The photo and quote above is from a previous ds106 student’s perspective on photography. For this week of DS106 Goes to Work, you will practice telling stories in visual form, mostly centered on photography. A goal is to have you thinking more about story when you use a camera or look at images.
You may go from someone who takes a lot of snapshots or quick mobile photos to one who thinks more about composition, framing, and being more intentional with your photography. Even if you are an accomplished photographer, you can always get better by trying new approaches. And we find that people doing this work come away noticing the world around them in new ways, in more detail. They notice texture, shadows, angles they may have never paid attention to before.
Pay attention to the visual representations of words in this video, and how they flow from one idea to the next. It is a clever representation of words in visual form.
Watch also and listen to how the director of photography for National Geographic shows us the connective power of images and stories
Principles of Visual Composition
In this video photographer, Jason Eskenazi describes some very key principles of storytelling as visual literacy.
This one week is by no means intended to be a photography course. But with a few ideas planted in your head and put into practice this week, you can get better at not only taking better photos, but seeing compositional details when you view photos by others.
The suggestions below are borrowed from TEN: Ten Ways to Improve Your Craft. None of Them Involve Buying Gear a $5 ebook by David duChemin. You don’t need to buy the book; I’ve summarized the key points.
- Get Pickier: Instead of using your camera like a rapid fire machine gun, spend more time pre-composing in your mind. As you get more practice, you can be more selective, and more deliberate. See if perhaps you can decide before taking a shot if it will be good.
- Better Contrast Makes Better Stories Contrast can be in terms of colors and lighting, but also elements and subjects in your photos- look for things that maybe do not belong together (juxtaposition). Look for near and far perspective.
- Change My Perspective By Changing Yours: Find different and unique points of view. Look down, up, lay down on the ground, anything different from your normal view of the world at head height. Seek perspectives of lines. Tilt the camera off of the normal balanced view.
- Create Depth: Look for ways to add dimension of visual depth in your 2 dimensional images- play with foreground, lines, use of wide angle lenses, use of dark backgrounds, strong oblique angles.
- Get Balanced. The rule of thirds is not only about placement on a grid; duChemin describes visual mass, elements that draw more attention in a photo and how to balance that effectively. “Becoming more intentional about creating and playing with balance in your images will help you create images that more intentionally express what you have to say.”
- Pay Attention to the Moment: Sometimes it means slowing down, but also being more aware of the action in a scene, trying to anticipate the moment of something interesting before it happens e.g. watching a family at the table preparing for when baby might spill the glass of milk? at sporting events trying to be ready for the kick that scores the goal?
- Look to the light. Probably the most key lesson- be aware of light that works and what does not. Knowing about shadows, directions, aiming for directions where light is strong (or not). Good light makes every photo. Learn how to sense when light is good (and when not, and you can skip lousy shots).
- Use the Best Lens If your camera uses different lenses, understand better what a wide angle does versus a telephoto not only in terms of what it can fit in a photo, but what effect it has one photos (squashing or expanding space). If your lens is fixed, understand what its limits are (how close you can get, what happens at severe angles).
- Expose for Aesthetics Learn how to use aperture, shutter speed, iso to control the image- what the effects of these all play on depth of field, motion freeze vs blurring. For fixed lens camera/mobile, at least understand what the level of light means for your photos (why are those low light photos are blurry?)
- Put a Great Foreground in Front of a Great Background Pay attention to the near and far. A landscape scene is dull without something in foreground to give depth and scale. Learn to avoid clutter and distracting elements.
One of the classic rules of photography is to place your primary subject along one of typically imagined series of limes that divide the image into thirds. In the photo above, the photographer makes an example using a real set of lines former be the fence. A perfectly centered photo of the flower actually creates a sense of tension; offsetting it to the right balances the weight of the subject with an empty two thirds space on the left.
You can use one of the lines as a guide to place your subject, or above, and often the intersection of two lines works well. Many cameras (e.g. the iPhone camera) can provide this as a grid though your viewer to help you place your subjects on these lines. Landscape photos usually look better when the horizon is placed on the top or lower third, rather than in the middle of the frame.
But camera rules are often meant to be broken- some images do work well when center balanced. So do not take a rule as a rule! Look at this stunning photo with a very strong centered line, and also how the use of contrast makes for a fascinating image.
What Can One Photo Communicate?
Please do not pull out the 1000 words exchange rate!
Look closely ar this iconic photos, one that ushered in an era of photojournalism. What story an image alone might tell, or just suggest. Who is this woman? Where is she? How did she get here? What does this photo say about the era? Can you determine this without reading any more?
