Cre­ative paths

Shapes and forms that link one sub­ject to an­other can add in­ter­est to your images, ex­plains Michael Free­man

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How shapes and forms that link one sub­ject to an­other can add in­ter­est to your images

Agood half of the cre­ative paths that I’m propos­ing this year have to do with com­po­si­tion. While other in­gre­di­ents that go into a pho­to­graph, like light­ing and tim­ing, aren’t al­ways un­der your con­trol, com­po­si­tion nor­mally is. Un­less you find your­self to­tally stuck in one shoot­ing po­si­tion with one fo­cal length, there is al­ways some­thing you can do to frame and com­pose in your own way.

This month’s cre­ative path is what I call a graphic echo, which is about find­ing some purely graphic cor­re­spon­dence be­tween two things in the frame. It’s one of those com­po­si­tional tech­niques that’s ob­vi­ous once it’s been pointed out, but which doesn’t hap­pen by ac­ci­dent. It de­mands that you re­serve a small part of your at­ten­tion to be on the look­out for vis­ual con­nec­tions.

A Chi­nese aes­thetic

In this case the sit­u­a­tion was cer­tainly planned, but the echo, which the il­lus­tra­tion high­lights, be­came ob­vi­ous only at the mo­ment it hap­pened. In ret­ro­spect, if I’d thought care­fully about it in ad­vance, I might have been able to an­tic­i­pate it. As it was, the move­ments of the arm and hand sim­ply fell into place in front of the cam­era. This was a com­mer­cial shoot for a Chi­nese client in Chongqing, and we were both film­ing and shoot­ing stills (with the same cam­era, a D4). The sub­ject was kung fu mas­ter Chang Ying, and I needed a back­drop against which to shoot him as he per­formed a tai chi rou­tine. For­tu­nately, right next to the client’s premises in an area of nat­u­ral hot springs is an old, ven­er­ated tem­ple, Wen Quan. Scout­ing the area early in the morn­ing I found this drum tower, and in front of it, like a prosce­nium, a plat­form. On a wet, misty morn­ing, the light was ideal, and the heavy at­mos­phere pushed back the drum tower nicely, pro­vid­ing good sep­a­ra­tion. It was one of those happy oc­ca­sions where all you have to do is lock down the cam­era and shoot. This made it all the bet­ter when about a minute into his three-minute set Chang Ying turned cam­era left and ex­e­cuted this par­tic­u­lar move­ment. Out of nearly a hun­dred frames, this was clearly the one. The graphic echo took the im­age up one ex­tra level.

The way the sub­ject’s ges­ture echoes the two rooflines is ob­vi­ous once it’s been pointed out

If you en­joy this ar­ti­cle and want to learn more, there are 50 more paths to be dis­cov­ered in Michael’s new book Fifty Paths to Cre­ative

Pho­tog­ra­phy (NB: all 50 are dif­fer­ent from those that will be fea­tured here in the mag­a­zine)

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