Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

January 3, 2009

Elements of Style in Photography

Filed under: Birds, composition, style — Tags: , — richditch @ 2:04 pm
Great-tailed Grackle in vegetation

Great-tailed Grackle in vegetation

This is primarily a collection of half-formed thoughts and observations that are still evolving, but I wanted to start getting organized and perhaps start a dialog on the topic.

“Style” is simply the overall look of an image, and it results from a combination of all the elements that comprise the image. These include:

  • subject
  • background
  • subject placement in the frame
  • quality of light
  • direction of light
  • ISO
  • shutter speed (as it determines subject blur)
  • aperture (as it determines depth of field)
  • composition
  • color palette
  • color saturation
  • others I haven’t thought of yet

A photographer can develop a personal style through a selection of a combination of these elements and using them consistently over a period of time. A personal style may develop over a long period of time as the photographer grows in technical ability and finds subject matter of strong personal interest. Many photographers adopt the style of an accomplished photographer they favor and who serves as a role model and a standard to measure personal progress against. Sometimes a photographer will “force” a style by manipulating one or more elements, such as the use of a high speed film to give the image a pronounced grainy look, or a specific film like Fujichrome Velvia to give the images an over-saturated appearance. In digital, many more options are available in post processing to simulate the effects of particular films or to allow the photographer to create a personal style.

My example here is a female Great-tailed Grackle, taken in the grasses growing on the edge of a  pond in Tempe, AZ. It shows certain features common to a lot of my own images, and is thus a pointer to my own fairly evolved style:

  • it is a bird of “low color;” not a brightly colored bird like a cardinal or tanager or warbler
  • it is shown in habitat (the grasses) characteristic of where it is often seen, as opposed to being shown on a plain perch against a uniformly colored background
  • the subject is partially blocked by part of the habitat
  • the image has a peaceful mood to it (something I’ve coined “quiet image” to describe)

In later posts I’ll try to address some popular and easily identifiable styles.


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