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