There is the photographer’s own story. See The Story Behind Dorothea Lange’s Iconic “Migrant Mother” Photograph and How She Almost Didn’t Take It (Brain Pickings). Consider Lange’s method of note taking; what might she have done given a place to blog and publish her own photos? Is there more to a photo than the photo?
A story filled photo need not always be serious- how does this photo work to generate an idea for a possible story? What is going on here?
WordPress Tips For Posting with Images
This may be only your second week using your blog. If you have not done so already, it’s time to go beyond text and include images directly into your writing. For your work this week, get familiar with the uploading and posting of images and how to turn sets of images into galleries in your blog.
Many of your first image uploads end up small in the page; You have lovely templates, so make use of their space. When you upload images, WordPress automatically generates multiple copies of them in different sizes, so when you add an image (top left button in your editor), pay attention to the size you choose via the menu in the bottom right.
Most WordPress themes will make sure your images fill the space if you select the larger version. Experiment with different sizes, preview your posts to see how your theme manages the display of images. Note you can also link the image to a full size version, or any external URL.
In this week’s work, it may be helpful to know how to use the built in feature to create image galleries — see my post and example to learn more.
How to Become a Better Photographer
Anyone can take snapshots, the question is do you want to elevate your photography skills to produce perhaps more artful, and create story filled photos? If your work involves creating materials, what better way to avoid copyright or trite clip art than using your own photos?
You get better as you look at your own and others photos. You get better when you think more before you press the shutter. You get better when you try new approaches. You get better when you follow the rules. You get better when you break the rules.
I’ve assembled many more resources into a web based collection on storify:
- Provide a link and credit for the tip.
- Upload an example of a photo where you tried the technique<./li>
- Describe how you thought about this, or what approach (or variation) you tried.
Here is an exercise to practice your visual interpretation skills. Below are a list of subjects I ask you to convey in photos– but you must try and capture within a 15 minute window of time. It’s a photographic scavenger hunt. Pick a place that is likely to have a good variety of subjects (your basement, a shopping mall, a busy city block). Be inventive in trying to interpret the list of subjects, in a location you choose (many of my previous university students completed this in their dorm room).
There are no prizes for who gets the most done. Just try to think of interesting ways to capture the items or convey the ideas in a photo. Here is what to seek in your photoblitz!
- Your first photo is of something that shows the current time! Document when you started the blitz.
- In the next 15 minutes, try to capture as many of the following photos as you can
- Take a photo dominated by a single color.
- Take a photo of an interesting shadow.
- Take a photo of something futuristic.
- Take a photo at an unusual angle, e.g. looking looking up at something or looking down at something, or from the view of an ant.
- Take a photo into bright light.
- Take a photo of someone else’s shoe or foot.
- Make an inanimate object look alive.
- Make a photo that uses converging lines to draw us into the photo
- Take a photo of two things that do not belong together.
- Take a photo that shows a repeating pattern.
- Take a photo where you move the camera as you take the photo, so it gives the subject a suggestion of motion.
- Take a photo that is looking through a frame or opening to something else.
- Take a photo that represents joy.
- Make a photo that is abstract, that would make someone ask, “Is that a photograph?”
- Take a photo that represents a metaphor for complexity.
- Take another photo of a timepiece that shows the time you stopped. It should be fifteen minutes since step 1, right?
- Upload your images to your blog, and create a WordPress Gallery for them.
- Write a blog post about your experience. Describe the place you chose to do this, and why you chose it. What was the experience like? What photos worked for you best? What do you think was the most inventive?
Five Card Flickr Stories
Can you tell a story in just five images? What if they were randomly dealt to you like a card game? That is what Five Card Flickr Stories challenges you to do– to tell a story in photos, but the photos you get are randomly chosen– based on tags in the photo sharing site flickr.
The way it works is you are given five random images, and you must chose one to start your story. This is repeated four more times, and you are trying to create a set of five images that you can create a story to connect them all.
Start a round of using the general pool of photos. When you save your story on the site, it will provide you a direct link to it (save that link) as well as cut and paste HTML you can use to put it in your blog (You will have to switch your blog editor to the text mode to be able to accept raw HTML in the editor).
In your blog post, describe how well or not you were able to create a connection. Did your story have a shape/spine or was it more a series of literal captions?
Here you will get your first experience with the ds106 Assignment bank. This is a collection of assignments that have been contributed by ds106 participants. Each one has a star rating indicating how difficult/complex it is (rated from 1=easy to 5=hard).
You can add your own votes! As you review existing assignments, if you think they deserve a different rating, just click on the stars you think it deserves.
