"What are you trying to say with this shot?"

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by BTilson, Oct 3, 2008.

  1. BTilson

    BTilson TPF Noob!

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    I have heard this a lot since I started taking photography seriously. It seems that at least a reasonable portion of photographers seem to think that every shot taken must have some deeper meaning, must be trying to "say something" to the viewer.

    My question is, why?

    Don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to deliver a message of some sort through photography, but there seems to be a general attitude that any photography that fails at this, or even worse, wasn't taken with such intent in the first place, is pointless drivel and a waste of time.

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with photography that is intended to look neat or pretty, with no deeper meaning. So what if my shot of a unique texture on a sidewalk doesn't convey some deeper meaning about the ills of our society? It's just neat to look at. Who cares if my picture of a tree doesn't make the viewer want to weep? It's just a nice shot.

    I don't know... I've been thinking a lot about this recently, and I cannot understand the above stated attitude. What does everyone here think?
     
  2. DannyB

    DannyB TPF Noob!

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    I enjoy trying to think of strange ideas to put in front of a lens simply because I think it may make a neat shot and give me something interesting to look upon. I sit and look at other people’s photos and every so often I get in the state of mind like I am looking through their eyes based on what and/or how they photograph something. It almost lets me see how they envision the world around them. Yes some shots do have a deeper meaning that someone may be trying to get across. Personally I enjoy those photos that can capture my mind and make me wonder, cause me to think and use my imagination, those photos that are so vivid that I can almost smell the atmosphere in which it were shot. Granted this can be any photo out there though. I am still very new compared to the talent on this site but I would like to think that one day I would be able to have that effect on someone viewing my images. Capture them, let them use their imagination as to what the photo depicts, take them on some tangent in their own mind as to what they see creating and opening a new window so to speak.

    Not all photos can do this to everyone of course but then again I'll sit and look through pointless pictures just the same. :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2008
  3. dEARlEADER

    dEARlEADER TPF Noob!

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    lol... sounds like you may be a minimalist.... on an abstract artist...


    the idea behind "relaying a message" IMO is to help people understand what it is that compelled you to make this image... this generally makes your image more effective

    if you take the example of shooting a tree.... how you as the photographer present the tree will greatly impact how the viewer may perceive it...

    a vibrant backlight maple tree isolated in a field at autumn will convey a different feeling than a contrasty black and white willow tree shot from a low perspective...

    IMO the art of photography maybe 20% about the tree and 80% about your creative ability to portray the tree...

    This is my opinion.... I'm sure you will get many more....
     
  4. RMThompson

    RMThompson the TPF moderators rock my world!

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    I've been asked that question, and sometimes it makes sense. Even in modeling photography, I try to paint a STORY behind the photo. For example:

    [​IMG]

    That picture is about the model's duality. Outwardly she's a nice girl, who feels somewhat lost, but behind that version of her there is a darker person, someone who knows what she wants, but feels trapped and cannot come out.

    Perhaps that's too much for most people to read, but it was what I was thinking when I took the photo.

    Then again, some photos are just PHOTOS. When asked what the deeper meaning in this shot was:

    [​IMG]

    I'd simply say... "the model is HOT!" :)
     
  5. DannyB

    DannyB TPF Noob!

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    Yeah I am of that mind I guess, and not just in photography, lol. "It is what it is", which just leads to other simple things...if that makes sense to anyone else. I try and not over-think things which in turn cuts out SO much stress in my life. :)
     
  6. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Sometimes visual art can be purely visually interesting and that may be enough to hold peoples' attention, but most of the work that really grabs people has something to say, even if it's not particularly deep or complex or world changing.

    Besides the viewer though, I think the relationship between the subject and photographer tends to have a big influence on the quality of the work. In my own photography, and that of other photographers, it seems to me that much of the better work is done when the photographer has a relationship with the subject beyond photography.

    Sometimes I feel like I just want to grab a camera and get out and shoot, but I've come to realize that if I go out just to do photography I'm probably going to end up with what are basically snap shots for me. There has to be a reason beyond just taking pictures if I'm going to end up with something that excites me. It doesn't have to be much; "I love wandering in the great outdoors!" is enough for most of my landscape photography. Most of the time I incorporate photography into my other interests: my family, where I live, watching live music, cooking, gardening, cycling, etc.... Sometimes I come up with my own projects, and if someone else has a neat story or project I may get involved with that.

    Think of iconic photographs. The vast majority either tell a story, or inspire the viewer to make one up. Beyond the model being really hot in RMThompson's photo, the bikini combined with the mittens and stocking cap make me start wondering "What's going on? Is she running around nekked in the cold?", and so on. Hot bikini pics are a nickel a dozen. I'm a huge fan of half naked girls on the beach or anywhere, but it's so overdone that I'm numb to all the photos that are constantly around me. I mostly just ignore those photos. It takes some hint of a story to make me glance or think twice. The little bikini is hot, but it's the mittens that'll make my eyes and mind linger longer.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2008
  7. MelodySoul

    MelodySoul TPF Noob!

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    I don't think people usually mean that it should have some huge deeper meaning, just that you should try to express something with your photography. Even if that something is just "I was trying to show texture on the sidewalk". To me good photography tells a story of some kind. It doesn't have to be deep and meaningful but it needs to say something.
     
  8. mrodgers

    mrodgers No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I think everyone is going in the wrong direction. Someone posts a photo of a sunset, a lake scene, an event, nothing needs said. Then someone posts a photo of a doorknob. Not interestingly lighted with neat shadows or interestingly textured on the door behind, but just a doorknob, a plain old doorknob. Then they ask for critique. Well, it's just a freakin doorknob, what else do they want? Obviously there must be a deeper meaning behind the doorknob or else it is just a doorknob.

    It's these images, seemingly images of nothing, that needs to be asked the question.
     
  9. Fox Paw

    Fox Paw TPF Noob!

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    BTilson, I agree with you. Anybody ever read Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word?

    I've taken some shots with a conscious intention of conveying a mood or implying a story. Mostly, though, I just want an interesting or appealing image. The thing itself should be enough without my superimposing some conceptual overlay on top of it.
     
  10. Alex_B

    Alex_B No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Not every image needs an intentional message. But of course you send some message by showing an image. There is always a reason why you took the shot, and selected it for display. The reason might be trivial. And "Hey, the girl looks good and I captured it well." is a perfectly legitimate reason. Of course I would not call this deeper meaning ;)

    But everything you do has a meaning sometimes trivial, sometimes complicated or sometimes very subtle.

    I think you might be mixing up message and meaning?

    If you present an image of your unique texture on a sidewalk, then there will not be any message in that image. But you took and presented the image because you want to share the visual impression of that texture, which is special in some way. That is the meaning of that shot.
     
  11. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    ... and I'd say that she was freezing her cute tush off! I remember the story of this shoot... nice shot anyways. :lol:

    I don't know... I can shoot with and without a "theme" in my head, but I will tell you that the times that I go for something, an emotion, a story... the picture comes out a LOT better.
     
  12. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    what are you trying to say with this thread?
     

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