Seizing Possibilities

Seizing Possibilities
Seizing Possibilities

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Emphasis-are your photographs saying what you want them to?

Why is it sometimes that a photograph or piece of art really speaks to your soul?  What are your photographs really saying? To you?  To others?    What is your vision?  What does your work emphasize?

Focal point in photography is something artists will talk about as part of their work.  The principle of art called emphasis also seems obvious at first thought yet if you look closer the principle of art called emphasis is much fuller in scope than simply a focal point.  Whether a specific element of art, emotion, general feeling, a person or a part of nature, it is what the picture emphasizes.  It could be color or one of the other elements, but it is what your eye is drawn to in a photo or drawing or what captures the intensity of emotional reaction in those who view your work. 
Emotive emphasis-more than just a focal point

Focal point using depth of field capturing a sense of place
A focal point is often what you hear brings emphasis in photography, the place that draws your eye yet it is used a bit differently than in art as emphasis.  Emphasis having a bit of a broader brush is more than what your eye is drawn to; it is what your heart is drawn to.  A focal point can be achieved in many ways in photography.  It can be achieved through a shallow depth of field and a focused foreground on a blurred background.  Your eye will automatically read the detailed aspects of your photograph.  
focal point through depth of field

It could be where lines in your photograph lead you to look or light or value.   
Leading lines
Light as a focal point

It could be a color that is contrasting and therefore takes dominance in the photograph or a shape that is different than what the rest of your photograph entails.   
Color that draws your eye and focal point of interest

shape as a focal point

A change in texture might cause your eye to focus on a certain aspect of your photograph. 
texture change as a focal interest

There are many articles on the web speaking more directly to focal point, but it seems to be an easier concept to grasp than emphasis and photographers who seem to like “rules” to help understand certain compositional aspects of photography.  It is simply a point in your photograph or drawing that your eye is drawn to or focuses on and is achieved through various compositional considerations.

Emphasis speaks of a forcefulness and intention of expression that will give importance to something specific.  If you have read some of my past posts you will know that I speak a lot about the feeling or emotions that your work will evoke from those who view it.  It could be as simple as a WOW! Or “breathtaking” or “beautiful” it could lead or be a more intense emotional feeling of peace or joy or despair or evoke a feeling or desire to help or raise emotions of awareness that make you intensely aware of someone else and their plight or lifestyle differences.   The achievement of that is much broader in scope than just a focal point and while that is part of what emphasis is, it is not what it is in its entirety.  Emphasizing color can play a major role in creating an evocative emotional reaction and used in the expression of your work.  When it plays the primary role in your photograph or artwork it is the emphasis you use to convey your thought and emotions and will be what people react to, even when the viewer doesn’t realize it!  Emphasis can be achieved through the use of any one or combination of the elements of art.  Art is an expression of emotive elements and emphasis is a major role player in it.  It is the force or intensity oozing from your work.  It is an idea that gathers its existence from sharpness, blur, clarity, shape, line, value, texture and/or color.    A harmonious whole can be achieved through this unifying principle.

 Just stop and let a single photograph speak to your heart.  What does it evoke in you?

I hope you are beginning to see how formulating what you want to evoke or what part of your heart you want to share with your viewer becomes paramount for you to understand or come to some realization of your creativity and unique perspective of this world.  Letting yourself go in that expression, being creative in the form it takes to convey it, is what will set you apart and make people recognize who you are and what you have to offer in understanding themselves and the world we live in and therefore your artful expression.   Once you let your emotions or your inner most self direct or lead you in your work, you can begin to formulate how your art might achieve emotion in its expression and form.   Emphasis will be its major role player. 

So what do your photographs trigger in others and their emotions?  What do your photographs complete in their thoughts and emotions?  Better yet, what are they saying to you?  Do they emphasize what you want to convey? 

What is it that your creative self wants to share with the rest of the world?  Your creativity and the ambiance you set in your art and photography will help determine the reaction of your viewer, so what will you choose to emphasize?  Ideas are good but being able to carry them through to an end product that is evocative and says something about you and your world is the ultimate in goal and vision.  It is created by subject matter and your choice of what you emphasize in your work.

As always various example of these points are found on Facebook focal point and emphasis and Flickr

Focal Point articles:  See Digital Photography School's article here and from PictureCorrect here.


  1. Provocative discussion! Thank you.

  2. Rosemary you are welcome! I hope this leads to more exploration of the evocative photograph and how we feel about our own art and conveyance of perspective!