Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Image structure

In my last post I mentioned the structure of an image. One of the most important aspects of visual structure is the range of tones between light and dark and their distribution across the frame.

Imagine a photograph of a white fish bone skeleton lying on a flat, almost black stone surface. The white bones stand out against the dark background. The contrast is easy to see and you're literally looking at the skeletal structure of the image.

Of course every image you take has skeletal structure. The success of the composition often depends on getting the distribution of light and dark right. The Great Masters of painting knew this as did the impressionists but sadly this way of seeing is often not taught to photographers. Yes, photography is all about light but even more it is about the distribution of that light within the image.

If you've worked with black and white film and viewed a negative in front of a light source the structure is easy to see. With digital its a different kettle of fish, so to speak. There are two ways to assess the light structure in an image. A quick and handy way is to use the depth of field preview button on your camera. By stopping down the lens you will more easily see the distribution of light across the frame. Another way, which works well with a bit of practice, is the almost close your eyes, in effect stopping them down, to see the lighting skeletal structure in the image.

Once you've got the image into your image editing software package there are several ways to check, for example using curves to exaggerate the contrasts, or simply going mono and heightening contrast.

The real message here though is to pay attention to the structure. Making sure that it works in your image will help you to improve your photography.

Cheers for now.

Paul
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