Dominance in Photography

Like wise, if someone looks at your photo and has no idea what the shot was about, then
you’ve lost your viewer. Have you ever had somebody show you a picture of a bunch of
kids playing basketball or football and say something like:”That’s my boy, playing ball!” No
offense to the parents or grandparents that may have said something like that; but no, that’s
not your boy (or your girl). That’s a picture of a BUNCH of kids playing ball. It’s like taking
a picture of the forest and saying “That’s the tree that I planted.”

If you want to have a picture of your kid to brag about, pull out the one with him or her
making the basket or crossing into the in zone. See the face, see the expression, and know
what happened without having to say a word. We’ve all heard the phrase a picture is worth
a thousand words. Having dominance in your photos is worth more than a thousand words.

Dominance is the part of a composition that is emphasized, has the greatest visual weight,
the most important, powerful, or has the most influence. It is the main character in a novel,
the hero of a major motion picture. Even in a crowded room there are things and people that
draw your attention. If you want to capture the moment or feeling of the event, you have to
look for what is most dominant.

If you are shooting a wedding for example, the bride or groom will probably be in most of your
shots. That one is fairly easy. But what happens if your subject is broader? What happens for example, if your subject is to cover the entire football game? How do you focus on simplifying
when so much is going on?

When I was in high school, the newspaper and the yearbook staff always seemed to run
independent of each other. I took pictures for the newspaper; the yearbook staff had their
own photographer. Half way through the year, their photographer was falling behind is his
grades and missing a lot of his photo deadlines. They asked if I could help. They were
mainly concerned about the sports sections, which in the yearbook is a really big deal.

I was not into sports that much, but I was much more into my photography than their guy was.
To represent the entire year, I went to one basketball game, one football game, one baseball
game, one volleyball game, one track and field meet, and one wrestling match. Keep in mind
that their guy had been shooting these events off and on for over half the year. The difference
between his work and my work was that I shot with dominance in mind.

Call it oversimplified if you will; but if you are shooting any sport with the word “ball” in the
title, follow the ball. Don’t try to anticipate who can run farther or jump higher, just follow
the ball, that’s where all the action is. Like wise if a person is doing the high jump, make sure
the bar is actually in the shot. I’m not saying you can’t shoot other things; like the cheerleaders,
the coaches, or the fans. But when you shoot them, make those things the dominate subject.

Dominance can be an individual, a color, a shape, or even a size. It is the including of the
element that tells the story that makes dominance so important. Without dominance, you
have no story, you have no emotional impact. The picture is no longer worth a thousand
words; it’s barely worth two. Those words are “snap shot”. The thing that makes you a
professional is your ability to tell the story, to take people’s breath away.

If you want people to buy your work, you need to sell them. In most cases, we as
photographers don’t sell to our clients by talking to them. We sell them by showing to
them. Your pictures need to reach out and touch the hearts of the viewer, whether you
are still there when they are viewing them or not. Just as an archer; no matter how good
he may be, can not hit the target without seeing it. You can not hit the target without
showing it. Be specific, use your zoom lens, crop tight, show the subject clearly, make
him or her or it, more dominant than anything else in the shot and I guarantee you’ll hit
a bulls eye every time.