If this page interested you, would you give it a note? (5 stars is the best one)?
(5 votes)

 

Reading time for the page: about 7 minutes

Why and How: Understanding a Photo in Two Steps - Part 3

Photograph of a young ibex in Ethiopia in black and white. Photograph by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
This photograph of a young ibex can be read by different ways.

Case Study: Understanding a Figurative Photo

Red deer stag in the fog during the rut of the deer in France.

To illustrate the first example, I chose a photograph taken during the deer slamming in France during one morning.

I knew that the deer use this flow under a cherry tree to go from one foreground to another meadow on the other side of the cherry tree (this is the tree on the right of the picture).

It is a good place to make a blind because the sun comes from the right. This allows me to photograph with the sun at 90 degrees. It is ideal for me to have beautiful models.

That morning, the fog had its appearance. The sun was totally obscured.

I waited patiently in the shelter of my hiding place in a bramble on the edge of a meadow. A gentle slope goes up towards the tree. It is not apparent because I placed myself high up on the other side of the meadow.

The deer came out of an antler on my left. I took a few pictures, but they are of no interest. The deer is in the meadow, but the back is very dark.

Luck was with me. He decided to take the path to the left of the cherry tree. This is what I had been waiting for days.

Here is the description of the picture. I am going to apply my method to make people understand this photo which is so important to me.

The first step is semiological analysis. This involves analyzing the visual elements of the photograph.

  1. The shooting angle and the point of view. As I already told you, I am slightly high. I am located at about 150 meters from the deer. As is often the case with deer, I like photos at eye level. I am its equal.
  2. The framing. I chose a horizontal framing to accentuate the calm and tranquility of the photo. This very morning, no bird was singing. The silence was total. My camera is hidden in a noise-cancelling muffle to attenuate all the clicks. I chose to integrate a tree to show the safe side and give a scale of value. By placing it on the right so as to stick it against the edge of the picture, I force the viewer to go towards the deer. The foreground is present without taking too much space. The viewer can easily enter the photo.
  3. The composition. The photographic elements are the tree for the reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph. The herbs in silhouette show that nature is intact. I am in a wild region.
  4. The scale of the plans. I have chosen an overall plan. This is the technique I use most often in my animal photos. I want to show wild animals in their natural environment. Often the scenery is very present in my photos. The animal is small.
  5. Depth. I chose to integrate a foreground to bring the gaze towards the animal. The background is masked by fog.
  6. The off screen. Once again, I used the off screen. The animal is looking ahead. We do not know where he is going and what he is looking at.
  7. The light. It is soft. It accentuates the dreamlike and ethereal aspect of the scene. I developed the photo in high key.
  8. Black and white. I chose black and white. This creative technique allows me to focus the attention on the deer. It is perfectly adapted to the high key.
  9. The tone. My photo has a clear tone. It is perfectly adapted to the softness, the quietness, and the dreaminess of the photo. I give a beautiful part to the space.

The second step to understanding this picture of a deer taken in the fog and during the deer's bellow, is the semiological understanding. This is the meaning of the photo.

This photo evokes freedom, the paths I take in my travels or in my life. I do not always know where I am going. I often make mistakes. I take reference marks (here materialized by a tree which is of good size). But I often make mistakes.

Freedom of movement is essential for me. I do not like being locked up. I like to go where I go. The high key allows me to accentuate this feeling of evanescence. I like to dream about beautiful projects, beautiful encounters. By closing the photo on the right and a little on the left, I want to show that I am not upside down. I like to let myself go during my travels, but I always know what I want.

Photographing the deer from behind allows me to accentuate this feeling of freedom that I wanted to express. I took another picture of the deer looking to the side. It is also beautiful, but it evokes more the side of looking back on the past. It does not quite fit me. I like to look to the future and wait for new adventures.

This photo expresses my optimism and my joy of life to go towards the unknown.

Case Study: Understanding an Abstract Photo

Abstract photograph of Petrified Forest en Arizona. Photograph in color by Amar Guillen, photographer

For this second photo, I chose an abstract photo. I made it in the United States on a fossilized tree trunk several million years old. This photo is part of the art photo collection entitled: the energy of time. I applied a personal recipe of filters to accentuate the colors and give light and evanescent effects.

Let us go to the first step of my method: semiological analysis.

  1. The shooting angle and the point of view. The fossilized tree is placed on the ground. I am lying down to have the trunk facing my face.
  2. The framing. I chose a horizontal framing to show the strength of the photo. I wanted to show stability and confidence.
  3. The composition. I chose the trunk of the tree. The wall is perfectly straight.
  4. The scale of the plans. I chose a close-up for details.
  5. Depth. The photo is flat because I wanted to evoke an explosion with a lot of energy.
  6. The light. It is strong in the center. It becomes black on the sides. This vignetting makes it easier to read.
  7. The color. I chose the color and cold tones. It is paradoxical enough to evoke energy, but I wanted to go against time.
  8. The tone. My photo has a clear tone.

