Composition and the Visual Journey

The Visual Journey by AdamBarkerPhotography

I talk often about creating a visual journey in each image for the viewer. This image of a group of friends out for a stroll underneath the Brooklyn Bridge serves as a good illustrative example. Have a read below as I break down exactly how I’ve constructed a visual journey through the inclusion and arrangement of particular compositional elements within the scene.

1. It’s natural to begin the visual journey at the bottom of our frame. This applies to both landscape and portrait orientation. Most often, I will place an element at or near the corner of the frame, taking the viewer from the very edge, into the meat of the frame. This is obviously accomplished with the fence, starting in the bottom RH corner of the frame.

2. The fence takes us directly to the anchor or main subject of the image, placed strategically in our LH thirds intersect. What makes this subject so much more appealing is the area of high contrast in which the people are found. Backlit mist creates a bright area, against which their shapes are starkly defined. Our eyes will ALWAYS travel to the areas of highest contrast in an image.

3. From the subject, the eye travels up to the Brooklyn Bridge. This was placed strategically in the upper LH part of the image–again helping the viewer to explore and digest every inch of our photographic frame. The bridge also serves as a perfect top counterbalance to the fence in the bottom part of the frame.

4. The bridge leads us directly to our secondary subject, or counter subject–the shapely pylons and archways over the bridge itself. Naturally, from there, the eye heads back to the bottom RH corner, and the visual journey starts once again.

Ideally, this visual journey will connect itself from beginning to end (as we see here), requiring little effort from the viewer to dive back in for a second, third and fourth time. Sometimes this is done through proximity of compositional elements (as seen here). Other times, it can be an out and back sort of thing. However you do it, give the viewer an obvious start and finish.

Exceptional images are like Thanksgiving Dinner–you just can’t help but go back for more. Make it easy on the viewer by creating a visual journey through the thoughtful and strategic placement of subjects and secondary or counter subjects in the frame.

It’s Not Just About Who You Know…

It’s about who knows you, and more importantly, HOW they know you.

In the world of client-based commercial photography, there are many factors in attaining and retaining one’s business. One of the best ways to get an “in” with a client is through a mutual friend or business associate that knows and understands your work. Of course, there’s much more work to be done once you’ve landed an appointment with that dream client, and that depends largely on your ability to sell yourself. Let’s assume you’ve actually gotten a job with that dream client. What’s next???

The next part is the most crucial, and no time to rest on one’s laurels after having secured a gig. The next part really is what will determine whether you are a one-hit wonder with this client, or if they continue to come back to you each time they need new, fresh, high quality imagery. Simply put, it’s time to shine. It’s time to deliver the goods, and it’s time to be that guy or girl that they look forward to seeing, talking to and doing business with. I’d venture to say that relationships are 90% of running a successful photography business. Whether you are selling fine art prints or shooting the next ad campaign for a major client, it’s all about HOW people know you.

Do your clients know you as the stuffy, penny-pinching, corner-cutting guy with a camera that delivers an adequate product and delivers a cease-and-desist order over a Facebook usage? Or do they know you as the affable, hard-working, honest, accountable photographer that tackles requests with an air of optimism and delivers stunning, five-star imagery regardless of the obstacles? If you’re not sure, then they’re not sure. And if they’re not sure, you could very well be replaced by someone who fits the latter criteria any day.

Let’s look at a very mundane, non-photo example of how this plays out in nearly every aspect of business. My wife has our house sprayed for spiders every couple of months. I have no idea how she found this gentleman. Is he good? Sure. Is he great? I have no clue–cause I really don’t know what it takes to be “great” at spraying for spiders. Do we really need the house sprayed for spiders? That depends on who you ask. I do know this though–I am very inclined to give this man our business time and again because he is extremely friendly, polite and enjoyable to be around. He gets the job done, and perhaps equal in importance (or of even greater importance!)–he is a pleasure to have in our home.

Every time you do work for a client, you are entering their “home”. Do they enjoy your company? Would they have you back? Would YOU have YOU back if you were them? Ask yourself this the next time you go and do work for a client you appreciate and with whom you hope to do business again…

This is also very true of editorial work, concerning your relationship with editors and how accountable you are to their deadlines and how enjoyable you are to work with.

You remember what it was like to take a fun, attractive girl/guy out on a first date, only to get stood up on subsequent requests? Yeah. I do. And it sucks. The difference back then is that the only thing breaking was your lovesick ticker. Do that in this business and the bank is the object doing the breaking…

(all of the images in this post are from a recent shoot for a client with whom I’ve maintained a healthy relationship over several years. It is the third shoot I have done for them. Here’s to three more…)

Published Cover: The Flyfish Journal

AdamBarkerPhotography image on the cover of the current Flyfish Journal

I am so pleased to have the cover of the current issue of the Flyfish Journal. If you’re a fly fisher and you’ve never had the privilege of thumbing through this magazine, drop everything and head to your local newsstand or fishing outfitter. Gorgeous imagery and insightful and entertaining writing adorn its pages. It truly is a step above much of the competition. This ranks right up there as one of my most prized and cherished editorial accomplishments.