Shooting photographic frames is the second main stage of the visual strategy. The below guidelines are related to the previous stage of the strategy, Planning, and more especially Step 3: Preparation of the shooting location (whenever necessary), selection of methods/techniques of shooting.
Taking advantage of the expressive means of photography, socioanalysis can more successfully grasp messages as well as enhance specific units of meaning or even introduce new ones in the context of the studied problem.
Among the many photographic techniques, those that are specially selected and described below are such that contribute to the creation of photographic images evoking attention to the socioanalytic dimensions of vulnerability in which the main stake is the meaning, the message, the suggestion of the frames, rather than their meticulous technical and aesthetic realization.
Following the below guidelines will, of course, inevitably lead also to enhancing the aesthetic qualities of the visual product.
Objects and environment:
The primal question to photographic shooting is the selection of object(s). While in the context of socioanalysis the object of specific study by analyzing a given social case can be easily defined and designated, photography makes the researcher face the choice whether in a given frame this object must be present in isolation or not. The environment in which the researcher ‘freezes’ the frame usually presents a number of options: whether the central object should be surrounded by other objects, whether the background is to designate clearly a specific environment or it is to be neutral and poorly definable, will determine also the overall suggestion carried by the photograph. Important are also the other objects falling into the frame, as well as whether the main photographed object interacts with them or not.
The selection of more objects can enrich the meaning of the photographic composition while the absence of concurrent objects focuses and directs the attention on the selected main compositional element.
The image gives a new dimension to the research. Visualization involves the viewer and makes her sympathize with the pain of the sufferer, giving the latter a definite personalization.
Example 1 of a photograph with more objects that interact:
In this frame, we can immediately single out several objects – the main human figure as well as the garbage containers together with the building. In the case, the image is a typical example of the contrast and layers of meaning that the frame can reveal. The figure of the homeless woman is clear and well standing out, and in the distance behind her there is the residential building, the home of many families. The main figure, however, seems to be far from it, the building looming dimly behind her back. She is deprived of that space, the figure stands somehow foreign to it. In the middle, there is the garbage container, more clearly outlined, as if it is an intermediate space that is the only one closer to the homeless person. It seems to be the only space to which the homeless is granted access. In a way it seems the only relation of the homeless with the homes in the background. In this case the composition can be either consciously ‘arranged’ or composed’, or be a purely documentary image shot in an environment that is ‘ordinary’ to the subject.
Example 2 of a photograph with more objects that interact
This image, although intentionally composed, is another example of the presence of many objects in the composition that interact in a certain way. In the case, they are all located in one plane, which balances out and distributes the weight of the objects in a composition made of a few basic elements charged with their respective symbolism. The composition is made by artificially arranged images that are not just in the same focus plane but have a relatively similarly scaled in relation to the overall image. They communicate between themselves in a peculiar way. The figure of the young man, the individual, stands counter to the group representation, the institutions. In this case they have a rather symbolic designation – the man and his protest to society. His search for realization and thereby for recognition in the society have no success. The figure of the young man rather expresses despair and bitterness than enthusiasm and energy. His gaze is directed down low, impassionate, as if he has lost his hope in the attempts to find his place in the social order. The feeling of lack of understanding in the case is complemented by the closed institutional door as well as by the mailbox that symbolizes the indirect, impersonal communication between the individual and the society. The individual does not communicate directly with the social milieu in the public sphere but always with the assistance of legitimate public structures and institutions. The mailbox is located precisely between the human figure and the door of the institution – as if something has been disrupted in the individual’s communication with his own environment.
Unlike the previous example, here we don’t just have artificially ordered objects but ones that correspond with one another. They are not a mere background complementing the image but on the contrary, they are a basic part of its idea and message.
The photographs of the series on the case study The successful self-inheritance after encountering the death of the Other are an example of an isolated presence of the main object, separated from the environment. In them, the background is fuzzy, unclear or incomplete. It has no importance of meaning to the case under consideration. In this case, the emphasis lies entirely on the individual. The photograph directs the case study to the experiences of the subject and her inner life. The additionally present elements are of negligible size (dim figures of buildings in the distance, stalks of grass in the field) and are more of an aesthetic and complementary, rather than informing, nature.
