When someone talks too fast or too loud they tend to dominate the conversation. In photography, dominance is usually a much more positive experience. Dominance leaves no room for doubt; it forces your viewer to look at a subject, usually because there is nothing else there to see. The good points are; you usually see great detail, and the background does not distract. The bad points are; you usually see great detail, and the background does not support. In other words, be very careful filling up the screen with a single subject because this will also bring out any flaws the subject might have.
The two most common things that use Dominance on a regular basis are Close-Ups and Portraits. With Close-Up work using dominance also means you loose something else. Depth is the most common. If you shoot an entire field of sunflowers, it gives you one feeling; if you shoot one flower only, that feeling changes dramatically. The only way to make this work to your advantage is to have a large “depth of field” (meaning every detail is sharp from edge to edge.) Usually; although not always, when you move in closer to something you are also cutting down on the amount of light you have available. If you want a large “depth of field” then you are also going to want to give your close-ups more light. This can be tricky. In some cases, using a flash will simply blow away (way over expose) your subject. If you can bracket your exposures, then do it. If you don’t have that option, try using a white poster board and work with reflected light.
Portraits are the opposite side of the coin. In other words, the odds are that with a portrait, especially if it is going to be a head and shoulders shot you will not want as much depth of field. When shooting women in particular; most portraits want a depth of field that covers from her eyes to just behind her ear. The reason for this is simple. One small flaw on the side of her nose could draw your attention away and ruin the mood of the shot. The nose is already a strong line naturally. Focusing further back decreases the likely hood that it will distract. Remember, the eyes are the windows to the soul, that’s where you want to focus. Although portraits of men tend to have more depth of field to show the rugged texture of the skin, always be aware of lines that can distract.
In music there is a dominant beat or rhythm. In drama there is a dominant character. In life, there is something dominant that drives you. It could be your mate or your children. It could be your work. It doesn’t matter what it is, it only matters that you have something. This something gives you security, or gives you confidence. When all things in life are crumbling around you, this is what you come back to. Like wise it is important to have something; whether it is the subject or the background that dominates the shot. If someone looks at your photo and has no idea what the shot was about, then you’ve lost your viewer. It doesn’t mean there can’t be other things going on in the shot to support your dominant theme, but if it doesn’t support . . .by all means get rid of it. By far the easiest way to have a dominant subject is to get rid of everything else.
Look through back issues of Time, Life, or National Geographic Magazines. Some of the greatest photographs of all time are those that are simple. They have a dominate subject, mood, color, or theme. Even when shooting nature, you don’t need to show every blade of grass. If you think a particular tree looks really cool, then make it the dominant subject. Don’t confuse the viewer by showing five or six trees and hoping they see what you saw.
Zoom in, get close. Don’t give them choices of where to look (unless the subject itself is multiples). Force them to see what you saw. Make them feel what you felt. The first award winning shot I ever took was of a mushroom. Most people only view mushrooms from above,or under their feet. I actually dug down in the ground in front of this mushroom, so that could lie on my stomach, and shoot looking up to it. I could see the fins under the dome that everyone else sees. I could see the insects, and the moisture. I could feel a whole world that most people just walk on by. It was because I forced them to see, that it caught people’s attention. You can do this too. Force people to feel emotions when they view your work and they will never forget you.
About the Author:
Award winning writer / photographer Tedric Garrison has 30 years experience in photography (better-photo-tips.blogspot.com). As a Graphic Art Major, he has a unique perspective. His photo eBook “Your Creative Edge” proves creativity can be taught. Today, he shares his wealth of knowledge with the world through his website.
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