Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Perspective:

‘Perspective’ in photography is the much talked about topic and technique. This can be understood as how a subject looks like from a particular place. This is a lot about the ‘point of view’ of the camera. Well, when a camera looks at a subject it sees certain parts of the subject and certain parts of the subject is not visible for the camera. To see the parts that were not visible earlier, the camera has to move to another point of view. And now, something that was seen earlier becomes hidden from that particular point of view.
Technically, perspective is about the feel of ‘depth or third dimension’ in the two dimension picture. That is why it is very important in visual communication. It is identified very easily by the relative difference in the size of the subjects or the parts of the subject in the frame. For example, when you look at a building in close from its front, it appears to be very flat like a cinema set. But as you move towards the sides, you see the receding other side also along with the front, to give a feel of depth and three dimension. This angle is also called as ‘perspective angle’ and the shot is referred as ‘perspective shot’.
In the figurative sense, perspective means how you perceive a subject, not just spatially, but aesthetically, emotionally, even morally. This kind of perspective requires that you understand your subject enough to have an opinion or idea about it . . . and that you have the technical skill and creativity to convey that opinion or idea to others. 
Well, to me perspective is very powerful element in a photograph. But unfortunately it is not the same when we use lenses with various focal lengths. It is generally understood that the normal lens for a camera (the focal length almost equivalent to the diagonal of the sensor) roughly delivers the perspective of human eye. This may be one of the reasons as why our grand fathers used the normal lens for most of the shots. They wanted their pictures to be natural and true to life!
But, now, the trend is astonishingly different. No one wants the natural perspective of a subject. An exaggerated perspective of a wide angle or fish eye lens is rather very exciting and sometimes the excessively compressed perspective by a long telephoto lens is preferred. In any case, we are always altering the way a subject looks by changing the focal length of lenses. May be, that is one of the techniques of ‘making a picture..!’ The choice of lenses, camera levels, camera angles, distance between the subject and the camera, direction of lighting, lines and curves, geometrical shapes, patterns, selective focus and overlapping forms influence a lot about the appearance of a subject – ‘the perspective’ from a particular point of view.
By all these the photographer alters the feel and idea about a subject. The distance between two subjects in a photograph could be easily be misunderstood by a viewer when it is altered by the change of perspective controls. But for me, this is the 'power of photography.' Yes, you tell what you want to tell through your pictures. Let the fact be different. If you want to tell about the fact, you could still do that with the proper controls of perspective in photography.
Enjoy the power of perspective and use it to make your picture meaningful. If you could connect that to the emotions of the people and subject effectively, then that is the purpose of photography!
The magic of photography is metaphysical. What you see in the photograph isn’t what you saw at the time. The real skill of photography is organized visual lying’ – Terence Donovan

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Shape:

When someone asks you describe about something, you‘ll probably start with explaining about its shape. For me, however, shape is something more than a means of recognition. Shape helps convey the nature of a subject; not just what it is, but what it is like. Is it heavy, light, big, small, beautiful, ugly, interesting, plain? Shape answers most of the questions like these. It also answers questions about the way an object interacts with its surroundings. Which object is biggest, closest and most important?

Shapes are generally identified with its definite outline and sometimes with texture details. A shape in photography can communicate about the mass, proportion and relation. Mass is about what it is filled with. Proportion is about the comparison of masses between two or more shapes. Relation is about how the shape of the objects interacts in a photograph. This can mean physical factors, such as whether they are close, touching, far apart, similar, different, etc. Interaction between objects can also be extended to include interpretive factors, such as which object is more attractive, which is more important, which is dominant, whether they seem to belong together, and so on.

For me, this is more important as to decide which of the objects in the frame are more important and as how it should be composed to establish the importance in a picture and so on. Hence ‘shape’ is an important element of photography composition; a photographer cannot afford to miss out in the picture.

Everyone has certain preferences about the shapes and every other shape communicates different meaning in the visual media. For example, the dynamics of circle shape, triangle shape, square, shape, rectangle shape, leaf shape, flower shape, oval shape and so on are not the same. They create variable feelings in human mind. The emotions are different for every other shape that we see or include in our photos. That is why there is so much of attachment about the shapes of anything and everything we see and use in our life. There are cars, houses, furniture, perfume bottles, dresses, jewels and every other thing in our life sold like hot cakes and are popular just for their shape.

The choice of a shape is something very personal and very similar to colours. But still, there are some psychological and emotional impacts the shapes can make in human mind when used in the right way. For example, ‘round’ means action or movement, ‘square’ means static limitation, triangle, means growth and stability and so on.

As the shapes of the objects have an impact on the minds of the viewers, the photographer has to carefully handle it in the pictures. Geometrical shapes are very powerful in a visual representation like photographs. They have to be handled very carefully, especially when it is in the background or foreground. They can lead the eyes to a meaningful communication about the main subject. The shapes with colours are even more powerful communication tools and they need to be handled carefully in all photography situations. In a great composition, shapes are powerfully used to communicate the content and space. As shape defines the space, the ineffective use of space is called negative space (empty areas other than the main subject). This could be mostly outside the positive space (the main subject).

For me, the shapes without colour, texture and details are very interesting. They are called, ‘silhouettes’ in photography. Silhouettes are very powerful and aesthetic means of shape. Silhouettes with an unknown shape are more interesting and thought provocative than the known shapes. Silhouetted shapes in front of a building or portraits (arches, corridors, pillars etc.) generate greater power of perspective in landscape and people shots. They are communicative, emotional and beautiful in the pictures.

Remember, shapes can shape up your images into aesthetic pictures. Hence, look out for it and use them powerfully.

'It is imagination that gives shape to the universe’ – Barry