Connected {From Vision to Voice}

I'm starting a new series on my blog, discussing how I use visual intent and language to strengthen my work and express my voice in my photography. I'd love for this to be a place we can chat, so if you have any questions about this image or my process of expression in this example, please ask away, either here or on my Facebook page. Belly-3

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 This is one of my very favorite images for a couple different reasons, it says a lot to me personally, but it also communicates a lot photographically. I took this image last June, and it's one of my first images that I created with a vision in mind, and with a stronger understanding of my own voice, and of visual intent. Being able to manipulate elements in my photographs, and moving past the "hows" to the "whys" has been a hugely important part of my journey. For so long, even after I was completely comfortable shooting in manual, I felt like I was still just blundering along, getting lucky sometimes, and snapping away at anything that I thought *might* work. The evening I took this, I remember having a very specific image in mind. I thought through how I could get this image, what I wanted the light to look like, how I would need to get my daughter to cooperate with me, and how I would edit the final image to turn my vision into reality.

So... are you ready for it? Here is the SOOC image I started with -


Yikes! I know, right? I was working with my 2 year old daughter shortly after her bath. It was June, so even though it was nearly bedtime, there was still beautiful, soft light pouring in from the window at the foot of her bed. I'd been noticing how beautiful the light was the past couple night as I did the bedtime routine, and thinking about what kind of photograph I could create that would make the most of that light. I saw how beautiful and soft the shadows it created were, and my original thought was to do an image of her face, using the light to highlight her features... but at this time of day, she is really not very cooperative. So I turned my attention to her tummy, and that belly button. I knew that she wouldn't just lie still for me, she is just the wiggliest creature ever. So I used my 35 so I could stay close to her, and erred on the side of being too wide so that I would have plenty of room to crop later.

When I first pulled these into Lightroom to edit, my heart sank. I didn't see any thing good at first, but as I looked at the one above, I started to see potential. It's really, really sharp, and the shadows are beautiful and add depth and dimension, and there is plenty of room to play. So I tried a couple of different crops until I got this -

Belly-1And then it started coming together. I could see the pieces of my vision there, and I knew I just had to manipulate a few things to express it better. My intent was to highlight that belly button, to make a statement about the connection she and I once shared, and to make this image feel calm, peaceful, connected, intimate, and timeless. I choose to compose this on a traditional rule of thirds line, with the belly button on the bottom right intersection, because I wanted it to feel timeless, and I wanted it to read very easily. I kept the negative space to the left of the frame, because I didn't want there to be much tension, but I wanted your eye to have a place to rest. I included the line of her diaper, because it is a strong horizontal line that adds a sense of foundation, calm, and groundedness to the image. I converted it to black and white so that it would feel more emotive, and that it would be more about the lines and shapes, than the subject herself. I burned the tiny shadow that runs down the middle of her stomach a tiny bit so that it would be a touch stronger, and so that there would be a subtle vertical line in the image, which would help stop your eye and keep you engaged in the image longer.


Don't underestimate the power of having a vision, and understanding the visual language of photographs, and how you can manipulate those things, with intention, to SAY something with your work. Having an understanding of not just how to compose an image, or use light, or movement, but how to manipulate those things as a tool for communication? That is when photographs are elevated to something deeper and more meaningful.


Many photographers are drawn to the craft as a means to express their creativity and artistic vision, but are unsure as to what their photographic voice is, or how it comes across to viewers of their work. In my workshop, Voice & Visual Intent, we’ll spend time learning techniques to identify and manipulate photographic devices and elements, and help you build confidence in yourself as an artist. You’ll come out of the workshop with a better understanding of how to strengthen the creative and emotional intent of your work. I'd love for you to join us during the next run, which starts April 13.

Kate Densmore7 Comments