What Makes Compelling?

Why do we notice some blog posts over others? What is it that draws us in, that makes us interested, that pushes us "to know"? I came across two photos on the feed and wondered why I cared about them and not others.

Both photos caught my attention. They had action and drama. They could have easily had pathos or romance. It was the emotion behind the shots that had me wanting to know more about the "characters". When I taught college art long ago, one of the pearls of wisdom I tried to pass on to my students was that a painting (photo) needs to be two fold. It needs to grab the viewer's attention from across the room, or in this case through the computer screen. Once that happens, there needs to be a reward when the viewer comes closer. In paintings, brushwork and the intricacies of stroke can sometimes fill that need. In photos -- real or virtual -- it is often the background that is the bonus prize.


click the photo to go to the original post

Here we have a beautiful spy. Her face is lit against the sunset (or dawn) sky. She is prepared, self sufficient and brave. We know that from her stance, her gaze. The gun is a powerful prop whether or not you condone violence.

Once the photo draws us in, we see a plane nearby. Ready for escape? A deserted, dimly lit building forms the backdrop. Our heroine is the only character in the scene.

The environment is important. Imagine this photo with only the woman. Pretty? Yes, and powerful -- but without a story. Nothing to make us wonder who she is, where she is going, what she will do when she gets there.

Note: I wrote this post a few days ago and was not able to connect with the second blogger, so please click here to see the second photo.

The character and the environment share equal billing in this photo. The contrast is low, the colors blend with one another. There is seemingly nothing to draw our attention -- and still, I wanted to know more. It is the mystery. The light and dark of the outfit counterbalance the light and dark of the warehouse-like building. The friendly pet on her shoulder adds a bit of relief from the gloom. Even though the character is small, the monocle is evident and important as is the background shape on the far left side. Bathed in light from one side and in warmer tones, it balances the color of the pet. Sometimes a seemingly insignificant detail can have great importance.

I'm guessing that most of us take our photos without much thought. We know on some level what works and what doesn't. We pan and scan and tip our cameras to get the best angle; we adjust the lighting to show off our avatars to the best advantage.

And sometimes -- we just get it right.

  1. gravatar

    # by Shelby Rasmuson - September 18, 2009 at 11:08 AM

    Thanks so much for the complimentary post...I sometimes ask myself if its worth trying to put more into a fashion blog than merely fashion. It's a lot of fun letting one's imagination go wild, and I guess I would lose interest if I didn't blog a mixture of subjects. Thank you for reading. I also have to add that those are the posts I look for myself..