Let us now move on to semantic analysis: this is the second step of my method to understand pictures.

Even if the tree is fossilized, the rings are clearly visible. These are the concentric circles that start in the center. This radial effect evokes energy. The streaks show that there can be side effects in the emission of energy.

I chose cold and bright tones to make the viewer wonder. The photo, even if it is bright and stable, is not easy to read and understand. This is the principle of abstraction. Everyone can see what they want. The shape of the trunk and the rings are easily identifiable and readable, but what is beyond? That is the whole question.

Finally

I hope that this article has helped you to better understand all the subtleties surrounding the way to understand a photograph. Keep in mind that understanding an image) is a two-step process:

  • Visual understanding (semiology).
  • A semantic understanding.

Remember also that understanding a photograph is above all, connecting you to the photographic world of its creator.

This allows you to enter another world with its codes and atmospheres.

Sometimes, for some photos, understanding is just a few words, a few thoughts.

Sometimes you will have to face more complex, more subtle, more constructed universes. In this case you will have to call upon your photographic culture.

But in any case, never confuse understanding with judging.

Be humble, patient, constant, persevering, and persistent because the road to excellence is long.

If this page interested you, would you give it a note? (5 stars is the best one)?
(5 votes)

 

Reading time for the page: about 8 minutes

Why and How: Understanding a Photo in Two Steps - Part 2

Photograph of Antelop Canyon in black and white. Photograph by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
This photograph in black and white of Antelop Canyon could be interpreted in different ways.

Step 1: Visual Comprehension

The visual understanding of a photo is called image semiology.

It is organized around 9 very precise criteria.

  1. The shooting angle and the point of view. For me this is the most difficult point with framing. It is the position of the camera in relation to the main photographic element (also called the subject). If you photograph at the level of the subject, you will create a feeling of objectivity because just as you look at the hours will be at the same level as the subject. If you photograph in low angle, the subject will be more important. If you photograph in high angle, that is to say with your camera placed above the subject, you will crush it. Its importance will decrease because you give the impression of dominating it.
  2. The framing. It defines all the photographic elements that you are going to integrate in your photograph. You offer your audience or the viewer a window on the scene you want to photograph. The framing can be rectangular or square. It all depends on the type of photos you present. If you choose rectangular framing, it can be:
    - Horizontal. In this case the scene evokes calm, tranquility, distance from the main photographic element.
    - Vertical. In this case you show a close scene. It is a framing that also favors the action.
  3. The composition. I remind you that composition is the way to organize the photographic elements in a harmonious way in the chosen framing.
  4. The scale of the plans. It is purely descriptive. It allows to give the viewer a common referent for a photo. It is established by taking the human scale as a reference.
    - General plan: landscape.
    - Overall plan: a subject in its environment.
    - Medium shot: one subject in full view.
    - Close-up shot: a live subject cut between the waist and the chest.
    - Close-up: face. - Very close-up: details of a face or a face.
  5. Depth. This is a technique that I use a lot in environmental wildlife and landscape photography. It is about the existence of several planes in a photograph: foreground, background, background.
  6. The off screen. Off screen is a creative technique that you can use with living beings. The subject is looking in a given direction other than towards you.
    But what he is looking at is not in the scene the field is defined by the whole scene you have chosen to frame.
    The off field evokes questioning, suggestion. It also inspires introspection.
    As for the field, it allows you to fix the look of hours in the space you have chosen. The field allows you to orientate the gaze of hours by imposing visual limits on it.
    The off screen allows you to create the dream. You give the viewer the opportunity to ask questions. Moreover, it can escape from the scene and thus from the photo. Visually, these are two very important elements.
  7. The light. For me, the light is after the decor the most important element in the construction of an animal scene, a landscape or underwater. I evoke these three photographic themes because they are the ones I practice. If you are reading this article but you evolve in other themes, you may have your own priorities. In this paragraph, I evoke natural light as well as artificial light. I use both sources in underwater photography as well as in wildlife photography, especially for passerines.
    The light allows to show details, textures. But in my opinion, it should be used mainly to create modeling. The light creates shadows that create the modeling that creates the relief and thus the 3 dimensions. Never forget that we always try, you and I, as photographers, to show the beautiful, to share our states of mind by freezing a 3-dimensional space on a 2-dimensional support.
  8. Colors and black and white. Colors are used to represent reality. They allow you to show scenes as faithfully as possible. If you use colors, you try to be as objective as possible to the framing and composition.
    Black and white is an artistic technique because you interpret the scene you see. You show gradations of gray. Black and white is a creative technique. It allows you to go straight to the point, to be directive.
  9. The tone. The general tonality of a photo is its visual aspect in terms of the distribution of tones and gradation levels between them. There are three main types of tonality:
    - The dark tone. In this case the photo is rather dark with low lights or dark colors.
    - The clear tone. The photo is rather built with highlights or bright colors.
    - The neutral tone. The photo is neither dark nor light. It is also called balanced tone.
    The visual understanding of the tonality allows you to better understand the atmosphere created by a photo. Tonality is one of the elements of the photographic language to express yourself.

