kornhaber Brown  External link - opens new tab/page.


Use detail to say so much more

"English Summer Garden Party" - you don't need to show everything to convey meaning

“English Summer Garden Party” – you don’t need to show everything to convey meaning.
Sometimes a few details are enough.

The meaning is often already in the mind of the observer.

Your photograph does not need to show everything. The mind is a fertile environment for filling in the rest. What you need to do is convey a sense of what is going on.

What we want to do…

…is capture the scene. We have an overwhelming need to show people what is going on. The new photographer will want to show the scene – everything the eye can see. After all you want people to know what you have seen and experienced when you were there. The meaning of the scene is in the experience of its fullness. Or so we want to think.

The mind is a filter

No one truly sees what you see – even if you do show the whole scene and make a great job of it. Everyone wears special glasses, called a perceptual filter. It creates a unique world for each of us. We all see a world around us coloured by our previous experiences, disappointments, loves, wants, hates, wishes, actions, history – everything. From our inner selves we impart meaning into everything we see.

For the artist and photographer

We can take advantage of this perceptual filter. A good picture will communicate meaning to the viewer. It will tap into that perceptual filter and set free something in the mind of the observer that stimulates them. Your picture will be all the more compelling if you stimulate that inner meaning. The detail of something may do that more effectively than the whole scene. It is often the tiniest things that set us off down memory lane.