C

NikolaiNikolai Darth SLRPosts: 19,033Registered Users Major grins
edited August 12, 2011 in People
Preface
I had these ideas in my mind for quite a while, but fairly recently they got verbalized all of a sudden.


Note to mods
While this post has no shots in it and, generally speaking, can be applied to various types of art, I would like to keep it in People section since this is what I do most and this is where I *think* it would be most helpful. Having said that, feel free to move it to a more appropriate section if you feel like it.


A now, without any further ado:

A "C" Theory
A practical guide to how to Create and to Critique

What makes or breaks an image? How can you tell a good one from a great one, or a decent one from a bad one, not just because "you feel like it", but in a rational, objective way?

Having spent a lot of time analyzing commercial and amateur photography, as well as my own, I came to a realization that there exists just a few aspects - which, by a strange coincidence and a caprice of English language can all be described by words starting with "C" - that do just that.

Those aspects are:
  1. Concept
  2. Connection
  3. Cohesiveness
  4. Composition
    • Construction
    • Closures
And, as it has been said that a picture worth a thousand words, I guess I will use one:

1087278453_Rhyue-XL.jpg

Let's cover those one by one.

Concept

An image without a concept is a snapshot. Maybe a glorified one, taken with a mongo camera in a mega studio with uber lights, but still a snapshot. There are no thoughts and no story behind it. Somebody accidentally pushed a button. There is nothing to talk about.

Connection
Or, maybe, a set of connections. Connection between a subject and an environment. Connection between multiple subjects. Connection between a subject and a viewer/photographer.
Break any of these invisible lines, and the image starts breaking apart almost instantly, invoking various hard-to-answer questions.
Why has been this subject placed in this scene?
What are those two people doing close to each other?
Why is a man juxtaposed to a pot of petunias?
What does this whole scene have to to with me, its viewer/photographer?

Cohesiveness
"The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing".
In various cultures there are similar sayings, denoting - and ridiculing - an obvious conflict of interests and a lack of cohesiveness.
In photography cohesiveness is a glue that holds an image together. It comes in variety of forms and shapes, from paying attention to tiny details to ensuring the color temperature is right. Pose, expression, outfit, background, lighting matching each other and the subject; all those variable should work together, not against each other.

Composition
No, I'm not going to talk about the rule of thirds, negative space and dead center. These are rules you can make or break at will, their very applicability depends on the concept and context of the picture.
Instead, we're going to talk about lines, that define the flow, and areas, that define the shapes. These two are intrinsically entwined, you rarely can change one without affecting the other.

Construction
This aspect defines basic lines of the image. These lines control the all-important "flow", the way we humans look at it, first as a whole, then at more and more details.
If the lines lead our eye to the most important parts of the image, let it go around, explore at different levels - the construction is solid.
If, however, the lines appears out of of the blue and terminate at dead ends, our eye is forced to "reset" and begin reevaluating the image from scratch. A few of these trips from nowhere to nowhere - and a viewer would lose any interest and switch to a more interesting activity.
Same, if not worse, happens with the lack of lines. With no visual guide at all, our eye would try to comprehend the image randomly, thus leading to the very controversial reactions, or more often, viewer's inability to comprehend this image at all.

Closures
Take the image and mentally make it black and white. Not grayscale, mind you. I'm talking about pure black and pure white, with nothing in between. Like a rubberstamp filter in PS. Don't try to justify what color goes where. Do it as your guts tells you to do. Now - look at the resulting areas. What did you get?
One big blob in a center of the frame? Three disconnected blobs? Or did you get a beautiful mosaics of sculpted shapes, a puzzle, created in a way that removing a single piece literally ruins the picture?
Limbs going away from a body and coming back up create that type of mosaics. People connecting to, but not dissolving into, poles and walls create those shapes. The more closures you have, the more dynamic and active your image is. The less... well, you get the idea.

Conclusion
The C theory doesn't cover everything in photography, even in people photography alone. You have to know optics, mechanics, physics and electronics to understand your camera, know your poses and your lighting to make sure your portrait is technically sound, know your computer and your software to create a proper rendering of your idea captured in a raw file... But that aside, I hope these basic concepts would help you to analyze others' work and create beautiful images of your own.

