WHY GRAPHIC DESIGN CAN DRASTICALLY IMPROVE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY SKILLS
I've been a photographer for 15+ years. Starting at the young age of 11 when I had my first camera that consisted of disposable cameras i'd bring everywhere with me, to the iZone camera from Polaroid. I got my first DSLR when I was 15 years old and took every class imaginable at my high school. Dark room photography, advanced photography, AP photography, you name it.
Then came Photoshop CS2. I started incorporating my drawings into my photographs, it wasn't until I turned 21 that I realized that this is a career called Graphic Design.
I never knew that graphic design was a career path and after high school I was lost for a couple years. I didn't start college until I really knew for sure what I wanted to do considering I was paying for it out of my own pocket. So I waited around working at restaurants as a waitress and photographing senior portraits and weddings. Once I figured out graphic design was meant to be I started my design classes at Portland State University in 2011 and never looked back.
Incorporating my designs into my photography? A HUGE plus. I loved to use multiple different mediums in my work and always based my design projects off of photography.
Over the years in college, and upon graduation I gained so many skills I never thought would advance my photographs. I learned color theory, principles of design, design research, and tons of other things that are so beneficial to my photographic career that I wondered why I had never learned these things before in all of the photography classes I had taken or tutorials I had completed online.
My last final class in my design program (which is one of the top 5 in the nation!) was my senior thesis class. I studied and researched photography for months and months and came to the realization that graphic design is absolutely ESSENTIAL for photographers. I mean, they all land in the same art field, so there are definitely a ton of overlapping things that we learn. A lot of the times as a graphic designer, you need to be able to be a photographer as well, or at least have a basic understanding of it.
Graphic design is essential to improving your photography because:
IN GRAPHIC DESIGN WE LEARN THE PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN ELEMENTS
If you don't already know the principles of design, they are simple rules for creating visually appealing images that evoke emotions or communicate with the viewer. I've learned that we can use these exact elements in photography to communicate our ideas. These simple design elements can be used to make our images more dynamic or speak 100000 words to the viewer.
An example of one I love to use in my work is TEXTURE.
In photography, before I even take a photograph, I observe with my eyes first. For something like texture I look for specific things that capture my attention. Texture can have a huge impact through variation and relief - contrasting between rough, course areas with orderly patterned or smooth areas of relief. Noticing something like this can give your images a HUGE impact on how they effect the way the viewer is looking at them and essentially create visual interest.
Here's an example of how I used texture in a photograph:
On the left of the waterfall, notice how the coarse texture of the moss and leaves is given relief by the smooth flowing waterfall? This type of difference creates a more visually appealing image. Same with on the right, the rough tree is contrasted by the texture of the smooth soft hand touching it. By using texture a design element, we can focus on creating better photographs.
Using each element or principle of design it gives us the opportunity to notice things by observation and create much more dynamic images.
I go over ALL of these design elements and principles and give you prompts on how to use them in your photographs in my new e-book The Good Eye Guide. Launching November 15th 2016!
If you are interested in learning more sign up for our 5 DAY BETTER BRAND PHOTOGRAPHY CHALLENGE to keep more insider tips and tricks on creating beautiful branded photography for your business.
COLOR THEORY CAN HELP US WITH EDITING OUR COLOR PHOTOGRAPHS
After learning color theory and messing with so many different color palettes throughout all of my designs, I learned that knowing these skills drastically improved my editing in lightroom and photoshop. With learning color theory I had a better more clear understanding of how color has psychological effects and how we can use color to change emotions. I also learned how colors interact with each other and how they can convey a mood or a feeling. Knowing this gave me a better idea of how to develop images for different types of moods to portray.
By having an understanding of how colors compliment each other or work with each other, we can edit our photographs to look a certain way. For instance, warmer tones are always more appealing to people. Cooler tones are more moody and emotional. One thing I love to do is to edit the blues in our images to be warmer, and the greens I love to turn more of an orange-yellow color. I do this because I know blue and orange are complimentary colors meaning : "colors directly opposite each other in the color spectrum, such as red and green or blue and orange, that when combined in the right proportions, produce white light."
By using that as my starting point when editing photos, I have a good idea on what will look more appealing or what will convey the message I am trying to tell.
DESIGN RESEARCH CAN TEACH US TO THINK BEFORE WE SHOOT
Design research was probably one of the less "designy" classes, and pretty much more books, testing, writing, and researching in libraries. But let me tell you, it was probably one of the most crucial to my design career.
I also learned to love analytical thinking and digging deep into the ideas I had. This is important for photography and design because it can help us think about the WHY before we decide to create something. It allows us to dig much deeper and think outside of the box.
When we do photoshoots for products, people, or just for conceptual art doing a bit of research beforehand can help you get a clear sense of what you are doing, give you a better direction, and also help you come up with ideas that can make you stand out among all of the people photographing the SAME thing.
BRANDING CAN TEACH US HOW TO CREATE COHESIVE PHOTOSETS
I took so many branding classes in college and learned so much about branding. Its WAY more than just a logo. We had to use strategy and tons of research before we even gave thought to a logo. This taught me to use branding strategy in my photography, so that when I created photoshoots for my clients I could offer brand photography as a service. By using the same strategies and tools for creating brands, I could also use the same for brand photography. Creating an entire cohesive visual experience for my clients.
We want our logo/website/and collateral to all be cohesive with our brand, so why not bring that same aspect into our photographs we use for our brand as well? The images you use have a huge impact on your brand, so it's definitely important to consider this part of your brand and not just the logo/website alone.
So there you have it, the main reasons why I believe graphic design has drastically improved my photography. I am passionate that learning new skills in graphic design can improve ANY photographers images. Even graphic designers that want to get better at photography.
I wrote and designed this e-book The Good Eye Guide because I truly want to teach new skills to photographers that they may not have known before. I want to help you create more stunning dynamic images by putting your brains to work. I want to help you put your technical skills to use by giving you prompts that will get you out in the world creating.
I go over all of these topics into depth in my e-book The Good Eye Guide - The non-techy inspirational guide to creating better photographs. Grab a copy here!