Grasping the power of emphasis in photography will help you tell your story. All photographs have a focal point and need that emphasis to attract your viewer's eye.
Art is meant to tell stories and show emotion, and this can be done through music, dance, paintings, and photography. In photography, you have that focal point and other elements to tell a story, and your emphasis will tell your story and show feelings with just visuals.
What is Emphasis in Photography?
The emphasis in photography refers to the technique of drawing attention to a particular subject or element within an image. It involves using various compositional elements and techniques to make the main subject stand out and become the photograph's focal point. By creating emphasis, photographers guide the viewer's gaze and ensure that the intended subject receives the most attention. There are several ways to create emphasis in photography. Let's dig in.
Does this seem complex? If it does seem difficult to you, I will help you understand how you should capture the emphasis through photography composition.
What is Composition?
Composition is how your photograph organizes its subject matter. Understanding your camera's settings is an integral part of photography. But also having a knack for the subject arrangement in your photos will ensure you get a fantastic picture. Here are a few composition techniques you can use:
• Texture: Having texture contrast will automatically pull your viewer in. An example of this would be a mossy stone in a calm creek. That moss is a different texture from smooth water.
• Light: Using light to create shadows will create a mysterious look. Shining a bright light on a subject will create a more soft and happy look. Light will add an extra dimension to your photographs.
• Angles: Trying new angles is one of my personal favorites. Switching up perspectives and positions can make a huge difference in your photo and is an easy and quick fix.
• Depth of Field: When you use a shallow depth of field that blurs your background, it draws focus to your subject. Although you have other elements, it is hard to visualize them. Your eye will automatically focus on what is clear to see. In some instances of photography, you want to make sure the background is not overpowering what the focal point is.
• Rule of Thirds: The Rule of Thirds is one of the more popular composition techniques. Your subject will be in the right or left third of your camera's grid in this technique. The rest of your grid should be left open.
• Distance: Zoom in on your subject with a telephoto lens or even step back to add a new perspective to your photo. This will modify your emphasis. Maybe you want to emphasize the size of a large waterfall compared to a model standing at the bottom. To do this, you will add distance between you and your model and the waterfall.
• Negative space: Try a minimalistic approach to your composition. If you use negative space, you can bring all your attention to your subject. An example of this would be a white room with a single brightly colored object in the center - this takes out any visual mess.
• Cropping: Crop your image during post-processing if you feel like your background is overpowering your subject. This is an easy fix!
• Colors: Using contrast and brightness can also help emphasize your photographs. If you have contrasting colors in your foreground and background, your subject will automatically pop out. An example of this is a child in a bright yellow rain jacket in the middle of a gloomy day, the grey and yellow contrast each other. Another idea is converting your photo to black and white during post-processing and keeping your subject in color (maybe a lady in a red dress).
• Visual Weight: Although your viewer doesn't know how tall or how much your subject weighs, there is a lot to be said about visual weight. You don't know how big a tall building is just by seeing it. But by having it near a smaller building, you can visualize how tall it really is.
• Framing: Use the frame technique to draw your viewer's eye to the subject. This doesn't even have to be done with a literal frame, and you can use other elements to frame out your subject. An example of this would be an arched bridge over your model.
• Shapes: You can also use shapes in your photographs to help direct your viewer to the subject.
• Leading Lines: Another one of the more popular composition techniques in art is leading lines. With this technique, lines will lead your viewer's eye to the subject. An example of this could be a railroad leading your eyes to a train from afar. Another example is a beam of sunlight leading to a model.
We wrote an entire article dedicated to Composition Techniques, you can read it here: Photography Composition Techniques
Was this list hard to remember? Maybe.
Think of the four C's when in doubt. Color, Composition, Cropping, and Contrast. When in doubt, the four Cs will help you with composition, which is a great starting point for everyone.
And remember, practice will always make perfect. Do not get discouraged when you are starting out. Instead, take an opportunity to practice and experiment as much as possible to help with your emphasis on photography. Your eye will end up developing a knack for what to look for.
Another essential thing to remember while experimenting is always carrying your camera to snap a photo while you are in the moment.
This guide and list of composition techniques should help you along the way and support you while telling your story. Check out our other articles to learn more about photography!
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