Principles of Visual Dynamics
If you like rules, remember exceptions prove the rules. Being too insistent on the application of hard and fast rules can blind you to many exceptional opportunities. If you don’t like rules, remember that while there are no absolutes there are forces at work that have consistent tendencies. Denying or ignoring universal principles will lead to unpredictable unrepeatable results; you’ll achieve success far less frequently and be far less able to repeat your successes.
Forget rules. Forget absolutes. Forget musts. Instead develop an awareness of visual principles. Look for the unique power each element has to influence a composition. Develop a sensitivity to how elements and combination of elements make the forces at work in a composition stronger or weaker. Instead of composing formulaically, you’ll then be able to improvise. Understanding the principles of visual dynamics will help make your decision making process more informed, it will not make choices for you. Awareness is the key. Better awareness brings better choices bringing better results.
~John Paul Caponigro from his article Photographic Composition: Introduction
The decisions that the photographer must make are decisions that are made on the basis of feelings and emotions. Decisions that are aimed at expressing our emotional response to a scene, our perception of the subject we desire to photograph, and our personal artistic approach. All of these represent individual choices, choices that we are usually unaware of until we find ourselves in the act of capturing a specific subject with a lens and a camera. As such, this process prevents camera designers and software engineers to program either the hardware or the software to automatically express our response to the subject. They cannot program it any more than we can program it because both of us ignore what this response will be.
So what am I getting at in this explanation? I am getting at the fact that no matter how advanced and automaticized the equipment and the software we use becomes, there cannot be a substitute for individual input and expression.
What I am also getting at is the fact that the field of endeavor where this individual input is best expressed is the field of composition. Why? First, because composition is about personal choices: very few, if any, aspects of composition can be automaticized. Second, because composition is a field of endeavor composed of multiple facets and not just a set of rules. If it was just a set of rules it would be possible, theoretically, to think that these rules may be embedded in camera or computer software and that such software may have the ability to “compose” photographs on the basis of these rules, or the ability to give us directions aimed at helping us compose images in a specific way.
Without color the components of visual design become that much more important. Look at the lines in the image. Are they horizontal? Vertical? Diagonal? Do they form a pattern? Rhythm or repeating elements in a photo are interesting, with a break in the repetition being even more interesting. Also look at the texture, shapes, and forms in the image. Concentrating on these will take your mind off the color and enhance your ability to “see” and think in monochrome.
~Joel Wolfson from his article Digital Black and White Photography Tips and Techniques
Here’s a run-down of the most common elements that you should look for when identifying a suitable subject for the black-and-white treatment. Remember that these elements can be used individually, or even combined to produce marvellous mono images with clout.
1. Contrast, shape & form
One of the fundamental aspects of black and white photography is that your whole composition relies on contrast (for on composing images, see our 10 rules of photo composition – and why they work). For this reason, look out for subjects that feature simple, strong lines and shapes. It’s often the shadows that define shape and form, so pay attention to areas of darkness, as well as light.
Black and white photos actually include a whole range of greys, which add subtlety to your images. Normally, you look for subjects that will translate into a range of tones from black to white, but you can also get great results where the subject is mostly light (high-key) or dark (low-key).
3. Texture and detail
Fine detail, or strong textures such as weather-beaten stone, foliage or clouds, can help to give your black-and-white shots depth and interest. Strong side lighting is perfect for bringing out the texture in any subject. You can use strong natural light, or get creative with flash to create sidelighting on the subject.
4. Graphic composition
Black-and-white images need strong compositions to really work. Keep an eye out for strong lines or features in your scene that can be used as leading lines, or positioned diagonally across the frame to create dynamic images.
~Black and White Photography: What Every Photographer Should Know
The Power of the Selective Focus Technique
If you’re searching for an easy but effective abstract photography technique, selective focus is the technique for you. A narrow depth of field is achieved by the selection of a large aperture. The camera is then focused on the center of interest of the image. The rest of the objects in the image will fade into a soft blur.
There are two things which can be done to make your images even more notable when utilizing this technique. First, the color of the background should be different from the center of interest. The second point is that the center of interest can be made even stronger by using curves to point toward the center of interest.
The Use of Light and Shadows
Using the interplay of light and shadows can create drama in an image. Now, some photographers tend to think only in terms of light. This is a mistake — for light is nothing without shadows. Shadows are not just a lack of light. Instead, shadows function to make the light come to life. It is the shadows that shape the light, that draw attention to the light, and that integrate with the light to produce striking photographic opportunities. This is especially true with abstract images.
So, what is the shadows’ role in this technique? The primary role of the shadows is to help to define the forms. In other words, the shadows’ role is to help the forms to stand out. Consequently, it should come as no big surprise that the more interesting the objects in an abstract image, the more likely that the image will be successful. The shadows then function to make the more prominent.
~Ron Bigelow from his article Abstract Photography Tips and Techniques
Have you ever been out and about wandering through villages or fields, cities or towns and you can’t seem to find anything worth photographing … just “One of those days”! You will get them and it can be quite frustrating. You have made the effort to get your gear together, drive to a favourite spot but just can’t get the creative juices flowing!
As an experiment, the next time you are out on a mission, try to see things as they would appear in a black and white photograph. Black and white photography tends to add mood to a photo and by removing all traces of color, the onlooker’s eye is more attracted to your subject.
~See in Black and White Photography from All Things Photography
The most active of shapes use diagonal lines – the triangle is an eye-catching building block for your picture. Its three sides also introduce odd numbers into the photographic vocabulary. As well as triangular-shaped subjects, think about the structure of your photograph – are there three elements you could join together with imaginary lines to form a triangle?
Four sided shapes such as squares and rectangles mirror the four sides of the picture frame – there’s no conflict there, so the viewing experience isn’t as absorbing. However, they can be used alongside diagonals and triangles to produce a more exciting image.
~Digital Camera Magazine: Master Composition