Why and How Using the Language of Photography - Part 1

As I said in this article, photography is a means of artistic expression. It has a language. Like all languages, it has its grammar to write precisely.

Underwater photography requires great mastery to use the photographic language (goby on a hard coral).
Underwater photography requires great mastery to use the photographic language (goby on a hard coral).

The Photographic Writing Has Its Own Language

The mastery of this language will allow to write easily but especially to be well understood by those who will look at the photos.

By definition, a language is the function of the expression of thought and communication. Language is a system of signs allowing communication. It can be implemented by writing.

Previously, we saw that photography had a number of signs called photographic writing. Now, to express himself and give a sense to his photographs, a photographer must have a photographic language.

The language of photography is to align signs which assembling together through the photographic writing allows the author photographer to express what he wants and for the viewer to understand the meaning of a photograph. The language will allow the two entities to understand each other.

But as we are going to see it, it is not as it seems. The main reason is that photography has a very important psychoanalytical dimension.

For me, the photographic language can be broken down into four very distinct points.

First of all, this language considers the aesthetics of photography, that is to say harmony such as colors or shades of gray, different balances such as masses and exposures, shapes, etc.

Then, this language must also consider the technique. That is exposure, sharpness, depth of field, noise, etc.

This photographic language must also consider the elements used to compose the scene. For example, for a nature photograph, it is not very wise to put a city or houses or other human construction. That does not make sense.

Finally, this language must have the tools to translate the messages but especially the emotions that wants to make pass the author of the photograph. For example, we will not use the same tools to translate a tormented spirit or a happy spirit. This would be what is called a counter sense. For example, a photo that reflects a tormented state will rather be created in black and white with strong contrasts. An image translating a happy state will rather use soft and cheerful colors.

If one of these points is not well put in value by the artist photographer, the sentence will not be complete. The viewer of the photograph will not understand it.

For example, if a photo is technically perfect: sharp, well contrasted, well exposed with a good management of colors or shades of gray and if it has a touch of creativity, but the elements do not contribute to define the state of mind, it will be missed.

Another example: a technically perfect photo that only has good aesthetic qualities but whose photographic items have no connection with the subject is not an interesting picture because it carries no message.

The Photographic Language Must Be Well Used Semantically

The knowledge of the photographic language is not enough.

Indeed, let's take the example of learning a foreign language. We learn vocabulary words, grammar rules, the rules of conjugation. We will then visit the country concerned by this language.

We decide to talk to someone. If we repeat the words we have learned while respecting the grammatical rules, but these words have no semantic meaning in the context of the discussion, it is certain that our interlocutor will not understand us. It is the same with the photographic language. If you want to address an audience with your photographs, you need to define the subject of your message or the emotions you want to translate. Then you must use the right semantic elements, or you will not be understood correctly.

I met many photographers who made photos taking into account only the technical aspect. Their photos were excellent technically speaking but no semantics emerged.

Knowing the photographic language is an essential first step for a photographer wishing to create beautiful nature photos of landscapes, underwater or animal. But knowing how to use it correctly is certainly the most difficult step to master.

Wanting to show a vision of the world is quite commendable. But this cannot be improvised. It takes time, patience. It is a long learning that requires a lot of personal qualities and a good dose of general culture.

Artistic Photography Has Two Dimensions

To Read the Next Part of the Article, Click Here.


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