What makes one image a “work of art” and another just a snap shot?
There are as many answers as there are reasons….but one of the simplest is details.
Details and subtlety of light to be precise.
There isn’t really anything “Wrong” with the image above- it would actually make a decent editorial shot if it were part of a story, or had more supporting images to go along with it- but it isn’t one that would carry a gallery show so to speak, so let’s look at the “flaws:
In order to be self critical, you have to understand a little bit about the psychology of how we view things. Our eyes tend to go to the lightest spot in an image and then to the darkest.
( there are a lot of ways to manipulate the viewers eyes to direct themwhere you want them to go in a photograph- but that’s a whole other lesson!)
That being said, the hammer and anvil are the main subject- that’s where your eyes go first- so in essence it works- but what would make it a great photograph as opposed to just good?
Let’s start with details in the shadows to show the anvil and hammer’s shape- and details in the lightest area on the anvil so it doesn’t stand out as much.
If you stop focusing on the subject and let your eye “roam” to take in the whole image,to just take in the “shapes” of all the elements making up this photograph; those details become distracting and your eye becomes unsettled.
You can fix this kind of thing a whole lot easier at the time you create the photo than fixing it in post production- (like using flash or reflectors -IF you remember to use them instead of leaving them in the camera bag like I did…)
The “fixed” image
Now I know this won’t look the same on everyones monitor as mine ( unless you calibrated your monitor; you DO calibrate -right?) but notice the anvil has a subtle shape to it now and seperates from the shadows- The hammer no longer looks like it dissappears into the anvil- and the front of the anvil doesn’t “glow” creating a distraction to your eye anymore! ( I also lightened it overall just a little bit…)
Most people would take a photo like this and be completely fine with it- that’s great; and having your camera on hand is half the battle, right? But it’s being aware of the small details like this that make the biggest difference between “snapshots” and “art”.
Training your eye to percieve light in a different way- to be able to dissect a scene, studying the light and shadows, the way they create “mood”. THEN deciding what you need to use in order to “capture” a photograph in a way that reflects how you intend it to be rather than how it is. That is the essence of “craft” and will make your work stand out!
Til next time…;-)