The Photographers Mind – Michael Freeman
These are my notes on this book not a review in order to help me remember what I have learned. I loved this book and it has opened my eyes so much more to my composition.
I found the photographers eye so helpful interesting that I could not resist buying this book.
Firstly looking at how we perceive beauty. This can be influenced by current fashion and by the culture in which we live in. It explains how viewers have certain expectations of any image and what they consider beautiful very important for example for real estate images. I have argued this out with my husband many times when he accompanies my on a field trip. He is constantly encouraging me to take the most traditional of image. A landscape how we would expect it a classic holiday advertisement image. I am always resisting and trying to do something different and yet perhaps In the book Michael Freeman also conveys how even what we can consider ugly can be romanticised in an image by using the correct light and composition. There are a few things that I have learned reading this book. How using a certain light can make us expect beauty even with an object that usually would not be considered beautiful. Our attraction to photographing the decaying, the urban archaeology of abandoned buildings, ruins and wrecks. We have been trained to see beauty in the weathering of time. The term Wabi Sabi explains this it was a Japanese term from the verb Wabu meaning dejection and bitterness, being reduced to poverty. And Sabi from Sabu meaning to get old or discoloured. These days Wabi has come to mean humble and simple and Sabi to mean rusted and weathered.
I have tried to summarise and highlight the items that seemed most important to me as a kind of study notes for the future.
The opposite to Beauty in Photography is Sublime. Images that create situations which are overwhelming or frightening. Tornadoes, Volcanoes. Although photography can photograph these situations they can be difficult to create the sense of being there using a one dimensional image. The book explains techniques to help to this by darkening, adding contrast or reducing saturation all ways of helping the create the desired atmosphere. Using lines and vectors that create movement help create the sense of a storm or a powerful waterfall for example. Large reproductions of these types of images can also help to create the sense of being in such a sublime situation. Elements such as mist can create atmosphere.
Contemporary sublime – is the theory of presenting themes such as war or genocide in a way that is not immediately obvious or graphic that an image which catches attention and causes one to look at it longer can have a more emotional effect on the viewer. Examples of this are seen in Romano Cagnoni images.
There are discussions of clichés in images. How some iconic sites such as the Eiffel Tower or Macchu Picchu can rarely be photographed using original techniques that could A make the icon un recognisable or the image seem foolish. There are some things such as light and a slight different position however this is not always possible. Do not always shy away from the clichés as it is what often pleases people, for example in stock photography.
Photographing the everyday. Attracting the attention of the Viewer. The advise given here is the presentation the context, other images put together or large format as examples of how to make the mundane more interesting. However in order to do this well there must be something original which is difficult to find.
With all images it is important to try and keep the viewer looking. To create something that they need to decipher or that they desire to see more, to see beyond what the photographer has allowed them to see. The reveal, in order to keep a viewer looking at the image here are some techniques that can be used.
1, An frame within a frame for example looking through a window.
- A caption which contradicts the image this can cause the viewer to look again.
Off centre subject. Items tend to be noticed later when placed off centre. Use a known method to point to the subject such as an implied line. A shaft of light used as a vector or the direction a person is looking are all ways of making the viewer look in the direction we want them to.
A sequence of images( this can sometimes be considered a cop out when 1 image could suffice)
5.Time based image i.e. on a screen a moving image.
Each photographers style can be made up of different frame, lighting, composition etc. A photographer can develop a recognisable style over time. This chapter starts by dividing images into several different styles as basic examples classical composition and contemporary tendencies these can then go from 3 different trends, extreme arrangements, deliberately plain and deadpan style and toward what looks like chaos but is in fact managed chaos.
Classical is using the conventions of framing, placement and balance following the general known rules of thumb many of these conventions are inherited from painting. This successful formula lies in the way our visual system sees.
See information on our brains visual way of seeing Margaret livingstone, Harvard Neurobiologist explains this how our what and where system perceive.
It explains how Colour is recognised in the what system and brightness in the where system. They are also responsible for the fact of when we look at images with large scale differences in brightness being more obvious when we look away from them.
Another effect is colour opponency. Which seems as if certain colors as pairs cancel each other out this is the foundation of what we perceive as colour harmony. For example Red and green – complementary colours. When you look for example at the red for a few seconds and then look at a white page you will see an after image in the complementary hue. In this way one seems to reinforce the other. This concept is known as Simultaneous contrast.
Balance, 6 types of components affecting balance these are spatial, tonal, depth, sharpness, colour and content.
Spatial – Discrete areas within a frame of distinct segments.
Tonal dark and light and graduations between the two.
Sharpness – an entirely photographic feature from either focus blur or motion blur. The eye is drawn to sharpness within the image. conventionally we need a larger blurred area to a small blurred area.
depth as most photographs are of recognisable scenes of life so there is always the potential for balance along the depth axis.
Color – differences in hue and saturation.
Content – What we know about events people and other objects in frame influences our attention sometimes to the exclusion of almost everything else. Recognizable things in the frame have varying visual weight. A face holds a heavier visual weight than its area would suggest.