To summarize this step #1 dedicated to the visual understanding of a photo, I advise you to learn by heart these different criteria.

So, when you are faced with a picture by another photographer and you are inspired, you will understand why.

If you need to analyze one of your photos, you will also be able to better understand and refine your photographic approach.

Once this first step is over, you just have to move on to the second step: the ones I call semantics.

Step 2: Semantic Understanding

By definition, semantics is the study of the meaning of linguistic units and their combination.

If I apply this definition to photography, photographic semantics is the study of photographic meaning and language.

I explained in a previous article that photography has its own language and codes. They allow you to convey your messages, your emotions.

If you really want to understand a photograph you must absolutely master the photographic language.

This particular language will allow you to build your photos in a more consistent way. They will be interesting because you will be able to give them meaning. You will also be able to read the photos of the photographers who inspire you.

To understand the semantics of a photograph is to understand the meaning of its content. It is to understand why the photographer has chosen to assemble the photographic elements in a certain way.

Understanding the semantics of a photograph allows you to better build your own images. When you frame, compose, choose a point of view, you will arrange the photographic elements of your scene to express yourself.

I think that now you begin to perceive the importance of photographic semantics to understand the photos you have in front of you.

Semantic understanding is just as important as semiological (visual) understanding. If I had to simplify my point, I would say that semantic understanding and the container and semantic understanding and the content a picture.

I recognize that I am not able to establish a link or dialectical relationship between the two elements of analysis. I do not know if this link really exists. In the absence of being able to bring tangible elements to establish a relationship between the two, I will simply propose the two steps separately.

In order to understand a photograph semantically, you need to call upon your life experiences, your emotions and especially your photographic culture.

It is thanks to this arsenal of knowledge and tools that you will be able to decipher the meaning of photos.

I am certain and I have already noticed that a simply emotional or aesthetic reading of an image can lead to an interesting decoding for a photo. The problem I have found with this method is that it is an empirical analysis. Over time, people who analyze only in this way find themselves confronted with a lack of ideas. Analyses always become identical and redundant.

A broad general photographic culture allows to refine the semantic understanding but specially to establish the creative processes that will result to realize your future images.

To conclude this paragraph concerning the semantic understanding of a photo I advise you to try to be as systematic as possible and to appeal to your photographic consciousness. But above all think about using your photographic culture.

Case Study: Understanding a Figurative Photo

If this page interested you, would you give it a note? (5 stars is the best one)?
(5 votes)

 

Reading time for the page: about 6 minutes

Why and How: Understanding a Photo in Two Steps - Part 1

When you look at other photographers' photos for inspiration and new ideas, you analyze, judge, try to understand the images.

You are looking for meaning in what you see to create your future photographs.

I often do this as well. In order not to get lost and to be as efficient as possible, I have developed a two-step method to understand the photos.

I will share it with you in this article.

This article will help you understand how to implement a new tool in your photography toolbox. By implementing it, you will make your photos even more interesting and give them true meaning.

Road crossing Valley of Fire in black and white. Photograph by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
This road crossing Valley of Fire can be read by differents ways. It is an example of symbolic photograph.

The Short History of This Article

I have always been passionate about the work of other photographers. I bought books. I consulted magazines. I went to see dozens of exhibitions.

Today, I continue. I also use the Internet and social networks to look for inspiration.

This photographic and artistic research also allows me to avoid reproducing what has already been done. I try to preserve my photographic identity. I claim to be unique and that is why I create photos that look like me. Photographs often reflect my moods, my states of mind, the emotions I feel and want to translate.

When I chose a career as a photographic artist, I watched and analyzed dozens of photos every day to define my photographic and artistic approach. I spent hours thinking, thinking, questioning myself. I lost a lot of time and energy. I realized this after months of intense and hard work. Indeed, I did not have a work methodology.

I was taking notes and analyzing without a clear guideline.

I admit to having lost a lot of time. But as always, I always learn more from my failures than from my successes. I have learned to concentrate and become very analytical.

To understand other photographers' photos, I developed a two-step method.

The most interesting thing is that I use this method to understand my own photos. When I move on to the development phase, I apply this principle to make sure that my photos will be understandable to other people.

This is what I will explain in the rest of the article.

Definition of The Word Understand

The transitive verb “to understand” has several definitions. I have chosen two of them which seem to me adapted to the photographic art.

