This is a question that faces all photographers, experienced and novice I believe. Garden, landscape and wildlife photographers alike look at a scene and make a decision on how to make their photos paint a mental picture for the viewer. Do you?
A question of how much to include.
The two images above both have geese, but one shows where the geese live a bit more than the other. Both images share the same dilemma of “how much do you show”.
If showing nothing more than the subject, it gets the viewer wondering, “Where or why was this photo taken?” So how does a photographer paint a mental picture that says more? I have never really figured it out quite yet.
Authors paint a mental picture that tickles imagination with their words. Painters have a very direct and pictorial route to the imagination. Photography, it can be similar.
But creating journey for the viewer? It is really difficult to create a story when showing only one image. Show just enough to stimulate imagination but too little and imagination stops in its tracks. Here is an example of “what can you show” in four images of the same goose… click any of the four to enlarge.
A portrait, you can’t tell the goose is sitting on a nest.
She is sitting on her nest and looking at me which is a plus.
The goose is feathering the nest, a bit of activity.
A fully feathered nest for a Canada Goose pair. Want to know more, Nesting Canada Geese.
Finally, she is swimming with her mate just beyond the nest.
The last few images would allow a viewer to understand a bit more about the goose by including activity and surroundings. I am just starting to realize this important fact the more I am out in nature.
Getting in Close
Although closeup images are often beautiful and usually harder to obtain with wildlife, the photos of the wildlife doing what they do (Photographing a Hawk in Nature with Prey) I find are more interesting. In my own macro images of insects for instance, the insects engaged in activities tell me much more about them. Macro images of a flower, not as readily.
The snake above is not a macro image, but a closeup taken with my 400mm lens. What does it show about the snake? Maybe that he is perturbed by my intrusion?
A consideration of macro images is they don’t often have much going on. Since the object is to show the subject very close with limited proximal detail, the photos may have to rely more on interesting form and color – taking the emphasis away from the subject itself. I did not have my macro lens along or I would show you an example of what I am saying.
I enjoy macro for art’s sake, but not for telling me much about my subject. It is the same for tight images like the snake above. Coming in too close and little is shown of where the subject is in relationship to the surroundings. You would have had no idea that this snake had a lot of friends, and that is the story.
Did I miss any?
The next step in improving photos might be having them say more, especially saying it with beautiful light. Just compare the image of the goose above with the one below of the snowy garden. What a difference a day makes!
This series was inspired by experts critiquing photos. Funny thing about experts… you may not always agree with them.
This post predates a photography meeting I am in attendance on this very subject tonight. Telling the Story. I will give you my thoughts on this talk after my post, What the Photo Experts Say, from other recent talks. It should be interesting if this speaker says anything close to what I mentioned here. I leave you with pretty light in Reinstein Woods. More of that to come. Happy Easter.