Thank you for reading! :thumb

Nikolai Sklobovsky
"May the f/stop be with you!"
Star*Explorer: on Dgrin, home; Master Class: open;
Class is in session, My Facebook, @DarthSLR, #NiksTips
member: NAPP, PPA, partner: Adobe
Comprehending life, universe and everything - one pixel at a time
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Comments

  • anonymouscubananonymouscuban Inner Tube Pilot Porter Ranch, CaliforniaPosts: 4,586Registered Users, Retired Mod Major grins
    edited November 11, 2010
    Interesting... Will digest this and get back to you.
    "I'm not yelling. I'm Cuban. That's how we talk."

    Moderator of the People and Go Figure forums

    My Smug Site
  • kdogkdog artistically challenged San Jose, CAPosts: 11,270Administrators moderator
    edited November 12, 2010
    This is great, Nik. What you've done is to decompose your thoughts on people photography into a set of elements that photographers can memorize. Setting up good people shots is actually more complicated than it looks, and I always seem to blow at least one aspect of a shot. So for me, having a mental checklist that I can run though should help a lot. It's a happy coincidence that they all begin with C so that they're easier to remember.

    Awesome job! clap.gif

    -joel
  • NikolaiNikolai Darth SLR Posts: 19,033Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 12, 2010
    Thanks Alex and Joel!

    OK, let's put this theory to a test, shall we?

    Submit your image (which you believe is good) and try to analyse it according to all those C-s.

    For the composition part, please also provide an additional image with an overlay of lines and areas/closures - draw them as you think they are going.

    Who's first? mwink.gif
    "May the f/stop be with you!"
    Star*Explorer: on Dgrin, home; Master Class: open;
    Class is in session, My Facebook, @DarthSLR, #NiksTips
    member: NAPP, PPA, partner: Adobe
    Comprehending life, universe and everything - one pixel at a time
  • reyvee61reyvee61 Major grins Posts: 1,877Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 12, 2010
    You've given me much to think about...but that's what you intended right :)
    Yo soy Reynaldo
  • NikolaiNikolai Darth SLR Posts: 19,033Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 13, 2010
    reyvee61 wrote: »
    You've given me much to think about...but that's what you intended right :)

    Yes, ma'am! mwink.gif
    "May the f/stop be with you!"
    Star*Explorer: on Dgrin, home; Master Class: open;
    Class is in session, My Facebook, @DarthSLR, #NiksTips
    member: NAPP, PPA, partner: Adobe
    Comprehending life, universe and everything - one pixel at a time
  • SamSam San Jose CA Posts: 7,418Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 13, 2010
    Nikolai,

    Very well written.

    I need to read this several more times and digest it.

    Sam
  • BradfordBennBradfordBenn Constantly Amazed Posts: 2,506Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 13, 2010
    Great stuff Nik! More food for thought. I do have a question/Comment.

    Did you not include Creativity on purpose or did I just add another C?

    My comment about that would be don't be afraid to be creative with a purpose and to find your own voice and character. Avoid snap shots, but do the composition the way you think it should be done, not the way people say to do it. But have a reason for the changes and trials.
    -=Bradford

    Pictures | Website | Blog | Twitter | Contact
  • NikolaiNikolai Darth SLR Posts: 19,033Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 13, 2010
    Sam wrote: »
    Nikolai,

    Very well written.

    I need to read this several more times and digest it.

    Sam

    Thank you Sam, glad you liked it! thumb.gif
    "May the f/stop be with you!"
    Star*Explorer: on Dgrin, home; Master Class: open;
    Class is in session, My Facebook, @DarthSLR, #NiksTips
    member: NAPP, PPA, partner: Adobe
    Comprehending life, universe and everything - one pixel at a time
  • NikolaiNikolai Darth SLR Posts: 19,033Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 13, 2010
    Great stuff Nik! More food for thought. I do have a question/Comment.

