Portraits are the common denominator in photography. You may be a landscape photographer, or an architectural photographer or a macro photographer – but every photographer experiments with portraiture. As you know, I am a fan of portraiture as a learning tool. Not just as a tool or for example – but as a means of practice. Whether or not a photographer intends to share their portraiture, I think it’s a great way to practice and expand one’s horizons and experiences. It is for that reason that I share this week’s photo, ‘To me “your” the world, the “beauty of life”‘ (sik) by Aishath Azleena (aka: PoOps!!)
Aishath has been a member of the Shutter Photo @ Flickr Group for a little while now, and she posts a great number of fun and inspiring portraits of her daughter (who I can safely assume is the girl on the left in this photo). If I were to crown a poster-child to campaign for the use of portraiture as a photography learning tool, Aishath would be it. Over the past several months after stumbling across her work – note, just a short time – I have watched her work grow compositionally and emotionally. Emotionally, you ask? Emotion is everything in portraiture. Not just for the model, but for the photographer as well. Be it through composition, in-camera tweaks or post-processing, emotion of the photographer is portrayed in the final product. If a portrait does not express emotion, it is not a good portrait.
So that brings us to this week’s photo. When looking upon it, what do you feel? Comfort? Warmth? Peace or Serenity? What we have here is a moment in time, a precious moment between a mother and daughter (I am only assuming that is the case, as I do not know for certain). As the observer, you do not need to know these people to understand – to feel – the emotion portrayed here. You don’t need to be a parent to appreciate the moment.
That leads me to the next point. What do you think is the subject here? Is it the mother and daughter? Is it the log? Is it the clouds? No. It is the precious moment spent between mother and daughter. Despite what you may believe, it is possible to photograph time – or at least a time. Yes, I’ll admit that I’m a bit abstract in my interpretation of this photo’s subject. But really, that’s what this photo is about. So the question arises, how does one photograph a moment in time? Well to start, you need to capture this emotion. There are hundreds of ways to capture emotion, so I can’t possibly discuss all of them here. But in the case of this photo, it’s very simple. The mother and daughter duo are sitting close, looking the same direction, and there is space before them. From a compositional point of view, anchoring the duo and the log they’re sitting on in the bottom left is important. Equally important is the space to the right and above our physical subjects. One of the notes over the photo on Flickr suggested a tighter crop, but I greatly disagree. This space is essential to understanding of the moment. It is, after all, what is drawing our subjects’ attention – so it needs to be a part of the photo. Besides, compositionally, a tighter crop would throw off the balance of the photo.
Photography guides and educators often discuss the importance of eye contact. Either the subject should be looking at the camera, or the object they are looking at should be in the frame or at least implied. But what do we do if the subject’s eyes aren’t in the photo? Such is the case here where neither subject is looking at the camera – we can’t even see their faces. If you were to follow such a rule so strictly, this isn’t a very good photo. But the rules are often wrong (and no, I’m not exaggerating when I say often). Remember, the rules exist so we can understand existing compositions, not create them. When creating compositions, you can ignore such rules if you have a reason. So what’s the reason here? The only way Aishath would be able to illustrate the subjects’ point of interest would be to shoot from behind. So back to the space around our physical subjects. By allowing all that space – all the clouds, the sand, the beautiful water and blue skies – we, the observers of the photo, are now fully aware that everything in view is drawing our physical subjects’ attention. We’ve been there. We’ve admired the view. We’ve been overwhelmed by them. Including the vast open space in the photo helps us understand why this is a beautiful moment.
There is one last item I would like to point out about this photo. This photo was shot with a Canon G10. The G10 is a great camera, but it does not have detachable lenses. It is not a D-SLR, it does not have all the bells and whistles of high end professional quality cameras. Yet I still consider this photo a great photo. Before the days of EXIF data, there would be very little indication of the type of camera used to shoot a photo. Such embedded data has unfortunately corrupted the minds of many into thinking that good photography can only be accomplished with high-end cameras. Let this photograph be evidence to the argument that the camera doesn’t matter. For that matter, let it be a reminder: The price tag on your camera matters little when it comes to communicating emotion.
Thanks Aishath for sharing your work.