IMAGE TALK with Noella Ballenger: What makes that photo work

Capturing a specific photographic moment can tell a story that speaks volumes – a “decisive moment”, a term first coined by Henri Cartier-Bresson. It was he who first developed the street-style of photography that is so popular yet today. For example, when that moment captures the action of a child running across a field as the photograph in this month’s IMAGE TALK… does, it becomes a decisive moment.

Body language whether it is bird, beast or human is important to photographic story telling. Can you see the emotions as they are expressed in action? Does that action dominate the image and hold captive your viewer’s eye? Does it keep their attention? These are all questions that photographers may ponder at one time or another to make sure their images are exciting and interesting.

Wind of Freedomby Antonio Borzillo

Black and white image of a girl anda her guitar titled Wind of Freedom by Antonio Borzillo.
© 2015 Antonio Borzillo. All rights reserved.

Subject: Girl with a guitar

“Someone asked me how I imagined freedom and happiness. I instantly thought that was a great question. This is my answer.”


1. Action

2. Body language and carefree appearance

3. Division of space – S-curve in background

4. Implied diagonal lines

5. No intrusion of color

Noella’s Comments:

In this month’s IMAGE TALK… we have a wonderful example of action that has frozen a moment of time. Although we don’t see the subject’s face or expression, certain things about the subject can be implied and will probably be very, very close to reality. The way the subject is running implies youth and an abandonment of cares. The guitar suggests that music is important to the subject and there is a lightness conveyed in the casual way the guitar is being carried. Arms out, feet barely touching the ground and hair flying in the wind are all signs that convey this message of relaxation, happiness and freedom of action.

Notice the division of space in the image. The top part of the image is divided by an s-curve. This curve is actually forcing the eye down toward the subject. It adds interest, but eventually the eye returns to the girl. There is a strong diagonal line that runs from the girl’s feet, through the guitar and on up to the s-curve. This “implied line” completes another arc in the curve.

S-curves are elements of design that can be used to grab attention. Ancient man had some innate fears that have carried over to present life. One of those fears is of snakes and anything that slithers. It immediately grabs our attention. Thus, using its representation, the s-curve grabs and holds our attention.

There is also another diagonal that runs through the arm holding the guitar, the shoulder and the hair toward the upper left corner. This crisscrossing of diagonals through the subject also adds strength to the image. There is no way your eye can wander off. The subject holds the power by placement and action and the eye is imprisoned in the image.

There is often a debate between whether color or black/white images are stronger and many of us suggest that it is the treatment of the subject that is most important. In this case, the variety of tones of black and white with fine detail in both areas, give the image a delightful feeling.

I certainly agree with our photographer that this image shows an exciting expression of freedom and happiness. It’s a wonderful photograph and you did a terrific job Antonio! Thanks for sharing it with us all.

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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