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How to Speak in Visual Language

9 Feb 2022

How to Speak in Visual Language

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If I could say it in words, there would be no reason to photograph

Edward Hopper

Most of us take pictures because we instinctively want to create; it is the way that we can best express our toughs and feelings about things. We can communicate how we see and feel about the world that we live in.

For me, communicating through impressionist photography is challenging but exciting. The diversity of techniques and approaches allows me to express a rich array of moods and emotions. I feel like I can fully express myself through impressionist photography. There is immense freedom to work with precision and control or to try a spontaneous, experimental approach.

The success of your photography depends on you, your eye, your knowledge and your ideas. The challenge is how to translate your ideas into an image successfully.

How do you make yourself heard through your images? How do you start communicating through your pictures?

Begin by ensuring that you ‘speak’ in visual language.

Since you are the one initiating the ‘conversation’, you have a responsibility to your viewers to use the visual language well.

The more extensive your vocabulary is, the more expressive and creative you can communicate what you want to say.

So what is visual language? What are the words you can use in your images?

Just as in verbal communication, visual communication requires a language or vocabulary that connects the artist with the viewer. What is expressed in language through a choice of words in visual communication may be expressed through the choice of light, lines and colour. Each of these elements has a unique way of expressing feelings and emotions.

In order to be truly effective, you need to be clear about your message and then make sure the use of the light, lines, shapes and colour in your images are consistent with that message.

Having a clear understanding of how light works is essential for communicating your idea. Light gives depth, dimension and life to your image. Lines give structure and also can be used to guide the viewer’s eye through the mage. Colour influence the way ideas are presented and the mood of a photograph. Colour can also direct the eye by emphasizing different parts of the image.

To speak the visual language well, you need as much knowledge as possible about light, lines and colour and how they can be used effectively. You need to develop the patience that it takes to express your subjects. This means looking deeply at these subjects.

Every photograph also needs a good composition or arrangement of elements. A poor composition will stop your idea from having the desired effect. The image may end up confusing to the viewer.

When photographing, you can easily get overwhelmed by the amount of information in front of you. While all the information may be intriguing, it won’t necessarily contribute to a good image. So it is essential, especially when it comes to impressionist photography, to learn to see and simplify the subject so you can effectively translate them into your images.

The physical characteristic of your subject should guide your composition and choice of a technique.

Everything you include in your image is a choice, and all elements can help you tell story or express ideas. When you learn how to look at all elements in the frame and see how they relate to each other, you begin to develop a better understanding of your surroundings.

Play with lines, colour and light. Slow down take the time to frame the moments. Concentrate and isolate the subject you are trying to capture. Experiment and have fun. When you become so familiar with the visual language by practising it, this language will become a fundamental part of how you consciously view the beauty all around you all the time. You will see the images naturally and easily because you train yourself to do so.

If you want to be fluent in the visual language and need some help, check up on my new online course, The Art of Seeing or the Visual Language of Abstract Photography.