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The Reasons Why

Understanding why, how and what you are attracted to in a potential picture is the reason for picking up your camera. What is the essence of the attraction for you? In this article will be looking at some of the different aspects of attraction and how we can better communicate it through the prism of our vision and intent.

Two people can be looking at the same scene and find different aspects attractive within it. Likewise two people can look at a photograph and appreciate the picture for different reasons. For example, a well-crafted expressive picture will communicate the emotional engagement and attraction felt by the photographer to the viewer.


If the viewer is on the same wavelength as the photographer, they too will pick up the emotional engagement and attraction of the presented picture.

The benefit of knowing why you are attracted to a subject helps you take and make a picture that expresses your vision and intent.


Hot hint
Your eyes are the viewer’s eyes.
Examples of Picture Attraction

Mouse over or click on the pictures to see the Template description

Personal and subjective reasons

The reasons why we are attracted to what is in front of the camera are a personal and subjective combination of factors. We all find beauty and attraction in the strangest of things. Your individuality is your strength, use it to your advantage by seizing on the fleeting opportunity. Don’t be a dedicated follower of fashion, those who follow the crowd will be judged as the crowd.

To quote Duane Michal’s:

“Trust that little voice in your head that says “wouldn’t it be interesting if… and then do it.”

One of my clients noted that the A for Attraction part of the ABC of camerawork can be used as a filter, if the subject does not get past the strength of attraction stage then it all other considerations fall away.

When looking through the viewfinder answer A for Attraction with these 5 straightforward questions.

Q1 What is the essence of the attraction and why?

Q2 Is emotional engagement relevant to the picture?

Q3 Can you put a simple caption to the attractiveness of what you are seeing?

Q4 Is it visually interesting?

Q5 What will the finished picture look like?

Hot hint
Be specific as you can when thinking about the essence of attraction.
Q1 What is the essence of the attraction and why?

Your motivations about what you find attractive will vary with every picture taking situation. For example, maybe it is the; subject or colour or texture or the light or the inherent composition or a juxtaposition. Maybe it is a combination of reasons. An amalgamation of reasons for the attraction you see is always good. If you only see the same attraction in many different subjects your pictures will end up looking very similar to each other. As in all situations there are pros and cons to opposing views or different interpretations. Being attracted to a small number of attractions in a picture taking situation could lead to the creation of a style on the plus side, on the negative side it could mean that you become stylised in your picture taking and making.


Refer to the shot of the road and trees taken near Gaillac opposite, I can’t really say why the shot still appeals to me over ten years later, but it does. There does not have to be a rational explanation for all our choices. I seem to be drawn to pictures of roads, I don’t exactly know why, perhaps it’s about what is not shown or said in the picture, the mystery of what’s over the horizon or around the bend that I find interesting.

“We do not take pictures with our cameras, we take pictures with our hearts.”

Arnold Newman – Photographer

Q2 Is emotional engagement relevant to the picture?

The most effective type of expressive or narrative picture is one that emotionally engages the photographer and the viewer. An effective picture is one that describes what is seen and felt by the photographer to the viewing audience. Sometimes emotional engagement can be easily and readily detected, at other times it will be a nuance that is only available to those who have the sensitivity to pick it up.

A picture cannot emotionally engage the viewer if the photographer is not emotionally engaged at the taking stage. Expressive photography is the representation of who you are and how you present what is significant to you. Your initial intentions can easily be weakened yet further through indecisive post-processing if they are not fully recognised at the time of pressing the button.

Q3 Can you put a simple caption to the attractiveness of what you are seeing?

Can you describe the attraction as it appeals to you?

If you do not have this level of observation and attraction before you press the shutter, it will be difficult to make that attraction dominate the picture at the post-processing stage.

The vocabulary you have may or may not be helping to be able to formalise words that describe the attraction you are looking at.

The word “Attraction” has alternative meanings and are described as synonyms such as:


  • magnetism
  • lure
  • pull
  • desirability
  • hold

The caption you formulate does not have to be long or complicated just descriptive reinforcing in your mind the reason for picking up the camera and recording the scene.

Q4 Is it visually interesting?

Pictures that are visually interesting can be of universal appeal to the majority of viewers say for example, a dog playing in the surf at sunset. Another category of visual interest will be limited to those who are particularly familiar with the type and style of picture presented, for these people there is interest and attraction but maybe for the general public there is not.

Therefore, it would appear that the; interest knowledge, education and culture of the viewer has a large bearing on whether or not they will find a particular picture or panel of pictures visually interesting.

Q5 What will the finished picture look like framed on the wall?

The more experienced we become as photographers and printers we can foresee the result of our picture taking choices. You will or will have grown into appreciating how your choices of viewpoint and camera controls record the subject matter. Next, you will be able to bring to mind the options open to you in the global and selective post-processing of the digital negative.

Your experience will tell you whether it is worth pushing the button or not, on the plus side if in doubt press the button. By recording the scene, it gives you the opportunity to try out various options in the post-processing, if they do not give a satisfactory rendering of the scene then the pictures can be deleted.


Below – examples of differing presentation styles

The raw file without post-processing
Converted to Black and white
Black and white with global and local adjustments
Black and white with global and local adjustments plus split-toning



Any picture will either sings or sag depending on the effectiveness of the background



“Composition is the art of leaving things out”

Andy Beel FRPS


Depth of Field

Depth of field is a tool for seeing, feeling and presenting an expressive picture

This article is based on the first section of Chapter 6 of “The ABC of CameraWork Manual – how to see photographically” by Andy Beel

For more information about the ABC of CameraWork Manual click on the book cover opposite


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