These assignments will likely require use of image editing software; you can use any graphic software you have available on your computer; or see the free/open source options in the ds106 Toolbox (one of the better options is the free web-based pixlr).
Each assignment blog post should include:
- Write about thinking behind the assignment, the inspiration, what it means to you. What is it’s story? Think of this as similar to the extras on a DVD, the “making of” material.
- The visual you produced for the assignment embedded into your blog post.
- Share your process. What tools did you use? What techniques? Think of this as information that would help someone else doing the same assignment.
- To have your work connected back to the assignment, your blog post must include the two tags for the assignment, one will be Visual Assignments and the other will have a name like Visual Assignments324. Look for the Tags entry box on the right side of the WordPress editor, below the Categories.
If you do this correctly, your own example will be added to the assignment within an hour of your publishing your blog post.
Below is a list of assignments I recommend you choose from (but feel free to select from the other Visual Assignments)
- Splash that color Remove all color from an image except for a key element. What story can you tell by emphasis?
- Common Every Day Object Can changing the color of an ordinary object change its meaning or suggestion of what it’s own story is? http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/common-everyday-object-2/
- Art Comes to Life – Recreate the scene or major element of a famous painting in a modern photograph; how does it tell the same or a new story?
- Chimeratic Composition Combine three photos into one in a way to create a surrealistic scene. http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/chimeratic-composition/
- You’re Doing it Wrong Find a scene where someone seems to be trying to do something in a less efficient matter. Can you convey this in a photo? What story can be done to make it done “right”? http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/youre-doing-it-wrong/
- 10-Step Photo Challenge what can you discover by taken a photo every step? What story can that short journey generate? http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/10-step-photo-challenge/
- Historical Selfies Anyone can post a photo of themselves easily these days; what might have historic figures done if they had access to mobile phones and Instagram? What story would their self image tell? http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/historical-selfies/
- Imaginary Place Take a photo of or create an image of a place that only exists in fiction. http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/imaginary-places/
- Before and After Make a story in photos of a beginning and end, yet can suggest what happened in the middle http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/before-and-after/
- Time of Day Make a composite image of the same place, with photos taken from different times of day. How does the light in these periods create different moods or visual settings? http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/time-of-day/
- A Whole New World Experiment with unreal scale; insert someone’s image into a different place, and edit so their dimensions are much smaller or larger than reality. How does this suggest a story different from reality? http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/a-whole-new-world/
- Wiggle Stereoscopy Generate a motion image from two photos taken at slightly different angles. What does te effect suggest about the subject of the wiggling? http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/wiggle-stereoscopy/
- Switch up the Mood How can you alter the moood of a setting through modifying the tonal range, contrast, colors, etc? http://assignments.ds106.us/assignments/switch-up-the-mood/
- Return to the Scene of the Crime Take a photo where you place a print photo from the past into the present scene- what happens when you bridge across time?
Bookmark and model the criteria for blogging assignments like a champ (you get a rubric too if you are In It For a Grade).
See Them: Storified and Non Storified Content
As promised, this is a weekly assignment! Going back to week 1 as you go about this week with your eye for visual storytelling, look for something you can capture in a photo- a sign, a screenshot, and object, that might be better explained or demonstrated via a storytelling design. See if you can capture this week in an image.
Weekly Summary Checklist
Your summary blog post for this week should include and link to the following. Remember, I am also looking for more that a list of what you did; take some time to reflect on what you learned or discovered this week. Write what you struggled with. I expect that you will continue to give feedback to the other blogs in your comment group; include in your weekly summary again a sense of what kind of feedback you are getting on your blog and how you are giving feedback to others.
- Becoming Better Photographers: A blog post showing at least three photos that show your efforts to experiment with photographic composition techniques. When you reference s technique, link to and mention the source, and what you learned from the experience.
- Photoblitz Safari Include the images form your Photoblitz as a WordPress Gallery. Which one are you most proud of in terms of a creative interpretation of a prompt? What did you notice about the place you used that maybe you have not seen before?
- Five Card Flickr Story: Write a post that includes the story you made with the Five Card Flickr tool. How well were you able to connect the photos? Did you do them more like captoons, or were you able to develop a story that make sense? Does it have a story shape?
- Visual Assignments: You should link to and discuss the posts for the two ds106 visual assignments completed. Each post should be put in categories that you made for your site, and should also include the tags specific to each assignment. Be sure that your assignment blog posts contain the elements out line in the ds106 Handbook.
- To Be Storified Example Write a blog post that includes another potential topic subject for your final project.