After reading a few comments on a recent photo of one of our family dinners that I posted on my blog, my mind set off thinking about the idea of context and “the overall picture” of our photography. Sometimes, in working towards the perfect photo–with a lovely blurred background and the right composition–it can become easy to ignore the details that provide us with the time, place and memories associated with that same photo.
I love my childhood photos with the green countertops, funky wallpaper, and odds and ends in the frame. These details help us to recall, and in some cases relive, a particular moment in time or a related memory. These details provide our photos with context–for our own purposes, as well as for the benefit of our audience. But how do you capture context in an appealing way?
It’s all about focus. Focus on a strong subject in the frame so the viewer knows exactly the story you are telling. In the photo above you can really get a sense of what one of our family dinners entails. The table is set, the family gathered, surrounded by all of our comforting belongings. While the focus of the photo is most certainly placed on the set table–telling the story of a family dinner–all of the other details come together to really set the scene for a treasured memory.
In this photo, Ian performs his version of the chicken dance. While the story is definitely about him and our new chickens, you can see so much of our life at this moment in the frame. In the foreground is the potato bed, a favorite place to dig for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the background you can see his fort, the compost pile where we’ve witnessed a skunk and a snake, and on the left side of the frame, one of our 17 tomato plants sneaks into the frame. Zooming in on just him wouldn’t have lost all of those details.
Here’s another favorite of mine. Ian is playing Plants Versus Zombies on the iPhone. I’m certain it will be a favorite childhood memory for Ian. In the details of the frame you can see our location, our meal, and the fun art that Ian loves about Capital Dog.