If we want to strip photography down to its barest essentials, it’s all about two things: lines, shapes, and light. Think about it a second: everything else can either be stripped away (take out the color and you’ve still got a black-and-white) or related back to one of those things. Depending on your personal preference and style, there are different ways you might choose to deploy those things, or visually “accessorize” them, but those are the essentials in your toolkit.
So today, it’s all about shape.
Sometimes your shape is your subject. For instance, you may find yourself wanting to emphasize the shape of something if that’s the most striking thing about your subject. Luckily for you, there are several ways to do this:
- Backlighting can help to wipe out some of the surface details of something by portraying it in silouhette
- Backdrops can be useful for subjects that can be moved or posed
- Black and white is a good remedy if the shape of something works but the color in the image draws more attention than the shape (as in the two photos of the meters below)
At other times, the shape of something might be incidental to a larger subject, but still serve a compositional purpose. It’s also useful to remember that shapes are themselves collections of lines; because of that, shapes are capable of serving the same compositional purpose that lines do in terms of drawing attention to or through a particular part of the photo. And don’t be afraid of asymmetry, since asymmetrical shapes, besides having a certain visual appeal, also do a better job of leading the eye through a photo.
It’s not just photographers who are concerned with this sort of thing. Picasso’s cubist work, and abstracts by the likes of Joan Miro and Piet Mondrian (artists’ names link to representative works) throw realistic depiction out the window and reduce the visual plane to a series of shapes, although in Picasso’s case, the shapes are still — albeit loosely — deployed in the service of something vaguely figurative. We’ll be delving into abstraction later on, but for now, pay attention to shape in the arts and crafts, as well as in the world beyond your door.
Keep up with the project, share your progress, feedback and questions:
Project page (where you’ll also find a FAQ and other goodies)
The entries day-by-day (the blog entries)
10,000/365 Flickr Group (to share and discuss your shots)