How Animation helps me with my Street Photography

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    As some of you may have picked up from earlier posts or comments in my other life I’ve been dragging myself through a 3d animation course for the past 2 years, and having just come out of it on the other side, Spyros wondered how animation, another arts/ creativity subject, could help and influence a street photographers work..

    There is of course the immediate difference between moving images and still, but in animation each and every frame, each still will have been worked rigorously to be part of the overall moment and ensure the realistic presentation of a character or something moving. I mean every frame and each controller has been pushed tweaked , forced to comply with the terribly stringent rules of animation. Animation is endlessly time consuming, and even when it’s done…gah! I could have done more.

    How does Animation help me with my Street Photography?

    The biggest help I’ve taken from animation is the ability to seek and take critique. Please note the use of the word; critique is helpful for development, probably covers a number of flaws and realises the positives too, whereas criticism like ‘ that’s not nice’ is always from an egotist and should be ignored.

    Seeking critique from peers, friends, the guy next door, from the well read to the inbred is useful in that you’re more able to choose areas of your practice to work on and determine the future of your photography rather than fumbling around in the dark. All critique will probably sound different, as each peer will have their own slant on how an image can or should be perceived, but if you hear 3 people say the same thing about your image, look at that area and develop it. If you feel yourself not in need of critique then you will stagnate and moreover if you only use the same peer group each time once again you’ll stagnate.

    Within animation creating a believable character whether that is a bouncing ball or a fully fledged big screen super hero every pose must and will describe (without dialogue) the precise moment and emotion the character is feeling or expressing. This is not a discrete pose, the pose must shout the emotion ‘this character is ecstatic!!’ ‘this character is in love’ ‘this character is saying goodbye’ – and once again the animator, researches, studies, and develops hand drawn sketches to try and convey this or that.


    Street Photography doesn’t have the luxury of ‘working on a pose’, the game is live and direct in front of your lens as you see it happening. Unless you shock your viewer with flash to elicit an emotional response or hang around ‘emotionally charged’ scenes I believe the chances of capturing an emotion which reads as clearly as animation are slim to nothing because people aren’t story characters. But for recognising what is happening in front of you the actual study of body language may just give you the edge in predicting the outcome of how someone in the street is behaving, or predict what they might be intending to do..animation call it ‘anticipation’. With every move comes a pre emptive move, and this runs in real life too. Watch for it, understand why your characters move about in the street like they do and what they might do next.

    Staging is one of the 12 rules to animation: Staging is the presentation of an idea so that it is clear. This idea can be an action, a personality, an expression, or a mood. The key idea is that the idea is made clear to the viewer.

    Animation is built with an audience in mind, and the films, cartoons are built specifically for entertainment, a moment in time where the audience do not need to think and in creating these parameters it is critical to show everything, clearly and unequivocally.

    Throughout the course again and again mentors suggest simplifying to the essence and in street photography this staging comes from use of your environment to either compliment or contrast with the main characters within a scene. Simplified backgrounds help focus the audience onto what you as the photographer want them to see.

    To try and encapsulate lighting in a paragraph would be trite, save it to say in both practices lighting, and shadowing are the key elements and have the power to ruin or restore an image.

    As every good street photographer knows composition brings focus to an image and this is reinforced within animation. Relying on rules of thirds cinematographers and animators work to the millimetre to ensure even when the camera and character move these rules are adhered to. If you don’t believe me…watch ‘The Incredibles’ and pause the movie…it will fall on thirds.

    But finally the thing I can bring from animation to street photography is simply patience. There’s no rush. Below is the knotty mess called animation graph editor…kinda post production for each and every movement , which animators pick through to create the perfected piece. These pursuits take an age to ‘get’. They then take another age to practice, and years upon years to master.

    Graph editor



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