The collocation of the objects is important not only for the meaning of the composition but it also relates to the aesthetic quality of the frame. And even though the latter is not a particular focus in such a study, it is always useful in shaping the end result.
The baseline recommendation when composing a frame is the “rule of thirds” as used in photography. Generally speaking, it recommends that we set up the main objects in the composition around the intersections of the imaginary lines that divide the image into 3 rows and 3 columns vertically and horizontally.
Thus, the composition seems balanced and more harmonious at its different ends, and along with that we obtain reference points for the arrangement of the elements of the composition that we want to connect in a sense of unity.
3. A composition of objects that fall into a panorama capture. The main objects are in one focal plane and occupy approximately equal parts of the image. This allows considering them as ‘equal’ in compositional terms, giving reasons for reflection on the kind of ‘communication’ between the elements of the composition. The meaning of the image is distributed among the captured core objects and each of them is important in terms of composition and meaning.
In the world of digital photography and the possibilities of modern digital cameras, we have virtually unlimited opportunities to capture colour shades and contrasts. Still, in the context of socioanalysis, we could single out two practical examples that researchers can use.
Scale (field size)
Scaling can once again be useful when we want to achieve a certain suggestion. In the following 3 examples, we have three types of scaling:
1. Subject / Object in close-up that fills the image and is its overall meaning vehicle.
2. A subject in the foreground that is in focus closer to the photographer. The composition still contains other meaningful elements that enrich the context of the situation and reinforce the momentary suggestion. However, they are not leading and can be removed from the context of the composition while at the same time the basic meaning will remain unchanged.
As we have already noted, the very name of photography has its roots in light streams and their skillful entanglement into a creative composition. In each photo frame, it could be used to achieve a certain suggestion or reinforce another. The achievement of specific light contrasts makes it possible to bring to the forefront the emotions, feelings, perceptions of the world around us, as well as placing emphasis on the relations between the objects in the composition. An example of such a clever use of light can be found in the frame of the case of ‘The Patient’s Suffering’. In it, we can discern the light contrasts in the two corners of the long corridor – the dark wall along which the hospital rooms are located and the light, the light-flooded windows that oppose them. This creates the illusion of two opposing worlds – that of the sick, locked in the healing establishment, and the outer, bright world of the healthy man, which seems to be inviting and attracting the sick through the windows that are symbolically open inward.
Search for colour contrast:
In practice, the search for colour contrast is the inclusion in the story composition (documentary or deliberately composed) that combines colours that are in contrast within the color palette (i.e. blue to yellow, magenta to cyan, etc.). In this way we produce a colour image that adds to the aesthetics of the photograph. Such an example can be found in the picture below. In it, the main object is a young man bathed in the warm yellow-orange light of the setting sun. On the other hand, as a contrast, there is the pastel blue sky that opens over his head.
The use of black-and-white photography
Using this type of photography has one main purpose – focusing on a certain meaningful contrast in the image or more clearly highlighting an inherent message in which the multitude of colours would have a distracting role. Using black-and-white contrast, thus eliminating the other colours in the image, is a favorite technique in the arsenal of many modern photographers. Its artistic value is enhanced by the capabilities of modern cameras and photo-editing software that can yield a black-and-white image with the ability to isolate selected colours (for example, a black-and-white photo with a filter of blue, red, or another colour). In these cases, we can achieve different suggestions and aesthetics from the same or a similar frame or composition.
The post-processing of photographs should not be neglected in the context of the socioanalytical study. And while photographic competitions require participants to provide a rough and untouched image, non-professionals could safely take advantage of the opportunities of modern digital photography and the related computer technology.
For a greater flexibility in capturing images, shooting in ‘RAW’ mode, which is available in almost any modern camera, is recommended. It provides the maximum amount and quality of colour and detail that the digital camera sensor is capable of capturing.
Using this functionality in combination with even free software supporting the appropriate file formats can significantly increase the flexibility available to the interviewer.
Through certain computer manipulations, specific emphasis may be given to one or more parts of the image – discoloration, contrast enhancement, or other image parameters, additional suggestions can be made to assist the overall concept of the photographer. Along with this, certain ‘imperfections’ in the photographs can also be ironed out.