Photography as communication
Photography is all about communication. The reason you click the shutter is because you want to share the best parts of your environment with others. Communicating a scene or an object is similar to communicating in writing. It makes more sense if there is an order. Sentence take if we a word up jumble…
Sorry, if we take a sentence and jumble the words up, it has the same contents, but the meaning is lost. At the other extreme a poet can arrange the words to provoke feelings and thoughts outside of the sentence. In a visual way a photographer has to arrange the subjects/ objects in a scene so that they make sense, and artists will arrange object/ subjects in a scene to provoke emotions.
Landscape photographers aim to communicate a spatial perspective (where things are in relation to the viewer). They will communicate depth through composition, focus, focal length and light. They usually want everything to be in focus, so that it feels like you are there in the scene, but to invite you into the scene, the landscaper will use objects carefully to invite you in. Imagine two parts of a wide river, one is just water from bank to bank, the other has stepping stones. You will likely pay more attention to the part with stepping stones because even if you don’t want to cross, the invite is there and this provokes thought. The landscape photographer will find objects in the foreground which invite you to wander into the picture.
A portrait photographer will use focus to communicate. A large aperture such as f/2.8 will allow the photographer to focus on a very narrow plain, i.e. the face or eyes, and everything else will fall out of focus. This works as communication because it is holding your attention on a very specific part of the image. A shallow DOF is unavoidable in macro or close-up photography and the images have a 3D feel. Focus is one way of isolating the subject from the background.
In photographic art, the most important communication is that of emotion. You want the viewer to share your feeling of when you were there. This basically comes down to being able to compose, expose and focus while being in the right place at the right time. Easy right? No! you have to practice, composition, focus & exposure and be at many different places at different times until you get the combination.
To achieve this, the image has to show the nature of the subject at it’s best (or worst), but at the same time, in it’s purest form. To put it another way, powerful yet simple. I mean that the composition arrangement and focus is forcing a human perspective of a Natural Beauty, I suppose like a redesign, but without trying to improve on it, only to communicate the sense of beauty.
Doing this doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Fit everything you want into the frame and use a Compact, this can work very well with the right kind of light and if you don’t want to print large. But photography gets closer to art when the photographer communicates well. Being able to control the focus, depth of field and exposure with a good composition and the ability to print it LARGE. That’s the difference.
Like some other visual arts, photography has a “time” element. A fast shutter can communicate emotion, but either freezing an incredible moment, or showing the “eternity of Nature” like a long exposure landscape of waterfall scene.
Lightroom & Photoshop
Lightroom & Photoshop can also be used to isolate your subject, using selection techniques, you can reduce colour, exposure or even blur the background to communicate a sense of space..