The other night, at the hight of a manic mood swing, I was laying out for my wife some of the things I think help make a great image. Thought I should get these down so I don’t forget.
When I talk about the feeling of an image, I’m not talking about happy or sad, angry or mad. I’m talking about something else. An image can be soft and fuzzy or hard and sharp. In most cases the feeling of an image comes from the lighting and the depth of field of the image.
A shallow depth of field literally makes much of the image fuzzy. Soft light, like you get from a cloudy day, indirect sunlight, or a softbox, creates soft shadows. The transition from light to dark is longer and in many cases the shadows are less deep than in other kinds of lighting.
If you are shooting a sexy image of a woman for her husband, you can go with different overall feelings. You can put her on white sheets in a bed being hit by indirect sunlight through a window. That morning after look. It’s soft and you want to crawl into bed with her and snuggle. Or you can go sexy like Playboy or FHM. Harder light, everything is in focus, with hard backlights that outline her in silver or gold. The light is a warm golden color and you feel she’s an unapproachable, perfect goddess.
Emotion is something in the image. It is almost always related to expression and body language. This is what a good model brings to the image. This is what a good photographer can evoke in their subject. Catching someone in an unguarded laugh can make a mediocre image special.
It is different than feeling. You can use any feeling and have a different emotion. You might do it on purpose, use soft nice light when photographing someone crying. Or hard light that catches a laugh.
Drama is all about contrast. In writing drama is about conflict. In photography it is about the difference between light and dark. An image is dramatic if you can only see one side of a person’s face and you wonder what is in the shadow.
Catching movement can also add drama to an image. Mystery can also add drama, if the user is wondering what is happening just off camera, you’ve got drama.
For some pictures you have some of the elements above but the picture just pops out at you. I’m thinking a lot of this has to do with color. In the past this over the top color came from the kind of film you used. Today it is almost always done in post.
Those are my current thinking on what makes a great image. Now I just need to remember to think about each of them as I’m shooting.