The ratio of the smaller part to the larger part is the same as the ratio of the larger part to the whole. Golden Rule composition.
Musical Harmony – Visual equivalents. Simplified to have the a square format either on the left or right, to the smallest part to the largest part. In a Horizontal image this can be used as an alternative to the golden rule. OR the smallest part can be the location of the main subject.
Ratio 4:6:9 and 9:12:16
Leading the Eye
Another important note that when viewing an image it is not always predictable what way the viewer will see it. There can be elements in an image that attract the attention of the viewer for personal reasons and curiosity that the photographer could not predict. also when changing the fixation the eye tends to return repeatedly to the same elements of the picture. So the eye gets drawn back to the Key elements to make more sense of them rather than exploring the rest of the image. Eye movement reflects the human thought process. Leading by linear perspective. Linear perspective and lines are exaggerated by a wide angle lens and lead the eye. Brightness gradient tunnel effect can be useful to reinforce elements that lead the eye.
Lines for example a line of light. light shading. The eye is drawn from dark to light.
A strong line leading into an image. the direction of eyes all lead the eye within an image. Light shafts direct the eye to the lit area of an image.
Perspective (linear aerial diminishing overlapping draw the eye usually to the distance.
Sharpness gradient, the eye will drift to the sharpest object.
Dynamic balance need at least two contrasting elements to work with and in some way these elements must be opposed.
Ways of separating planes
Aerial Perspective. Dependent on atmosphere and lighting. It is always enhanced by a long focal length. Haze mist and fog all work to separate distances into plains by exaggerating the tonal differences and by suppressing detail this works all the more so under backlighting, and shooting towards the sun.
Viewpoint and framing. Cutting off the horizontal plane or not showing how they connect. In order to do this you can crop high or make a partial or complete frame out of the foreground.
Tonal contrast. A shadowed foreground and a lit background. Dark to light contrast conforms to how we usually look at scenes, beginning near and shifting ou gaze outward. A silhouetted foreground by shooting toward the sun is the ultimate version.
Color – on a large scale, its rare that one plane has a different overall color from another however differences in colour temperature because of the lighting are definitely possible. An example would be a foreground at dusk lit mainly with artificial light against a bluer background.
Focus, Selective Focus with a shallow depth of field obviously contrasts two planes but at a price. the blurred lane loses its detail and so its power to oppose the sharply focused plane on its own terms. For planes to have equal standing, they need to be in the same sharp focus.
Diagonal lines point the strongest.
Low Graphic Style. Conceptual art beginning with Marcel Duchamp. It is low graphic style has a significant if minority following. It seems to disown known compositional skills by picking out of an image all that would usually be learned in Photography to make an image interesting. However evidence points that in order to do this one must have a knowledge and respect of the rules for want of a better word of composition. this had a very elite following. Many would perceive this as a rather ordinary image.
Minimalism. Began in the 1960s and can also be traced back to modernism. This is more heard of in design and architecture but also holds its place. Minimalism has increased in popularity and is still continuing today. The logic is less is more. No decoration ornamental and flowery accessories however simple and clean. In art the function and meaning is slightly different. It means less subjectivity and cooler more distant execution. Often this leads to abstract images. An emphasis on simple clean lines and shapes.
High Graphic style is the opposite to low graphic styles in many ways in that it prefers excitement, surprise and energy however it is not a philosophy. High graphic style likes to see how far light geometry and composition can be pushed. Manipulation of the photo has also played a huge part in High graphic style. From changing colour to black and white. First in the dark room and then the on the computer. Diagonal lines, also can be created by pitch or tilt. Good depth of field from a small aperture helps keep the lines sharp.
Equiluminant vibration. when two opposed colors (hues on the colour wheel) are together in the frame but with the same brightness an optical effect happens called vibration.
Engineered disorder, as sense of deliberate chaos. This style uses various kinds of fragmentation, cutoffs, adding mystery to the image. To cause someone to need to study it. Often deliberately blocking off parts of an obvious subject. For example a face cut in half. It takes us by surprise and leaves us with the curiosity of what is beyond the frame shown. Some may argue that this was bad composition but many have used this efficiently. use screens or transparent layer or a double exposure in order to create a different image a surprising image.
Chapter 3. Process. What happens in the making of a Photo. The mind hand eye of the photographer. It is generally a very quick process in photography.
Image bank memory a series of styles that work for you so that when you find yourself in certain situations your composition template already exists in you mind. If you go through your archives you can find similar images where you have used certain style repeatedly. Also there will be styles or template styles that you no longer use.
Look out for Templates of
Mainly Telephoto stacked photos
Time and Motion there are many ways of using our shutter speed. No longer does an image need to be frozen perfectly.
With shutter speed you can have a Sharply frozen image, a slight local blur showing movement but also clearly the subject. Massive overkill blur – abstract. Rear curtain flash will add a sharp finish to a blur moment. Local subject locked off camera. Panning and walkng the camera,zoom. Camera move and rear curtain flash combined. Multiple exposure superimosed images. These are all ways of showing movement in a Photo.