Photography for Artists & Designers

Art & Design 265: Project


Project: Graphic Emphasis

Week: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | Schedule


Goals & Concept

Often an image has many things in it — many subjects that happen to be in the picture frame, or must be included in the picture frame.

A photographer must control what gets the viewer’s attention, and what does not — she must control graphic emphasis. We also use the terms focal point or focal area to refer to those things that stand out and command the viewer’s attention. 

In this project, your job is to include the same collection of objects in many photos, but vary the objects that are “focal” or emphatic from one image to the next.

The Short Version

Shoot a series of images (7+) of a collection of objects for G+ album: 005 Graphic Emphasis.

Vary the graphic emphasis so that each object is prominent at least one image, but not in most others. In effect, shoot the same collection of objects, but vary the focal object.

Develop an expressive moral, message, narrative or point of view through the series.

Lay out a composite image representing how you might present the series.

Set up a still life arrangement.
Include 5 or more objects to be used as image subjects.
Create varied images in which each individual object in turn becomes the focal point — the center of attention.
Use diverse tactics to bring particular forms to prominence — vary overall composition throughout the series.

Vary your point of view, your exposures and your lighting agressively; keep using the same collection of subjects; vary the arrangment of the individual objects for compositional effect.

Explore what control you have as an imagemaker, rather than relying solely on evokative traits in the subject matter.
Use the play of light and shadow to establish patterns of shape and masses.
Explore how the location of light sources alters form and shadow.
Explore how the relative brightness of different light sources alters form and mood.
Explore how the choice of direct vs. diffuse light alters form and shadow.

If you have access to macro or close-up lenses, consider using them. Using close-up lenses allows very, very shallow depth of field
— If you have access to studio lighting, or any artificial lighting, consider using them.
— Consider shooting this set in Black & White.


Graphic Emphasis Tactics

How many tactics can you create and combine to vary the graphic impact of your subjects? 
How might you make one object stand out, while including other objects in the frame?

Among the graphic tactics for building emphasis are...

— Vary the figure-ground contrast amongst objects... a light object on a dark field projects differently than the same light object against a light field. Distinctly heightened value contrast is a prime focal tactic.
— Develop relief areas to subdue the busyness of non-focal areas. Reduce tonal contrast in relief areas. Eliminate highlights in relief areas. Soften focus in relief areas using DOF tactics.
— Vary focus and depth of field... sharp, crisp edges and contrasts command attention.
— Vary lighting...change regions of illumination and shadow...
— Vary nearness/farness.
— Vary position in the field. Whether you use a central focal area, a rule of thirds tactic, or create dynamic tension more creatively, you'll need to look, think and sense just how effective your positioning is.
— Vary overlap between objects...
— Vary grouping and organization of objects... use isolation for emphasis.
— Develop directional elements that point towards your focal area. Can cast shadow shapes become intentional directional elements?

What other tactics and combinations of tactic might work?


Selecting Subjects

Select at least 5 objects for your image.

How do decide what objects?

Consider your theme.

Now, your theme may grow out of the object you pick.
Or the objects you pick may grow out of your theme.
Or it may be a synthesis of both.

You might pick objects for what they mean to you.
You might look around your room and see what speaks to you.
Which objects remind you of pleasant memories? ...or rough memories?
Which remind you of goals or aspirations?

You might pick objects for their visual traits.
You might pick all glass objects; all metalic objects; all rounded objects; all pieces of jewelry; all objects from nature; all borrowed or handed down objects; all damaged objects; all colorful objects.
You might pick objects that have nothing obvious in common — one is leather, one glass, one metal, one fabric, one furry, etc.

The choices are yours, but do take time to think about what you pick and why you pick them.
Set your objects together. Arrange them for compositional effect. See if any seem not to belong. See if any are obviously overpowering the others.
What does each add to the content or message of the series?
What does each add visually in terms of unity — does this piece add variety? ...does it provide similiarity to other objects? ...does it just not fit at all?

Think about everything that will be in the picture frame.
Consider the surface that the objects sit on — its material, its pattern and color? Is it clean and fresh, or dirty and scarred?
Consider the whatever else is visible — a backdrop, wall or nearby, enclosing forms. Or might you use lighting, lightboxes or distant backdrops to create a simple surrounding visual field?
How big is the space? Are your objects in a small, contained space? Are they in a large space? Is the space open and undefined?
Objects respond to their environment. Negative space is as important as positive space. So think about the non-subjects in your images.


