Visual stories can be simple or complex, quiet or dramatic, short or long ... the possibilities are endless.
Even in abstract images things happen, at the very least formal elements interact.
Sometimes stories are told with images through their relationships with other images.
Every picture tells a story. Every picture? Every picture!
Even abstract images tell stories. The stories they tell are not about their subjects. By definition, they don’t have subjects. Or do they? They have themselves. So they tell stories about themselves. They tell stories about the things that make them – color, line, texture, shape, proportion, etc. How all of those things relate is a drama of form.
How many kinds of stories are there? There are scientific stories that tell us what things are and how they work. There are historical stories that tell us how things were, how they changed, and what they’ve become today – some even speculate about how things will be tomorrow. There are emotional stories that tell us how people respond emotionally to things. There may be more kinds of stories, but these are the big ones. When it comes to images, the stories they tell are usually only about a few kinds of things. The images themselves. The things images contain. The processes things go through. The feelings people have in response to things and processes. The concepts created through interpretation. Things: Nouns. Processes: Verbs. Feelings: Adjectives and Adverbs. Concepts: Abstract Ideas.
So if every picture tells a story, one way to determine the strength of an image is to ask, “How strong is the story?” Put another way, one way to improve your images is to tell stronger stories. A story doesn’t have to be big or dramatic to be strong; it just has to be told well. Tell stories strongly. Tell them with stronger form; tell them by more clearly delineating actions; tell them by disclosing emotional responses more passionately; tell them by inspiring us to find the bigger picture beyond each picture or group of pictures.
My early curiosity about clouds displaying invisible forces at work, lead to associations of nephomancy (divination by clouds) and later clouds as divine messengers.
The working title for this series, Glory (later changed to Illumination) was drawn from religious iconography in western art history.
The working title for this series was Heaven's Breath but it was later released as Exhalation, leaving room for viewers' interpretations. The many personal associations I bring to my imagery remain subliminal but strongly felt giving them consistency and depth.
Our work is as deep as the relationships we have with it. Mastery involves much more than researching subjects and perfecting craft, it also means doing some soul searching. So how can you deepen your relationships with your work? How can you understand the inner life of your work better? One way is to associate freely.
Free association is a classic psychological technique that can be used to reveal and clarify internal relationships. While most association is done linguistically, you can use anything as a touchstone for association; sounds, gestures, tastes, smells, images, etc. Use one or more at the same time. Whatever you choose to associate with, record your associations with something that doesn’t get in the way of the free flow of your association process. If you use words, use the language that comes most easily to you. If you use something else (colors, sounds, images) make sure that collecting them can be done fast, fluidly, and flexibly. Do record your associations. If you don’t record them, you’ll forget most of them and the patterns they make will elude you.
Simply observe what comes to mind. Don’t critique or censor yourself during the process; nothing shuts down this process faster. Let it all out. Be thoroughly spontaneous and utterly candid with yourself. You may or may not choose to do this with others. It’s your choice. Try different approaches and see how each influences the experience and results.
There are several ways to guide association.
Zoomorphism animates and connects these images.
Photographs can often be well-crafted transcriptions of their subjects and nothing more. It’s usually that elusive ‘something more’ that makes great photographs, elevating them beyond craft to art. How can you bring more to your images? One way is to use a guiding metaphor.
What is a metaphor? In language, spoken or written, a simile implies a shared quality (This is like that.), while a metaphor states that two things are the same (This is that.). When a metaphor is used, it’s understood that poetic license is being taken. A metaphor isn’t used to create misinformation and confusion, it’s used to emphathetically draw attention to shared qualities.
Learn a bunch of creative effects you can apply using three simple checkboxes. My favorite use is to light an object from three different angles and then combine the three images into a colorful result.
Motion attracts attention.
Danger attracts more attention.
Including a person in an image does more than show scale; the person becomes the main actor in the scene.
Typically, man-made objects are almost as interesting as the people who make them, sometimes more.
Animals are almost as captivating as people.
Though they demand less attention than animals, plants still demand more attention than minerals.
Metaphor, especially anthropomorphism, helps establish human interest in animate elements.
You can use psychology’s insights into perception to creatively enhance your compositions. Psychological forces not only divert the flow of the eye through images but also change reactions to image content in specific ways.
While all psychologists agree that perceptions are the products of complex interactions between a variety of stimuli, not all fields of psychology have the same focus and so they offer different insights. One field of psychology offers a particularly rich set of theories for understanding perception – gestalt psychology.
Learn how the pros remove red from faces. We’ll go beyond the standard technique of Hue/Saturation and will also take a look at why a lot of images from the internet always have red faces. In the process, you’ll learn how to isolate colors using Hue/Saturation, how to paint with color and how to perform basic color shifts using curves. You’ll learn a bunch that will be applicable even if you never run across skin tones that needs fixing.