    Did you not include Creativity on purpose or did I just add another C?

    My comment about that would be don't be afraid to be creative with a purpose and to find your own voice and character. Avoid snap shots, but do the composition the way you think it should be done, not the way people say to do it. But have a reason for the changes and trials.

    Brad,
    by all means feel free to add Creativity to the list. thumb.gif
    For me it's more like a part of Concept, but I can see that it can be considered separately.
    "May the f/stop be with you!"
    Star*Explorer: on Dgrin, home; Master Class: open;
    Class is in session, My Facebook, @DarthSLR, #NiksTips
    member: NAPP, PPA, partner: Adobe
    Comprehending life, universe and everything - one pixel at a time
  • jeffreaux2jeffreaux2 Grinning...and bearing it Posts: 4,761Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 15, 2010
    Nik,

    You have done a very good job of putting this all into words and into one place....easy to find.thumb.gif

    I like that you devoted most of the text to the image itself, and very little to gear and processing.

    IMO, the gear, and knowing how to operate it measure up to only a small portion of what is needed for a successful portrait. The posing, the "right" angles for the subject, and surely all of your "C"s are what give the image substance.

    ...Okay, I said the gear is of little importance.....well...excepting for knowing how, and having the tools to manipulate light....whether it be natural or artificial. deal.gif

    Again, nice job on "vocalizing" this.
  • jeffreaux2jeffreaux2 Grinning...and bearing it Posts: 4,761Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 15, 2010
    Here is an image...with many lines. Have at it Nik.:D

    1091463129_BuEbM-L.jpg1091463085_5u3mA-L.jpg
  • NikolaiNikolai Darth SLR Posts: 19,033Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 15, 2010
    jeffreaux2 wrote: »
    Nik,

    You have done a very good job of putting this all into words and into one place....easy to find.thumb.gif

    I like that you devoted most of the text to the image itself, and very little to gear and processing.

    IMO, the gear, and knowing how to operate it measure up to only a small portion of what is needed for a successful portrait. The posing, the "right" angles for the subject, and surely all of your "C"s are what give the image substance.

    ...Okay, I said the gear is of little importance.....well...excepting for knowing how, and having the tools to manipulate light....whether it be natural or artificial. deal.gif

    Again, nice job on "vocalizing" this.

    Thanks, Jeff! thumb.gif

    I hear you about the gear and light knowledge. That's a huge piece, but, mostly on a technical side, although more often than not technical flaws do have conceptual consequences and thus can ruin the image on a variety of levels.

    Reminds me of a scene from this weekend... I was shooting the local reenactment (I will do separate post on that since I didn't have time yet to cull 2,000+ frames I brought back) wehn I spotted two pink-clad "miss teen somethings" (with ribbons and tiaras) escorted by a lady in her late twenties with some sort of rebel-like dslr in her hands. She was herding the girls around the camp and posing them here and there. It took me a gargantuan amount of self-restiction NOT to approach her and ask is she had any idea what she's doing. Shooting them for a couple of feet (lloks very nice in portaits). Shooting them from her eye level. Placing them in a direct sun. Placing them in a spotty foliage. Placing them against the sun with no fill flash... Luckily I had an important gathering to attend (morning officers call/scenario meeting), so I went off and lose them out of my sights. Otherwsie I'm not sure if I could hold myself restrained any longer... mwink.gif

    So yeah, "know thy gear, know thy light, know thy posing...". One has to know a lot of things to produce a technically decent image. But when the technical side is covered, the next level is Content. And here is where, I hope, my C theory may come in handy.
    "May the f/stop be with you!"
    Star*Explorer: on Dgrin, home; Master Class: open;
    Class is in session, My Facebook, @DarthSLR, #NiksTips
    member: NAPP, PPA, partner: Adobe
    Comprehending life, universe and everything - one pixel at a time
  • NikolaiNikolai Darth SLR Posts: 19,033Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 15, 2010
    jeffreaux2 wrote: »
    Here is an image...with many lines. Have at it Nik.:D
    Uhm Jeff, the idea was for *you* to analyze your image on all accounts.
    C-theory is the net. You still have to go out and fish ;-)deal.gif
    You already did some work (Construction), let's see about the rest! thumb.gif
    "May the f/stop be with you!"
    Star*Explorer: on Dgrin, home; Master Class: open;
    Class is in session, My Facebook, @DarthSLR, #NiksTips
    member: NAPP, PPA, partner: Adobe
    Comprehending life, universe and everything - one pixel at a time
  • reyvee61reyvee61 Major grins Posts: 1,877Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 15, 2010
    Nikolai wrote: »
    Yes, ma'am! mwink.gif