Expressive Theme: 

What might you be able to say through a collection of images of simple objects?
    Can you tell a story?
        Can you pose a moral?
            Can you represent a lifestyle or a time or a culture?
                Can you create a message or a distinctive point of view?

You might find a poem, scripture, story or saying that can be interpreted in a photo essay of still objects composed and arranged in various ways.

Explore what you might want to say through your image.
Develop a concept statement about the message you'd like to convey.
Explore reasons for including the particular objects in your series of images.

What themes might work?
    Objects of meaning — gods before God in a materialist age.
        Owner or owned? 
            Markers of the passage of time.
                All is vanity. 
                    Materialism... Consumerism...




— Review the basic operations of a digital SLR.
— Have a memory card prepped.
— Reset defaults on any borrowed camera.
— Image Format: RAW

What shooting mode will you use?
If I am concerned with depth of field, I'll likely prefer Aperture Priority Mode.
If I want to produce motion blur, or be sure to avoid it, I may prefer Shutter Speed Priority Mode.
You could shoot this set on full auto (P) or manual (M).

You might turn on Auto-ISO Sensitivity.

Focussing: Auto or Manual?
If the images you concieve involve a very narrow DOF, you may want direct control over focus and so use Manual focus. This can be easier to manage if you're on a tripod and your subject is very close.
You might also use the Focus Lock technique to tell the camera what forms to auto-focus on. This is easier if you're shooting hand-held rather than on tripod.
Camera Manual PDFs:          D7000 Manual — p. 97      |        D90 Manual — p. 57


Shoot roughly 100+ images.  

Vary your point of view, your exposures and your lighting agressively; vary the subject or sitter only in limited ways.

You might pick 7 and only 7 arrangements or poses, but shoot 20 or more images of each pose. See what control you have as an imagemaker, rather than relying on evokative traits in the objects themselves. Work the image...vary the viewpoint and the exposures and, if possible, the lighting.



— Transfer your images to your m-drive or personal drive so that you can view them in Adobe Bridge.

— Select images that have visual potential based on the theme you select.  Many of your images are likely worthless -- at least at first glance.
Look for images that have something in them — some image within the visual field that might be cropped into an interesting image.

— Select and develop the graphic theme and content concept that will guide your selection and editing/cropping of images.

— Edit images with potential into sets of finished images.
You’ll have to settle on the theme that your images will reflect — you might pick one of the themes noted above, but can likely find something that interests you more.
Now start cropping, rotating and editing these images for best effect.
When working in Photoshop, avoid using decorative filters. Do not added elements, or erase elements in any image. Cropping, rotating and limited global color/contrast editing are allowed.

— Upload to Google+ into “005 Graphic Emphasis” folder.  Drag those into your Art 265 circle.

— Describe the traits that unify this set of images.  Write a short (25-75 words) concept statement that describes the content that you are aiming to express about, or through your collection. Describe, also, the visual forms or compositional tactics that your set of images emphasizes.

— Review and comment* on the photos uploaded by at least 7 other students before class.
* Provide relevant comments (25+ more words) discussing what you see in the photos presented -- comment particularly on what impresses you or what catches your eye.  Comment on what you think might improve the cropping or editing of the presented photos.


By Tuesday, 8am

Shoot at least 100 images.
Select (at least) 20 of those for editing.
Select 7 of those for G+ presentation as a theme-unified series.

Downsize images to 2Mpix JPGs before upload.

Post to G+ :
Project Photo Album: 005_Graphic Emphasis (7+ image plus composite)

Write an artists statement for the final series.
— Discuss whatever theme or emphases you discovered. You might describe what you found as you surveyed your images in Bridge. What surprised you? How did your direction change as you went?

Write critical comments about the final series images:
— Discuss the strengths of the final images in relation to that theme.


Thursday, before Class

Crit your Peers:
Go to G+ and review what your classmates have uploaded.

For each classmate, go to their 005 Graphic Emphasis album.

Add comments to at least one image, or to the series as a whole.
Discuss ways in which the series is formally unified — what traits tie the separate images together?
How compositionally successful are the images? What is interesting about them?



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