The Interaction/Isolation Principle
is the most powerful principle in photography that you have never heard of. It goes like this:
Strategy is a game of interaction and isolation.
It may not be immediately obvious that this has to do with photography, but but it does. Here is why:
When someone says "game", you probably think "chess", or "poker", or your favorite computer game. Actually, a game, for the purpose of this blog post anyway, is any competitive activity where individuals interact and decision making matters.
Thus, war, business, and love, are all games. Photography is a game. The photographer and the audience interact by sending each other messages. A photo is a message. So is a +1 on Google+, a Like on Facebook, a comment, and a payment for the photo.
Thus, we could create a more specialized version of the Interaction/Isolation principle for photographers:
Photography is a game of interaction and isolation.
The principle applies to both the business part of photography, and to the taking-a-photo part of photography. In this article, I will focus on the photography part.
I hope you will agree that the photo of the shoes above is reasonably good. Not great, mind you, but good.
What is it that makes it good?
Let's look at the picture from the perspective of isolation. The picture is a close-up, and the depth-of-field is quite narrow. This isolates the shoes from the environment.
You may also notice that the background is quite desaturated. Originally, there were strong blue elements, jeans legs, drawing the attention away from the shoes. So, I increased the saturation of the shoes, and decreased the saturation of the background. That also serves to isolate the shoes.
It is easy for a viewer to focus on the shoes, simply because there is little else to focus on.
When you see shoes on a street, they usually come with a wearer. This pair don't. They are isolated from the wearer. This piques interest: Why are a pair of empty shoes laying in the street? Why were they left there? What is the owner doing?
So, a pair of shoes isolated from their owner is a potentially interesting scene. By isolating the shoes from the environment, I made them easy to focus on.
There is also a bit of interaction in the photo: The shoes are touching, and the left shoe holds the right one up a little bit. That creates a sense of connection.
The more important interaction, however, is the one between you and me. The photo as a whole serves to send a message, or rather messages. There are messages about the picture itself, but overlaid, there are other messages, like "come read my blog".
It worked, didn't it? Since a blog is interactive, you can now send me a message. If you like the article, you can click the +1 button, or comment. And of course, I can send you another visual message, like this one:
Note the similarities between this picture and the shoe picture: The main subject is isolated from the surroundings, and there is interaction between the two main elements.
Quite strong interaction. :-)
Do a little experiment: Take a walk today, and look for something interesting. When you find it, try to find a way to photograph it that isolates it from any distracting elements. Take the shot. Is it a good picture?
If you like the picture you took, post it anywhere you want, then leave a comment here and include a link to your picture. I am curious to see if this little tip works for you.
Understanding the nature of a game does not make you invincible, but it does improve your odds when you are playing. I am a strong believer in working from basic principles, and the Interaction/Isolation principle is one of the most useful I know, because it is applicable to all strategic games.
End note: You might wonder where the Interaction/Isolation principle comes from. The principle defines the nature of all strategic games, and the person who first expressed it was Col. John Boyd, U.S. Air Force
. Boyd was a master strategist, and much of what he taught can be applied to all strategic games, including photography. Of course, you will have to do a certain amount of translation. :-)