The Space The Subject Lives In

There are many factors which must be addressed in the making of a photograph.  One often hears photographers wincing when their work is described as a snap.  This wincing could well be judged as pompous … “what do you mean snap, it’s a photograph” … or it could well be deserved.  Frequently deserved, I’m afraid.

Anyway, one of these many factors is composition.  Now there’s a big subject in itself but a part of it is all about ‘the space the subject lives in.’

In order to get ones head around this knotty little conundrum one needs to identify what the subject is.  It could be a lump of cheese sitting on a cheeseboard or a river or indeed a portrait.

The portrait is a tricky one because one needs to ask oneself, is the subject a whole body or just a head and shoulders of indeed just a head.  Actually it could be only the face … the expression … the expression ‘living in’ a space called the head.

A subject ‘lives in’ something else on the canvas.  This ‘something else’ is very important.  This area that supports the subject is ignored at a price.  As I’ve said, the face could ‘live in’ the rest of the head.  The head could ‘live in’ just the right place on the canvas in a head and shoulder type portrait.  Indeed, this head must be made just the right size within the canvas … and this ‘size’ could be anything depending upon how the ‘space’ is handled.

Then what happens?  After all the thought that went on in the making of the image, someone else comes along and cuts the head off and parks it in another ‘space’!  An arbitrary space a web designer (maybe) had handy.  A ‘space’ the head is unhappy in.  They call it cropping.  Look at most corporate websites at the corporate portraits.  Not all, I hasten to add … and you’ll be happy to hear.

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