Sunday, February 4, 2018

It's Not Stock, It's Real, But Might as Well Be

The front page of last Sunday's Star Tribune Homes section focused on suburbanites who've moved to downtown. It included these three photos:

I didn't really care about the story (it's one the newspaper seems to write every six months or so), but I was interested in the photos. My first thought was, Photo 3 looks like a stock photo, while the other two don't. I wonder why not?

I knew the answer almost right away: Photo 1, while nice and professionally taken, is too specific to the woman pictured. She's looking at you. It's clearly about her, in her specific place. Photo 2 is a snapshot: the awkward poses, the extraneous junk — all perfectly in focus — in the background, the flat lighting. I assumed right away it was taken by the story's writer, rather than a staff photographer, and checking the photo credits, soon saw that I was correct.

Photo 3, on the other hand, has all the earmarks of a pro photo: the depth of field difference in the foreground vs. background and the nice lighting, especially. The fact that the couple is not looking at the camera is the key detail, though. They're smiling, holding hands, moving: They could be "any" couple on a brochure about retirement or health care or whatever.

There's a grammar to photography, which I used to know a lot about. Suddenly it was coming back to me, and all because of a photo of two people walking their dog in a park.

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