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Aesthetic Judgments: Composition, Color & Story

In the first part of my thoughts on aesthetic judgments I introduced the first two considerations on my list of five that inform my work. This post discusses the rest of them starting with…

Composition

Composition is the pleasing expression of the elements in a space. I prefer to lock the camera on a tripod then adjust the elements in the frame. Shooting tethered into a computer also assists me in this quest. Finally, I always give myself permission to frame my subject loosely to allow for cropping. No where in any of the works on composition I’ve encountered has the two to three aspect ratio of today’s DSLR and mirror-less cameras been proclaimed as ideal. An art director once told me to “compose with mercy” to allow the graphic designer room to crop to fit the layout. In my process, I spend a considerable amount of time, exploring the crop of a photograph.

For me composition starts with the light. Directing the eye from AJs face to her hands is a compositional act as well as being one about lighting. I ask questions about what I’ve placed in the viewfinder.

  • How does my eye flow through the image?
  • Where is she looking?
  • What does she see?
  • Would the piece work better if there were more space in front?
  • Does centering the subject make for more impact?
  • Would extra space (or less) add mystery?

The photos below tell two different stories. A successful composition supports the story. More on story in a minute.

Color

Color evokes emotion. Emotional connection supports what the photograph is saying. Colors evoke different emotions.

  • Blues are peaceful. Blue can be cold. Blue might even be depressing. Blue can suggest loyalty.
  • Reds are powerfully intense emotionally. Red attracts the viewers attention. Red is heat. Red is love.
  • Green talks to us of nature. Green is relaxing. Dark green can be masculine.
  • Yellow is a happy color that attracts attention. Yellow shows optimism.
  • Brown is the earth color. Brown can be sad. Brown is authentic. Brown can be wistful.
  • Purple is the color of kings and queens. Purple is luxurious. Purple denotes wealth. Purple suggests refinement.
  • White is purity. White is clean. White is innocence.
  • Black is power. Black can be submissive. That’s why clerics favor black to show their surrender to a higher power.
  • Black can be evil. Black can show authority. Black is slimming.

What statements do you make with color in your photographs?

Story

Photographers love to talk about their images. Its fun and when viewers agree it feels really great. Heres the question I keep in mind when Im selecting photographs from a take: What does this photograph say when I am not there to speak for it?

What story does this photograph say to you? Is it a picture of a girl wearing purple lingerie? Is there more? What story can you imagine about it?

What is this woman's story?
What is this woman’s story?

The story I wrote to guide the shoot

Its just before dusk. Soft, warm light from a window with sheer curtains illuminates the woman regarding her self in a full-length mirror. She knows preparation is everything. The important rendezvous later that evening runs through her mind. She knows the outfit she has picked is pedestrian. It is a considered choice designed to reveal little to those she will meet. Her lingerie, on the other hand, reminds her of her bloodline and the cultured competence it represents. She is confident. She knows, when its over, the evening will be hers.

Using my aesthetic list

Every aesthetic element in the photograph builds my story… The lighting suggests early evening. The light on AJ is soft and natural, while the blue highlight coming from behind supports the time. It evokes peaceful solace that things will go her way. Her purple lingerie states that she has a regal and refined demeanor. The pose is a compositional element that tells us she is regarding her look in a mirror.

Do I know what other viewers story will be? No. Do I expect them to know the story I wrote? Not at all. I write the story to set the rationale as a foundation for the elements I present. The backstory I write for a scene in a shoot is to inform the team. It’s not to explain the photograph to the viewer. It’s up to the person seeing the photograph to build their own story from my aesthetic clues.2192-PSW LV lightingKevin is a commercial photographer from Atlanta. He works for fashion, architectural, manufacturing and corporate clients. When he’s not shooting, he contributes to Photoshop User magazine & writes for Photofocus.com.
http://kevinamesphotography.com
https://facebook.com/KevinAmesPhotography

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