The Picture Language

photo by M. Friks

“Why do we take pictures?”

We all take pictures for different purposes. To some of us, it’s a hobby. To others, it’s an art. To me, it’s for collecting information and cultural studies; however, we all share the same common reason. We want to tell others what we see and feel.

I think this is the main reason that drives us into photography. We want to take better pictures to convey clear messages and to express stronger feelings through our pictures. Of course, it would take years of experience for our photos to speak to the audience the way Steve McCurry’s photos do. I betcha, McCurry’s early photographs didn’t look better than ours. We all must start somewhere, right?

Let’s put our shiny cameras aside and pull our ugly photographs out—the ones that we too ashamed to share. Don’t look at what we have there in our photos but look for what’s missing.

photo by Danny Santos

photo by Danny Santos

Is there a subject? Does your subject stand out? Does your photo have a story to tell? How about unity?

These are the picture language. If your pictures don’t speak the language, it’s time to send your photos to school.

photo by Matt Stuart

photo by Matt Stuart

A better photograph has a subject—a reason for being. If the viewer has to look for the subject, the photograph is a poor one. If you go through Steve McCurry’s gallery, you will see each of his photos has a subject or a reason for his photos to exist. Stop shooting blindly from now on. Always know why you’re taking the picture.

A better photograph always has a point—a story to tell. Again, you see the stories from Steve McCurry’s photos. Stories in the eyes of his portraits, in the color of the cities. Stories come out from the darkest shadow and out from a dusty cloud of the Sahara desert. Make sure you know when it’s important to include the backgrounds and when to single out your subjects.

A better photograph draws the eyes to the subject you want to emphasize. This is a matter of lens choice, camera angle, arrangement, color and contrast. Each holds an important role and by combining them, you create the depth and impact to bring forth the subjects in your photos.

A better photography has unity. It’s complete in both idea and presentation. You saw how Steve McCurry carefully composed his photographs. He only captured what was necessary to tell the story and properly emphasize what he wanted for the viewers to see.

See… Taking good photographs isn’t difficult. All you need to do is make your photos speak.

About Kris Phan

I'm not a photographer. I'm a camera user. View all posts by Kris Phan

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