Some say photography is a gift! It is definitely a skill. An a skill can be learnt. I have learnt photography over the years through a lot of trial and error. I have read articles, watched tutorials and practiced a lot.
I am often asked how to take better photos, like a one tip that can improve photography right away.
People also ask me, kind of indirectly, what I think of their photos. These people will improve their skills.
Photography can be studied because there are techniques to understand, learn and put into practice. But a very important way of learning photography is to look at photographs, good and bad, and try to understand what makes them good (or what makes it uninteresting).
A friend of mine posted this photo on Facebook a little while ago. There was no caption and no indication of where it was taken and what this image meant to my friend. There were only 2 Likes and no comment.
This photograph doesn't work for me. It is flat and lifeless. Now, of course, Facebook is not about publishing beautiful photos all the time but more about sharing personal information on a very personal basis. But a photo remains a photo. It exists to show something that we liked and share it with other people. It needs a meaning.
The big problem with this image is that it has no meaning. If my friend had written a couple of lines about it, explaining where it was taken and the feeling she felt at that time, describing her emotions and other senses, then it would have been more meaningful to others (although still flat and lifeless).
When I look at this photograph I see desolation. It's a grey day with an empty beach, dead trees, white sky and fog over the mountains in the background that appear really small. The mood is... well, I wouldn't want to be there. It seems cold and very uninspiring.
Maybe that's what my friend wanted to show. Maybe she wanted to warn us all that this is a place we should NOT go. But then I wish she'd named it ;)
I truly feel, however, that her message was quite the opposite. In that case I'm glad she didn't name it because it could be a place I've always wanted to go. But don't want to anymore! Lol ;)
WHAT'S THE MESSAGE?
This image above has a few graphic and compositional elements which I will be talking about more on this blog. Those elements help you create great composition. They can be curves, lines or shapes. They add interest to an image. But adding interest is not all. You also need to have a clear subject. Without a clear subject there is no message; and without a clear message a photograph can easily disappear in the abyss of meaningless images.
I can't really tell what the message is in this photo because the subject isn't clear. What is the message? Is it the beach? The sea? The trees maybe? Or the sky? Perhaps it's the mountains at the back? Unfortunately, they look really small and insignificant from where we stand.
The sand, the water, the trees and the sky all have more or less the same 'weight', with an equal amount of each so they compete with each other.
The sky is very uninteresting but it takes the most space. Now, our eyes are always attracted to brighter areas in a photo. Here, there's a lot of it. White means no subject, no information, no data. There is nothing to see. It is not interesting. Always crop out a boring white sky. The beach is in the foreground so it attracts our attention because of its size and position (front). But our eyes don't stop there. They go around the image erratically. Then they follow the lines made by the dried algae and by what looks like a pipe. Unfortunately those lines are cut off by dead tree trunks. So the eyes are trapped in the foreground triangle, looking for a subject, something interesting to rest our eyes.
Eventually your eyes follow the curvature of the water, find more lines on the beach to lead the path, but end up against a group of very dark and dead trees with no appeal whatsoever.
My eyes persist and keep following the coastline to the background of the image. And tah dah!!! We arrive at our final destination: the mountains. Tiny, foggy and unclear. Clearly not the main subject. Or are they?
So here I am again. What is the main subject in this photograph?
I look at this image and I do not want to be there. This is the negative message that this photograph is providing me.
SO WHAT COULD WE HAVE DONE TO IMPROVE THIS?
Personally I think the wavy line of dead leaves or algae on the bottom right corner is quite interesting because it has colour and texture in this monochromatic landscape. I like drift wood and dead trunks too, so I think I would have captured close-ups and made those the main subject.
What would you have done?