Monday, March 22, 2010
Go to extremes for great rule-breaking photos—03/22/10
A little bit wrong can look like a mistake, but a lot can look genius
For example, tack-sharp focus is crucial for great photographs, right? That’s certainly a good rule, but sometimes you can make a very strong image with every element in the scene far out of focus. With a series of lights, for example, by completely mis-focusing the image you can use the “bokeh” (the out-of-focus quality of an image) to create colorful abstract images. But what's likely not to work very well is to have an almost-sharp focus, resulting in an image that’s neither terribly interesting nor terribly detailed. It needs to be totally focused or not at all. In between just won’t cut it.
Or consider contrast. With a little too much contrast, an otherwise normal image may not look quite right. It may look flat out bad. But with the contrast maxed out, or taken to the extreme, it can become a whole different image—a special-effect, high-contrast photo that’s interesting for an entirely new reason. While a little too much contrast would be a bad thing, a lot of contrast can make it great.
One more example by way of motion blur. If you take a portrait with a shutter speed that’s just a little bit too slow, for example, there might be just a bit of distracting motion blur—the kind of thing that looks like a mistake. But if you deliberately add motion blur, and I mean a lot of motion blur, suddenly a plain old portrait can become a deliberately blurry and extremely interesting image. That’s the kind of thing that can take an otherwise ho-hum photo over the top—as long, that is, as the motion blur is also over the top. Just a little blur is bad, but a whole lot can become good. That’s yet another example that proves the rule, when you’re breaking the rules in photography you’ve got to go to extremes.