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Size Does Matter - Creating a Visual Reference


Take a waterfall, tall and beautiful. Now visualize a small stream trickling over the edge of a few large stones. If you shoot it just right, they could look the same. “Wait a minute,” you're saying, “those are as different as night and day.” That’s a good point, but unless you also include something to compare the water to, you have no point of reference. This concept is generally referred to as opposition.

Say you’re hiking in a National Park, and find a really cool waterfall. You get close to capture detail, and shoot against a clear blue sky (so the background won’t distract.) You tell your friends about the adventure, and eagerly await your pictures from the photo lab. When they finally come back, you flip through the shots looking for your master piece. When you finally see it, your heart sinks. It looks OK, but there’s no magic, no majesty. It’s just not the same.

What happened? When you saw it live, you were there. You climbed over rocks; you walked through streams, and pushed pine branches out of your way. When you looked through the view finder of your camera, these images were also in the back of your mind. The human mind is a wonderful creation; it takes images, sounds, and smells and blends them all into wonderful memories. The problem lies in the limitations of the medium.

A photo tip worth remembering is; we experience in three-dimensions; but we photograph in two-dimensions. Opposition is one of several creative techniques that makes your photo appear more three-dimensional. The more three-dimensional you photo appears the more likely your viewer is to experience at least part of what you did when you took the shot.

Size is relative. A small mountain may seem big compared to a boulder. A boulder may seem huge compared to a rock. Even a small rock will seem gigantic compared to a grain of sand. In the world of micro photography, even a grain of sand could look like a vast landscape if there was nothing to compare it to.

At one time or another, most of us have seen a close-up of something that made to make us think it was something else. Why did we not recognize the item for what it was? Simply put, you had nothing to compare it to. You had no point of reference. This works in both directions, small and large. I'm a big fan of simplifying an image when you can, but there are times when you can simplify too much. Leaving a rock or a branch in the edge of the picture can often mean the difference between a nice shot and a great shot!

A few years back I did a series of nature shots in which I included a “Barbie Doll” in every shot. This was the California doll; because her skin was more tan than most, so from certain angles she did look more realistic. Most of the shots I did either had the doll in silhouette or they were looking over her shoulder from behind. In most cases, I could have used a real model, but not all of them. One shot in particular showed this beautiful girl who had apparently hiked through the woods (pine needles were framing the shot) and she was looking at this gorgeous waterfall. The catch was: the waterfall in question was only 24 inches tall.

Think of your subject as the star in a major motion picture. Often that star does well, because of his or her supporting cast. No one is expected to go through life as a one man show. The people we meet, hang out with, or interact with also influence how people see us. Your subject; be it human or nature, is the same way. Include elements that support your vision, eliminate the distractions that do not. I firmly believe that in order to get the big picture, you need to include the small details. One of those details is showing size, by using opposition.


Submitted by:

Tedric Garrison

Award winning writer / photographer Tedric Garrison, has 30 years experience in photography. 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, at: http://www.betterphototips.com





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