While attending a wonderful photography conference this weekend (SWMCCC Summer Weekend of Photography and Digital Imaging), the lessons I teach at Davenport University on giving effective presentations were reinforced, particularly because I was trying to get as much as possible from each workshop.
During the first workshop, we were shown some unique and charming still life photos taken after the photographer assembled each picture with ordinary objects from nature—but NOT the traditional fruit bowl. She used leaves, vegetables, flower petals, seeds and much more to create designs for the effect she planned: to tell a story, create a thing of beauty or an edgy image. Considering the same issues every photographer addresses: shape, volume or texture, background, light, color, our teacher had captured some amazing views through her camera’s lens using only a few inexpensive objects.
The only obstacle to learning all she had to teach was the way she shared visual aids. Each photograph measured approximately 20 inches by 15 inches, not large enough to be clearly visible to audience members seated beyond the first two or three rows. Knowing that, the presenter described each photograph, and then sent it into the audience to be devoured by eager learners. After the first 15 or twenty pictures circulated, the attention of each audience member had been diverted by either scanning the pictures in her/his lap or by managing the flow of the visuals. I missed large chunks of her message due to this process. In this workshop, much of the message was the media (as Marshall McLuhan taught us) so looking instead of listening still allowed us to grasp much of the information; in other circumstances, passing visual aids during a presentation means losing your audience and quite likely, never luring them back.
In the second workshop I attended, a PowerPoint presentation gave the audience the full power of observation. Since the subject was Seeing Things, it was fitting and proper to be taught to improve our power of observation with easily seen examples that didn’t force our eyes away from the presenter.
We were told in the introduction that unlike painters, photographers begin with a full canvas, forcing us to observe and think about the picture we hope to capture in our viewfinder.
This teacher discussed many composition strategies—seventeen found their way into my notes, mostly as cryptic points giving tribute to my interest rather than my comprehension. Since I teach my public speaking students that each speech should typically have no more than three main points, I will share three that piqued my interest.
- The Rule of Odds – an odd number of subjects in a composition works best to give the picture visual balance
- Use lines to separate the subject/actor from the background and frame. Directed lines caused by a road, a fence, a building, almost anything with form, become blocks that force the viewer’s eyes back to the subject.
- Separating the subject from its background or from its component parts typically creates a clearer visual communication than if components touch or overlap.
I will try to improve these photos with my new found knowledge. Stay tuned for the revised versions.