That's just a snapshot.

Started Nov 15, 2012 | Discussions thread
Mark Scott Abeln
Mark Scott Abeln Forum Pro • Posts: 12,439
Re: That's just a snapshot.

brianj wrote:

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words, but only if it tells a story, otherwise its worth no words.

In computer science, a word is 16 bits in length, so your first photo is worth 208,297 words.

Most of my picture taking when I am not on a trip or tour is purely for the sake of practice and most images would never be seen again.

That is fine. Practice makes perfect as they say, but I think that practice coupled with feedback is supremely important.

I am seldom or never in a situation where a real jounalistic story unfolds, like the Prime Minister falling over, so there is no real story to tell.

That all depends on how you define “story.”

It is a natural human faculty to unconsciously extend the boundaries of the frame of an image, reading into the image what we imagine is beyond it, or what occurred before, or what will occur afterwards. I think this is called the ‘associative imagination’ or something like that, and subjectively depends on the experiences of the viewer. In this manner, I think, is the way ‘story’ is defined. I don’t think this is always the most important thing to get right, however. A striking scene, showing a subject in an interesting manner, can also be very important, even though a ‘story’ can be hard to find. Typically I don’t expect to find a story in an abstract work: some theorists instead will say that this triggers an aesthetic response, which is extremely abstract and does not really form a narrative.

Some artists instead state that an image, if well done, can transport a person, in their imagination, briefly into the frame of the image. How this is done is subject to various tools of composition, including centers of focus and leading lines. Do you compositions do this?

The source of the phrase ‘every picture tells a story’ may be from the first chapter of the book Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, where the narrator tells about her imagination upon viewing images in a book of birds: I think that the first chapter is worth reading, since it touches upon notions of the imagination.

Should I go to the trouble of putting people into all my images so I can manufacture an obvious story?

Adding human figures, or even animals, can drastically alter the impression of an image. A landscape can be pretty, but if a figure is added in the foreground, looking at the same scene as the camera, then the landscape can be transformed into a dreamscape, with many more layers of meaning.

Undoubtably this is hard to do well, and although I’d like to do it myself, I think that a particularly suitable model would have to be carefully chosen and composed into the image. If not done well, this can transform an awesome landscape into a poor snapshot.

So no, don’t introduce figures unless it improves the final image, unless the figures are an integral part of the image.

Should I not show any more images here because I don't have the opportunity to capture a good story?

Feedback is important, but being able to judge your critics, however, becomes more important as you get better. A beginner can profit from advice given by even other beginning photographers, but an expert photographer needs to be more careful.

Does everyone only see images with an apparent story as being of value?

Should I not show anyone the images I take for fun because I know they tell no real story?

No. I never attempt to tell a story, rather, I attempt to portray a scene well, giving my viewers — I hope — a solid representation of the scene or subject. I have a few ideas for narrative photos, but again I need the right models in order to pull that sort of thing off well.

Please respond with your thoughts on this whole issue.

I wouldn’t worry about narrative or story, if that isn’t what you want to do, or if you don’t understand the concept well — and I know that I don’t have a clear understanding of it. But perhaps you can aim to eventually provide more than a literal level of meaning.

Regarding your specific photos, I think that they could be more interesting if they expressed the architecture of the building more clearly, using the principles of formal composition. All of these photos are shot at odd angles and at distances away from the principle axes of the structure.

Instead, consider which prominent lines are horizontal and vertical in the structure: are these lines likewise horizontal and vertical in your images? Consider the symmetries found in the structure: are these symmetric in your image? Consider shooting right down the middle of the structure; put the camera precisely on a line of symmetry; keep your camera level, introduce no tilt into the camera, having no tilt from horizontal or vertical. Point your camera directly at the plane of symmetry of the opposite wall. These formal considerations, while not always called for, can greatly improve an image, making it look less like a snapshot and more like a definitely composed image.

If you must tilt your camera, then tilt it boldly, but do not tilt it only slightly: a bold tilt — such as shooting high up on a wall — looks intentional, while a slight tilt can be interpreted as being merely sloppy.

You might also consider improving your technique. Many of your photos are overexposed, with broad areas of pure white. I think it would be helpful learning how to adjust your exposure, and to read your histograms, so that you don’t get such large areas of white. Selecting the right time of day might help here too.

I hope this has been helpful to you.

 Mark Scott Abeln's gear list:Mark Scott Abeln's gear list
Nikon D200 Nikon D7000 Nikon D750 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D +2 more
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