Formula for Bringing Photos to Life | by Libby Grohmann
Being an engineer by day and a photo enthusiast every moment in between, I take an analytical approach to most everything I do, photography included. I use my art as my escape from the mundane and therefore love to interject liveliness in my photos. Today I’m going to give some insight into the “formula” that I use to bring my photos to life.
The first variable in the formula is COLOR. Entire books have been written on color theory, but in general, I love to use color to convey mood. While I tend to gravitate toward “punchy,” bright, high-contrast colors to convey joy, energy, and vibrancy, as in the county fair photo, I love all colors and use them in various ways. Using analogous colors, such as the soft turquoise found at the beach, conveys a since of calm and peace. The use of red and green complementary colors in the strawberry farm photo bring focus to the bucket and make it appear almost 3D.
The second variable is LENS CHOICE. I’m a self-proclaimed photography junky. I own a lot of gear. But my favorite lenses that make you feel like you are there and actually present in the moment are wide angle lenses such as my 24-70mm or 15mm fisheye. Wide lenses are perfect for getting in close. When used close to your subject you can create distortion that provides a sense of movement. Wide angle lenses also have the ability to capture dramatic skies. Wide dramatic skies give photos a sense of space and pull you into the frame and through the photo.
A lensbaby is another lens option that can bring life into a photo. The creative focus can help to zoom in on the motion of the scene.
The third variable is PERSPECTIVE. The angle at which you shoot or tilt the camera can add motion and depth to a photo. Shooting through objects, shooting from below, or shooting from above all add a unique perspective that makes the viewer feel like they were present in the experience.
Extra tip: Afraid to get your nice camera dirty or wet? Try a Go Pro. It’s perfect for burying in the sand or dunking underwater for that unique perspective.
The final variable in the formula is TRICKS OF THE TRADE. Use your tools (camera, software, props, clothing, environment) to your advantage. Set a slow shutter speed on your camera and pan along with a moving subject to create motion. Applying lens corrections in post to a fisheye lens will create a pulling effect on the photo. Embrace a windy day and wear flowy fabrics to incorporate movement. And never underestimate the magic and life that childhood play will bring to an image. Jumping, twirling, cartwheels, and racing all add movement and playfulness to photos.
Last but not least…
More important than any formula, have fun! If you are having fun and your subjects are having fun, your photos will automatically come to life.