IMAGE TALK with Noella Ballenger: What makes that photo work…

Creating an iconic image is a goal. Iconic photographs have direct messages that have impact on the viewer. They become unforgettable. If you look at this image created by Lisa, you can easily see the direct message. We know it is a wedding. We know or assume that it is a bride and groom that are taking their first steps along a life path together. The message is simple and direct and therefore the photograph moves out of the ordinary wedding photo to the iconic. By studying this image, we can learn the qualities that will move an image to greater heights.

Two Hands – One Heart by Lisa Hershman

Subject: Heart created by the hands of the bride and groom

Conditions: It was a lovely day to make images outside following a wedding ceremony in Jacksonville, Florida.


1. Simplicity of design

2. Framing and leading lines
3. Negative space

4. Classic black/white

5. Telling a story – sending a message

Noella’s Comments:

In creating an iconic image, the message that you are conveying must be simple and straightforward. So the best way to start is to simplify the design of the photograph. Strip away anything that is not pointed directly to the message you want to show. Here the partial bodies of the bride and groom create a frame and a strong one. By blocking the sides of the photo, the viewer cannot escape. They become trapped within the image frame. The road in the photograph is in shadow and symbolizes their life path. Because it is dark, the focus of the image is forced down the lines of the arms and to the hands. The hands are gently entwined and create the heart symbol. The heart becomes the iconic message and symbol of their love.

Notice the negative space. Negative space is defined as the space created between the objects. So in this image the heart is a negative space to the main subject of the hands; the arms/hands and bottom of the frame are a negative space between the two supporting elements… the bride and the groom. The road above becomes a negative space as well between the bride and the groom. So your eye becomes focused on their hands and the heart.

Color can be a very dominant part of the design elements in a photograph. Monochromatic color pallets (one color with a variety of shades and tones of that same color) are one way to simplify a design. Here Lisa has chosen classic black and white as a way of not only simplifying, but creating impact. It makes the design much stronger and forces the viewer to concentrate on the subject and its emotional message.

And finally, this image tells a story of love – a message of new beginnings and a very special moment. The symbolism is clear, the design carefully planned and carried out and thus, the image becomes iconic as it stands for the hopes and dreams of this couple.

This is a beautiful image and because of its iconic properties, it is one that won’t be forgotten soon. Thank you so much for sharing that precious moment with us.

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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