If there was a set of ingredients that we could use to make our photographs interesting and appealing to others, we would all be creating amazing images all the time.
Unfortunately, there is no such set of ingredients.
There are suggestions, guidelines, ideas and pointers that we can follow, but how to put these together in the frame, and end up with an image that will be interesting to those who look at it, is not an easy task.
Despite studying the work of great photographers, taking photography classes and spending many hours in the field making images, we often find it difficult to end up with anything that will be appealing to a viewer.
So, how do make our images more interesting and engaging for others?
What is it that makes an image powerful?
What will make our images stand out from the crowd?
If you think of some images that produce an emotional reaction in you, what has the photographer done to produce this reaction?
Finding the answer to that question might help you to do the same in your own images.
Is it down to subject, light, viewpoint, composition, relationship between elements in the frame or a combination of these?
Subject is undoubtedly an important element in every image, so, as a photographer, it is important to consider why you are drawn to the subject you have chosen.
If you are serious about your photography you will avoid shooting randomly without giving much thought to what you are shooting. Instead, you will begin to feel drawn to certain subjects and these will become important elements in your work.
Maybe you like capturing beautiful things, or you might prefer finding beauty in the ordinary and revealing this to the viewer.
You might be drawn to natural elements such as rocks, sea or mountains, or maybe you like to include a human element in your images.
You might be drawn to capturing trees, but not just any trees. Maybe you like trees that grow in a certain way or that relate to the trees around them through the shape they create.
Strong patterns, shapes, colours and tones might feature prominently in your photography.
Whatever your preference is, it is your preference and it is so for a reason, so it is worth being aware of that preference when making your images.
I don't know why, but I love including stones in my images.
Composition refers to how you arrange all the elements in the scene to make a pleasing image.
Learning how to properly compose your photos will help you to drawn attention to your subject. This will involve careful use of well-established composition techniques and strategies rather than simply looking and quickly capturing what you see.
With practice you will begin to develop an eye for good composition, which will in turn strengthen your images.
Natural framing and using leading lines are two effective composition techniques. Including a human subject, or subjects, can elevate the image to more than just an empty landscape and help to tell a story.
Mood refers to the feeling you want to convey in your image.
Do you want a bright sunny image or a dark brooding one?
Do you want to capture and reflect the external conditions on the day so that the viewer will get a sense of what you experienced?
Do you want your image to reflect how you were feeling when you took the photograph?
Do you want to capture how the subject made you feel?
The mood of the image will be determined by how you make use of light in the image, the perspective you choose, how you use the weather conditions to sum up the mood you wish to convey and by the location you are in.
By creating mood and atmosphere you can draw the viewer in and help them to connect with your image.
Identifying with the mood of the image may evoke feelings in the viewer such as awe, joy, sadness or loneliness or bring back forgotten memories.
When you create connection between viewer and photograph you can consider that your image is successful.
This connection between viewer and image is not easy to achieve. Before you can even attempt to achieve it, I believe that you must feel for yourself that connection with your subject.
There is another important ingredient which plays a part in achieving a worthwhile image. That is the emotional impact of the image.
Emotional reaction is when external conditions have an internal impact.
Sometimes this might be a simple reaction such as liking the earthy colours in a winter scene or responding emotionally to beauty in a landscape.
It might be a deeper reaction such as evoking a childhood memory.
Sometimes, the subject might provoke a strong emotional reaction, which can be either positive or negative. Often this reaction may be at an unconscious or gut level rather than a conscious level.
However these feeling arise when we are photographing a subject, if we can harness them, work them into our composition and reflect them in our final image, we have a good chance of creating a more powerful image, an image that speaks to others and makes them want to stop and ponder what they are seeing.
In my next post I will outline one approach to photography that can help us to harness this emotional reaction, achieve a connection with our subject and make our images stand out from the crowd.