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Linking People to Places: Create Emphasis Through Size, Scale and Focus.

Photographs can powerfully link people to their working environments, communicating a vivid sense of both person and place. But to do so, photographers must somehow emphasize one over the other through size, focus and scale.

Let's look at three effective examples of such linkages. The first example could have easily been just another picture of a man in a hard hat working on some power lines. Many photographers fail to stress either the place or the person -- they would simply back away until both the power lines and man appear in the frame and then push the shutter button. The result is usually a literal, descriptive picture, one that fails to make any point to readers.

This picture, however, made by Alabama Power Company (Montgomery, Ala.) staff photojournalist Bill Snow goes far beyond a literal image. Instead, Snow moves in with a wide-angle lens, filling half of his viewfinder with a worker entering the picture at the lower right hand corner to grasp a rope in the center of the frame. The result: emphatic diagonal thrust, giving the man dominance over the distant power lines that can barely be seen in the distance. There can be little doubt that this worker is master of the task at hand.

Snow's shot, along with the two other examples, appeared in Scana Corporation's quarterly magazine. (Columbia, S.C.). In the second example, Scana promotes its support of educational efforts involving careers in space science. Most pictures of this nature would simply show a classroom full of kids listening to a teacher. But this one emphasizes the response of a pensive student, devoting a full third of the frame to her reaction. This emphasis is created in two ways: she is larger in scale, as well as more sharply defined, than the slogans, posters and fellow students in the background. By emphasizing this student over the verbal and visual context that surrounds her, the picture makes its point with impact and meaning: career dreams begin with questions.

The third example, furnished to Scana by the Bechtel Corporation, effectively captures the removal of a 360-ton, 67-foot-long steam generator from a nuclear power station. A Bechtel photographer emphasizes the great incongruity in scale between the huge generator and the two workers watching it slowly move toward the vast circular opening of brilliant white light. The emphatic message: This is a monumental task, and at this moment, everything seems to hang in the balance.

All three photos link people and places. Two of them stress people, the other stresses the place. Within each picture, a strong emphasis helps carry home the message to readers.

Philip N. Douglis, ABC, is director of The Douglis Visual Workshops and the most widely known critic, consultant, and workshop leader on editorial photography for organizations. An IABC Fellow, Douglis offers his comprehensive six person "Communicating with Pictures" workshops twice each year in Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, Arizona.
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Author:Douglis, Philip N.
Publication:Communication World
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2000
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