Photography Lingua

When speaking to good photographers, they will tell you that becoming a good photographer you will have to shoot, shoot and then shoot some more. Practice is without a doubt a cornerstone to becoming a great photographer, but for me is the reflective thought process of at least equal importance. Debating photos, receiving comments and critics, analyzing photos is what makes me think further on how I could improve.

Tying closely into debating and analyzing photographs a special type of lingua used which applies to artworks as well as to photography art works. The lingua focuses on an artwork’s “formal” qualities, or those visual elements that give it form.

It is important to keep in mind that there are as many interpretations as there are persecutors. The words we put on our photography’s just the impression we as a photographer want to convey, the persecutors perception is even more important than ours, try not to lock your mind into conclusive interpretation, as there is no one correct answer when interpreting works of art. I love reading Chances Are, You Suck by Kenneth Jarecke. His point is exactly that devouring critics offered, and preferable the honest and harsh kind is essential to learning.

I recommend using the lingua in form of questions (like “what is the Contrast ratio of this photograph?), as it drives the thought process better.

General Vocabulary Used in Photography

Abstract An image that emphasizes formal compositional elements such as a line or a shape, rather than a specific recognizable object.
Content The subject, topic or information captured in a photograph.
Direct approach Means confronting a scene in directly without any use of unusual angles or distortion.
Documentary photography Documentary means as it happens naturally, in their environment. It is a photograph whose main purpose is to record a place, person(s) or event true to the moment by conveying the feeling of that exact moment in time.
Expressive If a photograph is expressive it means that it is communicating emotion.
Geometric shape As in geometry, we are referring to a special form being a circles, squares, triangles, etc.
Intention The thought work behind the image, what was the reason or reasons why the artist made a work of art.
Landscape An image that portrays the natural environment.
Objective A point of view free from personal bias, which attempts to consider all available information with equal regard and fairness.
Organic shape Shapes based on natural objects such as trees, mountains, leaves, etc.
Representational An image which shows recognizable objects.
Subject The main object or person(s) in a photograph.
Theme A unifying or dominant idea in one work of art or in a collection of works.

Visual Elements

Focus The areas that appear the clearest or sharpest in the photograph.
Light How the light in this photography. Is it natural light or is it directional, what are the qualities of the light. Which areas are the most highlighted, and compared to the shadows what are the ratios? Does the photograph allow you to guess the time of day etc.

It is possible to get more inspiration in the following blog posts.

Light – Color Temperature – A balancing act

Light – The Direction of light

Light – Its all about the quality of the light

Lines Are there direct or indirect lines in the photograph? Remember objects can act as lines and their posture can be hinted lines.

It is possible to get more inspiration in the following blog post.
Diagonals, the strongest compositional element

Repetition Which objects, shapes or lines creates a pattern and why?
Shape Do you see geometric or organic shapes? What are they?
Space Is there depth to the photograph or does it seem shallow? What creates this appearance? Are there important negative spaces in addition to positive spaces? Is there depth created by spatial illusions?

It is possible to get more inspiration in the following blog post.
Dimensional Space

Negative Space

You don’t just move into or inhabit a space, you create it

Texture If you could touch the surface of the photograph how would it feel? How do the objects in the picture look like they would feel?
Value The tonal range from dark to light? Where is the darkest value? Where is the lightest?

Composition of the Photograph

Angle/Perspective The vantage point is that location from which the photograph was taken; generally used when discussing a photograph taken from an unusual or exaggerated vantage point.

It is possible to get more inspiration in the following blog post.

Dimensional Space

Background The part of a scene or picture that is or seems to be toward the back.
Balance The distribution of visual elements in a photograph. Symmetrical balance distributes visual elements evenly in an image. Asymmetrical balance is found when visual elements are not evenly distributed in an image.
Central Focus The objects(s) which appears most prominently and/or most clearly focused in a photograph.
Composition The arrangement or structure of the formal elements that make up an image.
Contour The outline of an object or shape.
Contrast Strong visual differences between light and dark, varying textures, sizes, etc.
Framing What the photographer has placed within the boundaries of the photograph.
Setting Actual physical surroundings or scenery whether real or artificial.
vantage point The place from which a photographer takes a photograph.

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