Capturing Images

February 28, 2002

There are two ways to produce and image:

  • Capturing (e.g. a photograph)
  • Creating manually (e.g. drawing and painting)


The most obvious way of doing this, and the first easily accessible way of doing this is using a camera. I want to have a look at composing a photographic scene.

The American Society of Cinematographers has this definition of cinematography for the digital cinema:

"Cinematography is the art and craft of the authorship of visual images for the cinema extending from conception and pre-production through post-production to the ultimate presentation of these images.

All and any processes which may affect these images are the direct responsibility and interest of the cinematographer. Cinematography is not a subcategory of photography. Rather, photography is but one craft which the cinematographer uses in addition to other physical, organizational, managerial, interpretive, and image manipulating techniques to effect one coherent process.

Cinematography is a creative and interpretive process which culminates in the authorship of an original work rather than the simple recording of a physical event. The images which the cinematographer brings to the screen come from the artistic vision, imagination, and skill of the cinematographer working within a collaborative relationship with fellow artists."

Personally, I feel that cinematography could be better summarised as the following: "Cinematography is the use of images to portray a purpose". In order to bring over a purpose you need to involve the viewer with your film of photos, one of the most obvious ways of doing this is through good choice of camera placing.

I have taken a few photos of random object in a friend's room. Uninteresting subject matter aside I would like to analyse briefly what makes a photo more interesting, or involving.

Left is a particularly uninteresting picture. What makes this picture so dull? Firstly there is the bright white streak at the bottom left, this makes it look tacky and less profound; then there is the colour range - this photo is almost all greys, except that if it were all greys it would probably look cleaner.

To the right is a greyscale version of the left photo. By removing the colour I have taken the focus of the photo away from the subject matter and placed it more firmly on the depth of the photo. This is because the lack of colour distances the viewer from the reality of the photo and hence it allows them to see it from a more abstract and less subjective viewpoint.

Left is a much more interesting photo. This photo was taken carefully so as to show the main elements fully. In my opinion the important parts of this photo are: The person, what he is reading, and what he is facing (the computer screen).

To the right I have desaturated the photo, except for Mike himself. This is an emotive method that is used in advertising a lot (I think it has been used in a car ad recently). The thinking behind it is simple - by removing the colour you distance the viewer from the subject matter - they become less subjective. As for the out of place colour, this place immediate focus on the character in colour - in advertising this is used to bring the viewer attention their brilliant product.

In my own photo the effect is of alienating Mike from his surroundings, making him look out of place, and yet quite at peace. If I were to use this method in a film I would use it to demonstrate coping with unusual circumstances. And, depending on the purpose of my film, I would either slowly remove the colour from Mike as he becomes part of the system and the surroundings, orI would bring the rest of the scene into colour. The first has tones of defeat in it and as such could be used to create pathos for the subject matter. The later shows the world around Mike becoming vivid and lively again (the return of colour) and has the opposite effect; one of triumph and subsequently joy.

In both of the above I have captured an image, and then manipulated it to create a new and different image. Above is a clear example of good use of editing to produce a desired effect. Below are a couple of pair-photos of the same scene, taken in different ways.

Here is an example of using slightly different camera angles to produce slightly different effects.

In the left picture the main focus is the mouse or the keyboard on the desk surface, despite the screen being the most eye-catching object in the photo it is not the subject matter because it is only partially included.

On the right however, the entire screen is included and so the subject matter is the screen. This is a demonstration of partial inclusion to shift the subject matter.

Both of these photos are of the same subject matter, and both concentrate on the plasma effect.

The right one is not as attractive as the left one because it does not show the surrounding environment, and is all blurry. This photo lacks variety and hence does not keep the viewer's attention for very long.

The left one has a lot more recognisable object in it, and accordingly it keeps the viewers interest for longer. I find it to be more obvious what it is too.

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