    Ha, that's not the first time I've been called a Ma'am
    "Tap tap, excuse me Ma'am...oh, sorry Sir!"
    :ivar
    Yo soy Reynaldo
  • NikolaiNikolai Darth SLR Posts: 19,033Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 15, 2010
    reyvee61 wrote: »
    Ha, that's not the first time I've been called a Ma'am
    "Tap tap, excuse me Ma'am...oh, sorry Sir!"
    :ivar
    "Oh, sorry Sir!" mwink.gifrofl
    iloveyou.gif
    "May the f/stop be with you!"
    Star*Explorer: on Dgrin, home; Master Class: open;
    Class is in session, My Facebook, @DarthSLR, #NiksTips
    member: NAPP, PPA, partner: Adobe
    Comprehending life, universe and everything - one pixel at a time
  • anonymouscubananonymouscuban Inner Tube Pilot Porter Ranch, CaliforniaPosts: 4,586Registered Users, Retired Mod Major grins
    edited November 15, 2010
    Rey...

    Actually, for a while I thought you were a female and more recently started to think you were a guy from some your posts but I was still not 100%. It's hard to tell from your avatar.
    "I'm not yelling. I'm Cuban. That's how we talk."

    Moderator of the People and Go Figure forums

    My Smug Site
  • Jeremy WinterbergJeremy Winterberg Major grins Posts: 1,233Registered Users Major grins
    edited December 19, 2010
    I too, at first, thought you were a lady Rey. I was puzzled when I looked at your website a few months back.

    Nik, lots of great info here!
    Jer
  • NeilLNeilL B+R=M,B+G=C,R+G=Y Posts: 4,201Registered Users Major grins
    edited December 19, 2010
    It sure is a strong pitch, Nik -

    looks great

    sounds great (I read it out loud!)

    the logic is great

    has enough jargon and complexity to give it a sciencey feel

    it's something you can learn and apply (if you don't forget it!)

    has disclaimers, so has a contemporary, cautious ring


    when I was a boy an artist was someone who was struck by something from another realm and catapulted from their garret into notoriety and plenty of food and women, or else tragically dug up after death when all of that was irrelevant to them

    now, an artist writes job applications and funding submissions as their major activity, has a house on mortgage and a family, who will mourn them decorously when they die and expect never to hear of them again


    someone can learn to drive a vehicle across a map to get where they want to go and arrive

    someone can be driven as a vehicle for making a map to learn how to arrive and keep going


    zen says what is not sayable is made known by saying


    by your elegant, eloquent words you have reminded us how lost we are in this very familiar, describable world


    mwink.gifDiloveyou.gif

    ... and congratulations on your 18,000th post!


    Neil
    "Snow. Ice. Slow!" "Half-winter. Half-moon. Half-asleep!"

