Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Composing Technically vs. Composing Emotionally

I am putting the finishing touches on my next Kelby Training class: Composition - the Strongest Way of Seeing. The class is due for release later this year.

In the class, I cover all the major composition techniques . . . or so I thought.

In looking at this photograph of my dad this morning, I realized that I composed the picture emotionally rather than technically.

Before I share with you my emotional composition technique for this photograph, let me know (in the Comments section here on my blog) why you think I composed the picture in this manner.

Also tell me how you think the photograph might have been improved, from a composition standpoint.

The point of this little homily: think technically as well as emotionally when composing a picture.

Explore the light,


Anonymous said...

my heart always overrides my mind when i shoot.


Paul Howard said...

I suck at this, but I'm going to give it a shot.
Emotional elements were, looking to the side as though being reflective in thought, hands foreground to show their strength, on the walker to show encroaching frailty.
Technical improvement, umm, to have your Dad more to camera right to reduce the negative space to his left and give him more space to look into.
That's all I've got Rick!
And regardless of how much I messed up with this analysis, I love the photo! Because it is emotional. I wish I had taken one like this of MY dad.

Amelia Andrade said...

I understand that people can composed emotionally, but right now I don't know how to explain the process, to answer your question. Waiting to hear it from you please. Tks :)

Anonymous said...

Emotion first, then technical. Maybe include more of what he is looking at...thru a window? ALso, maybe change the lens...his hand is large or is that the way the photographer saw it? Strength and time shown in hands. I like the wedding band showing and the watch. Shows he still has things to do in a timely manner and his commitment to love with the ring. These are picky, but you asked. But I never would have noticed because when I first saw it...I said Wow!

Donnette Largay

Anonymous said...

It's cropped, so how can we possibly know what the original composition was?
That said, it's still full of symbolic emotional content: looking into the distance, contemplating, the edge (the end) is near, time (watch), space, life is behind him, yet he is still connected to this world (the watch again) going through the daily cycle (the circular movement in his arms, leading up to his aged face, growing older by the day, drawing ever nearer to the edge of darkness, still grounded to the earth by the cold metal of the walker that keeps him in the photo and connects him to the photographer, his son, his future, carry on, carry on, but I am not long for this world. Long have I watch and guide you, but now I am content and my gaze is directed elsewhere...

Rick Sammon said...

Dear Anonymous who starts with... It's cropped.

Can you shoot me an email with your name? write ricksammon at mac.com.

Thank you,

Ted Johnson said...

Technically a case could be made for more negative space in front and less behind. But I think you have the composition perfect. There comes a time where most of our worldly life is behind us and much less ahead. And we must prepare for a journey that we will travel alone. That's what this picture says to me with strong emotion.

Fran Ruchalski said...

For me, as much as I want my photos to be technically correct, I think it's much more about capturing the emotion and the moment. There are lots of photos I've seen that are technically perfect, but do nothing for me. I'm much more captivated by photos that touch something inside of me in spite of their technical flaws.

Debbie Clifton said...

I agree with Fran, however if you miss the technical part of the composition you can loose or detract from the emotional element.
I love the light on his face! I think the balance of the elements - and use of space are technically good. The rule of thirds - face in the top third and hands/walker in the lower third. Like the center horizontal third open - it conveys welcomeness to me. I like the strength in the hands compared to the slight softness of the facial expression. The contrast of the two creates mixed emotions.
Interesting technical and emotional aspects in this great composition!

Rika said...

I like the lighting on your fathers face and his gaze looking into the light. It is an emotional photo impacted by the lighting.
I see the photo as your father gazing into his past. So the dominant position of his hands could be changed to include more of the watch on his wrist.

Travis W Forbear said...

Rick, I'm a bit biased about this photograph, because I remember the original post with the reason it was made. Had this been for a client, I think the emotional side of your composition would have been different. I think the beauty of this photograph is that you could put the technical aside and share a moment with your dad. When I photograph clients, I put myself in their shoes, I try to think "if this is the last image they will have of each other, how can I create something that will create a positive emotion when viewing". I think the technical composition is very important, but there is always something we could do better in hindsight. Seeing the emotions on the faces of happy viewers and knowing you've given them lasting memories is one reason to use at least a small amount of emotional composition. I'm probably missing the point here, but like I said I'm biased by the backstory.

Mark R said...

For me all the best images are emotionally cropped. Technical cropping is a fall back to my mind/process. The rule of thirds, leading a subject with negative space in the direction they're moving/looking, are all rules for a reason they work. However in my mind emotional cropping breaks, or ignores, the rules, it’s something that the photographer/artist does instinctively rather than planned or contrived.

How would I improve this image, cropping wise?? I wouldn't change the cropping I like it exactly the way it is. The look to the future, hands in front in a powerful yet gentle position, the arms leading the eye around but never out of the image. The light on his face is perfect.

To me it looks like a slice of time, not a set up planned portrait. To me that's teh highest compliment to a portrait. Just my humble opinion

Peggy said...

What a tall order... Asking to look into the mind of the person who made such a personal and emotional portrait, but I'll give it a try. Hands that once gave strength to a man supporting his family, now resting on an object meant to support him. A face that you could always look to for answers, now looking for answers himself. You made this man the center of the photo because he was once the center of your world. I lost my dad 26 years ago yesterday and every year I wonder what he would look like if he was still with us. In my heart, I know nothing could make this picture any better than it is... It's a memory that's just perfect the way it is.

RobbyRose said...

This is my first post to the Sammon-Blog, and I'm not very good at "emotional" portrait composition. Technically speaking, your fathers face is lit from slightly too far above. The high contrast the light provides is bold, but the shadow from his nose is generally unattractive. Maybe a reflector would have cut that shadow down some? Also there is no light reflecting from his eyes. This would add even more depth to his introspective expression.

Regardless, years down the road, this will be a photo of a loved father that you will cherish. If you hadn't let your "technical" guard down, it would not be the personal photo that it is.

If you think I'm off-base, feel free to let me know.

Rick Sammon said...

Robby Rose... Thank you for your comments!

Pros take snapshots, too. :-)