Learning to Recognize Relationships in Photography
“Hudson Valley Trail, New York”
In landscape photography we often discuss the many different ingredients that go into making a successful image. Things like composition, color, mood, light, and of course subject. And while these are all essential parts, the aspect I think is underestimated and not talked about enough is the relationships between these elements.
• How does the subject interact with the rest of the composition? Is the main “character” easily defined? Imagine a movie where you couldn’t tell who the main character was, or a song that did not have a recognizable melody. How quickly would you lose interest?
• How does the color influence the balance and design of the image? Saturated color is great, but only when a harmonious relationship exists with some other part of the composition, otherwise it loses its ability to convey a strong message other than “here’s a lot of color”.
• Are the tonalities balanced in a way that leads the eye in a meaningful way? Light is a powerful force in our search for evocative landscapes, but are you controlling the light through careful composition, and removing what may be distracting?
These questions are all based on relationships and how we use them in landscape photography. I’ll be covering these ideas in-depth in an upcoming article, but for now think about these concepts the next time you are out with your camera. Even simple things like using a longer focal length can have a dramatic impact on your ability to create stronger relationships. Avoid the temptation to capture it all, and use 70, 80, or even a 100mm focal length to narrow down your field of view and work with basic shapes, lines, and color. This will help you recognize relationships much easier, and your images will gain clarity because of it.
“We photograph something for two reasons: for what it is, and for what else it is.” – Minor White