As we learn more about photography, we come to realize that there is a lot more going on then just point and shoot. At some point, we seek out images from professionals to see what we’re doing wrong. And to our shock, we got a lot to learn about line, color, texture, form, space, symmetry, repetition along with composition. Features that has been helping artist communicate their ideas to viewers for centuries. Those features are called the Elements of Art. When properly used, they can help your audience understand what it is you’re trying to show. They are scores of helpful information online as well as plenty of books on the subject. When I’m behind my camera, I’m always conscious of what it is I’m trying to show and what elements I can incorporate into my images. Of all the elements, here are seven that I frequently use.
- Line – A perceived route guiding your viewers eyes through an image.
- Color – Red, yellow, blue, green, purple along with every other color.
- Form – The shape of an object or subject.
- Symmetry & Asymmetry – Visually the same or different from side to side.
- Scale – The size of an object in relation to another.
- Composition – The creative placement of your subject in an image.
- Quality of light – How intense the light illuminates your subject.
I want to share with you examples of how I’ve managed to incorporate the elements of art listed above into my photos. I like to use line to guide the viewer’s eyes to the intended subject. It could be literally or implied and gives me the opportunity to play with composition. Since most of the western world reads from the left to the right, I want the viewers eyes the travel in the same direction.
Taillight red, Windex blue, strawberry ice cream pink, sunflower yellow or army man green, all colors we know exactly what they look like. Color can change the mood or feeling of an image, it can be vibrant and full of life and can even stir up some emotions. Along with composition, you can emphasize your subjects to make a bold statement.
Living in a 3-D world, everything we see has some form to it. But to find and capture one that is visually appealing, that’s another story. I feel one must have a special attention to detail and a focused sense of aesthetics to properly capture a beautiful form. Like sensual curves of a posing woman or the sharply chiseled body side of a 2020 Corvette.
Symmetry is probably the most used element in photography and is easy to integrate into your photos. Like the use of line, symmetry can be implied. A reflection off water or some other reflective surface can be used to imply symmetry. I find asymmetrical images more appealing than symmetrical ones. And are usually composed more complex and I feel makes for a stronger image. Just composing your subjects asymmetrically, can be just enough imbalance to attract your viewers eyes.
Giving your viewers a sense of scale can clearly capture how small or large things are. It’s a dramatic effect that help establish a presence of an object or person. Like the towering height of an NBA player to an admiring fan or the unimaginable width of a sequoia to a nature lover. And the greater the contrast, the better.
I’ve always felt that having a strong and interesting composition is important in my photography. And I tend to shy away from composing my subjects dead center and lend toward the more appealing Rule of Thirds. Along with if I can see the horizon within the frame, I try not to place it in the center. There’s no one right way to compose a photo. It’s up to you, the photographer, to visualize how to creatively arrange details in your images.
Since we’re talking about photography, I feel it is valuable to add quality of light to this discussion. Just like all the elements of art, it can change the look, the mood as well as the overall presents of your photos. It can be soft and gentle or strong and contrasting. There’s an infinite number of ways to show off light, you just must go out and discover it. Since my love affair with photography began, I still chase the light to this day.
The Elements of Art are not limited to the ones I mentioned here. Nor are they limited to how I use them. Experiment with them for yourself and find ones you like. Use them frequently and nurture your creative eye.
Until next time,