  • Definition #1: to understand is to apprehend from the outset and through sensitivity the deep nature of someone, of an art, to keep close to it, to have an intuitive knowledge of it.
  • Definition #2: to understand is to picture someone, something in a certain way, to get a certain idea of it.

Application to Photography

If I apply this definition to photography, you realize that understanding a photograph is to understand the sensitivity of the photographer, his deep nature.

It also means representing the photographer by trying to understand his photos.

To understand the photographs taken by a person is to give oneself a representation of who they are.

Do Not Confuse Understanding and Judging

In the article devoted to the topic how to judge a photo, I gave you the definition of the word judge applied to photography: "Judging a photo is giving your opinion". You are going to make a value judgment.

The understanding of a photo is to apprehend the sensitivity of a photographer, his deep nature.

You are in a more subjective register even though I had mentioned the fact that a photo can be judged subjectively. But generally speaking, a judgment is rather objective. It is made on the basis of a grid of well-defined criteria.

As you can see, the two actions are totally different.

You are probably going to wonder what the right attitude is. You are perfectly right to ask yourself this legitimate question. But the answer is beyond the scope of this article. I propose to address this subject in a future blog post.

Why to Try to Understand a Photo

If you want to create interesting pictures that make sense and will appeal to an audience, you need to know how to understand a picture or a series of pictures.

The more you develop this faculty of understanding, the more empathetic you will be to your audience.

Understanding a photo will allow you to better choose your points of view, frame well, compose better to make and create photos that look like you.

You will be able to easily convey your moods and emotions by constructively assembling the photographic elements so that your audience will get a representation of who you are and who you really are. Isn't this what you are looking for when showing your photos?

Learning to understand photos, whether they are made by others or by yourself, will allow you to identify mechanisms and ways to translate what you want to show to the rest of the world.

After reading this article, I advise you to apply my method to develop your own.

You will find that understanding photos is above all a way to help you build your own.

How to Understand a Photo

If you follow my blog dedicated to the photographic approach on a regular basis, you have certainly noticed that I am passionate about photographic judgment, photographic analysis, photographic semiology, or photographic language.

In various articles, I have discussed methods for judging, analyzing, reading photography.

How to understand a photo is the logical continuation of all these articles.

Of course, you can apply the different methods. They will only help you in understanding the pictures. But in this article, I want to explain an empirical method based on two axes. It is a personal method. It allows me to go extremely fast in reading a photo and not to waste time in useless considerations.

Step 1: Visual Comprehension

Monday, December 07, 2020 Written by
If this page interested you, would you give it a note? (5 stars is the best one)?
(0 votes)

Incandescence – Collection of Fine Art Photographs

Conceptual and abstract photography of a landscape Petrified Forest. Photograph by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
Monday, December 07, 2020 Written by
If this page interested you, would you give it a note? (5 stars is the best one)?
(4 votes)

Energy of Time – Collection of Fine Art Photographs

Conceptual and abstract photography of the rings of a petrified tree from Petrified Forest. Photograph by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
Friday, December 04, 2020 Written by
If this page interested you, would you give it a note? (5 stars is the best one)?
(4 votes)

Magma – Collection of Fine Art Photographs

Evocation of magma. Photograph by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
Thursday, December 03, 2020 Written by
If this page interested you, would you give it a note? (5 stars is the best one)?
(4 votes)

Natural Wonders of Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Black and White – A Collection of Fine Art Photos

Landscape of Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado. Photograph in black and white by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
Wednesday, December 02, 2020 Written by
If this page interested you, would you give it a note? (5 stars is the best one)?
(4 votes)

The Natural Wonders of the Petrified Forest in Arizona in Black and White – A Collection of Fine Art Photos

Landscape of Petrified Forest in Arizona. Photograph in black and white by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
Tuesday, December 01, 2020 Written by
If this page interested you, would you give it a note? (5 stars is the best one)?
(4 votes)

The Natural Wonders of the Valley of Fire in Black and White – A Collection of Fine Art Photos

Landscape of Valley of Fire in Nevada. Photograph in black and white by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
Tuesday, November 24, 2020 Written by
If this page interested you, would you give it a note? (5 stars is the best one)?
(4 votes)

The Red Deer Bellowing in Black and White – A Collection of Fine Art Prints

Red deer stag bellowing in France. Photograph in black and white by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.

Page 1 of 58

Cookies settings

×

Functional Cookies

This site uses cookies to ensure its proper functioning and cannot be disabled from our systems. We do not use them for advertising purposes. If these cookies are blocked, some parts of the site will not work.

Social Networks / Videos

Plug-ins of social networks and videos, which exploit cookies, are present on this web site. They improve the user-friendliness and the promotion of the site thanks to various social interactions.

Other cookies

This Joomla CMS uses a number of cookies to manage, for example, user sessions.