    http://www.behance.net/brosepix
  • NikolaiNikolai Darth SLR Posts: 19,033Registered Users Major grins
    edited December 19, 2010
    NeilL wrote: »
    It sure is a strong pitch, Nik -
    ...
    ... and congratulations on your 18,000th post!
    Neil
    Thank you, Neil!
    Appreciate the toughtfull comment! thumb.gif
    "May the f/stop be with you!"
    Star*Explorer: on Dgrin, home; Master Class: open;
    Class is in session, My Facebook, @DarthSLR, #NiksTips
    member: NAPP, PPA, partner: Adobe
    Comprehending life, universe and everything - one pixel at a time
  • NikolaiNikolai Darth SLR Posts: 19,033Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 8, 2011
    I guess not that many C-takers :-) mwink.gif
    "May the f/stop be with you!"
    Star*Explorer: on Dgrin, home; Master Class: open;
    Class is in session, My Facebook, @DarthSLR, #NiksTips
    member: NAPP, PPA, partner: Adobe
    Comprehending life, universe and everything - one pixel at a time
  • reyvee61reyvee61 Major grins Posts: 1,877Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 8, 2011
    I've been working on one C at a time :D
    Yo soy Reynaldo
  • NikolaiNikolai Darth SLR Posts: 19,033Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 8, 2011
    reyvee61 wrote: »
    I've been working on one C at a time :D
    Uhm, it doesn't work like that...:-( Gotta have them all :-(
    "May the f/stop be with you!"
    Star*Explorer: on Dgrin, home; Master Class: open;
    Class is in session, My Facebook, @DarthSLR, #NiksTips
    member: NAPP, PPA, partner: Adobe
    Comprehending life, universe and everything - one pixel at a time
  • reyvee61reyvee61 Major grins Posts: 1,877Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 8, 2011
    I know, it's just a bit overwhelming....
    Yo soy Reynaldo
  • indiegirlindiegirl Light Wrangler. Posts: 930Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 9, 2011
    Just finding this tonight and am ON FIRE. Nik, Nik, Nik: You rockstar, you! I've been shooting or staring at my monitor and got sucked into dgrin "just for a minute" but am printing this out tonight. "I'll be baccck."
  • reyvee61reyvee61 Major grins Posts: 1,877Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 9, 2011
    Ok, ok......I need to get serious about this :D
    Yo soy Reynaldo
  • NikolaiNikolai Darth SLR Posts: 19,033Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 9, 2011
    indiegirl wrote: »
    Just finding this tonight and am ON FIRE. Nik, Nik, Nik: You rockstar, you! I've been shooting or staring at my monitor and got sucked into dgrin "just for a minute" but am printing this out tonight. "I'll be baccck."

    Thank you!thumb.gif
    "May the f/stop be with you!"
    Star*Explorer: on Dgrin, home; Master Class: open;
    Class is in session, My Facebook, @DarthSLR, #NiksTips
    member: NAPP, PPA, partner: Adobe
    Comprehending life, universe and everything - one pixel at a time
  • NikolaiNikolai Darth SLR Posts: 19,033Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 9, 2011
    reyvee61 wrote: »
    Ok, ok......I need to get serious about this :D
    thumb.gifclap
    "May the f/stop be with you!"
    Star*Explorer: on Dgrin, home; Master Class: open;
    Class is in session, My Facebook, @DarthSLR, #NiksTips
    member: NAPP, PPA, partner: Adobe
    Comprehending life, universe and everything - one pixel at a time
  • SamirDSamirD Huntsville Car Scene.com Posts: 4,090Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 27, 2011
    Great Thread! Subscribing so I don't lose it again. :)
    Pictures and Videos of the Huntsville Car Scene: www.huntsvillecarscene.com
    Want faster uploading? Vote for FTP!
  • NikolaiNikolai Darth SLR Posts: 19,033Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 28, 2011
    SamirD wrote: »
    Great Thread! Subscribing so I don't lose it again. :)
    Thanks! Wanna play, too? ;-) mwink.gif
    "May the f/stop be with you!"
    Star*Explorer: on Dgrin, home; Master Class: open;
    Class is in session, My Facebook, @DarthSLR, #NiksTips
    member: NAPP, PPA, partner: Adobe
    Comprehending life, universe and everything - one pixel at a time
  • SamirDSamirD Huntsville Car Scene.com Posts: 4,090Registered Users Major grins
    edited July 28, 2011
    Nikolai wrote: »
    Thanks! Wanna play, too? ;-) mwink.gif
    I would love too, but I don't have time. :cry I'm still wanting to go through all the weekly assignments, but I don't have time for that either right now.
    Pictures and Videos of the Huntsville Car Scene: www.huntsvillecarscene.com
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