Research: Semiotics and symbols

What is Semiotics?

Semiotics is the study of signs and sign-using behaviour in relation to symbolism. A sign can be a word, sound or visual image.  This study began in France originating from linguistic context. It can be divided into two components. The signifier, which is the sound, image or word. And the signifies which is the idea represented by the signifier. The problem with this is the signifier may have different meaning to different people. So when I am using symbols in my work I need to pick a symbol which is well known and generic.

I am going to be using a GPS symbol in my work. To use this successfully I need to understand what GPS is and how it works. “GPS tracking is the surveillance of location through use of the Global Positioning System to track the location of an entity or object remotely. The technology can pinpoint longitude, latitude, ground speed, and course direction of the target.” Therefore my application of using this logo to portray stalking will be successful. My only problem will be making it appear photo real.

I am going to use a heart with an arrow to communicate the idea of my dating app. This symbol is associated with Valentine’s day as cupid’s arrow shots through people and makes them fall in love. Cupid is the mythological love god. The heart represents the love aspect. Therefore I believe everyone will understand this is about dating as the heart is a generic symbol internationally.

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Research: Green Screen

Something I am going to be using is green screen. Green screen allows you to insert any background when you’ve photographed your subject. The bold coloration is not found in our skin tones therefore software can easily target and eliminate the green colour leaving the most important parts of the image. This is an effective tool for inserting my subject into my image background. To do this successfully I need to follow some instructions I have listed below.

Lighting is important when shooting for the green screen as it will create balance and avoid shadowing. A light should be on both sides on the green screen as well as on the subject and the background to provide an even tone. The subject needs to stand about 6-10 feet away from the green screen to avoid shadowing.

Proper positioning of lights to minimize shadows

It is best to have a female subject’s hair tied up to avoid loose hair strands on the green screen that will be hard to edit out. You need to be cautious of shiny and leather closing as the green will reflect onto the item and disappear when the green is removed.

The way green screen editing works is in photoshop a sample is taken of a colour then given a range based on that colour. All colours within that range are removed from the image, and can therefore be replaced for another background. The three primary tools used to remove a background or foreground are the magic wand, lasso, and colour range. Touch ups will need to be done after using these tools to fix rough edges. It is a good idea to use a mask to avoid permanently deleting pixels.

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Research: Silhouettes

A silhouette is a way of making a subject appear featureless aside from their outline by being against a bright coloured background. The use of this creates mystery, mood and emotion, while conveying a story.

Darren Rowse wrote a guide on how to photograph silhouettes in 8 steps. The basic concept is to have your subject in front of a light source which will force the camera to set it’s exposure to the brightest part of the image, the background. Leaving the subject underexposed; black or darkly coloured. However, sometimes a touch of light makes them slightly more three dimensional and real.

1. Choose a strong subject – a strong recognisable shape that will hold interest in a 2d form.
2. Turn off your Flash – you want as little light on your subject as possible
3. Get your light right – ensure more light is shining from your background. Place your subject in front of a bright light.
4. Frame your image – Shoot your subject in front of a plain, brightly coloured background.
5. Make silhouetted shapes distinct and uncluttered – if there is more than one shape you’re trying to silhouette keep them separated. When framing photograph silhouetted people as profiles rather than looking straight on, leaving more of their features outlined and recognisable
6. In auto mode – Press the shutter button halfway down, move your camera back to frame your shot, take the shot.
7 In manual mode – If your subject is too light bring down the shutter speed a stop or two. If too dark bring the shutter speed up a stop or two.
8. Focusing – Pre focus your shot before metering it. Use aperture to maximise your depth of field by setting a small aperture.

From taking photography in college I knew most of these techniques however I was unaware of shooting people as profiles rather than straight on. This is an important part of my image as I need the hands of the anonymous people to stand out and not the face in my image.

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Research: Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is a well-known compositional technique used to make images dynamic. According to this compositional technique, an image is most pleasing when a subject or region is composed along the imaginary lines that divide the image into thirds both vertically and horizontally. This is due to the sense of balance and complexity that is created without having the image looking too busy. An example is below.

The Rule of Thirds

According to this technique the most important idea is not to have the main subject or region located in the centre of the image. For landscapes, the horizon should align with the upper or lower third of the image. And for subjects, on either side of the image. On most DSLR cameras there is an option to have the rule of third lines on screen while taking an image.

Although, it is possibly to break the rule of thirds and successfully have a subject located in the centre. I want to do this as it will work well with my leading lines while emphasising symmetry. Furthermore, it will make my subject look more confronting which is what I am looking for. The audience will be drawn to the person first and be unaware of what is going on in the background, just as the person in the image is unaware.

An example of the rule of thirds being broken is below.

breaking the rule of thirds - emphasizing symmetry

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Research: Leading lines

Leading lines are a compositional tool used to lead the viewer’s eye to a particular part of the frame. For leading lines to be used effectively the line must lead the viewer’s eye to a point of interest. If not used correctly, the viewer’s eye can be lead to the wrong direction, giving a false idea of what the image is trying to convey. Below are two examples. The first is an example of an incorrect use of leading lines that leads the eye astray, and the second a correct use of leading lines.

Balcombe Viaduct-85
Balcombe Viaduct-1282-Edit

Commonly leading lines begin at the bottom of the frame, guiding the eye upwards and inwards, and from foreground to the background. This is because it creates depth and perspective, leads the viewer on a visual journey, gives a subject importance, and makes a cyclical composition. A cyclical composition is when the lines lead the viewer’s eye in a circular motion and not out of the frame.

Subjects to consider for leading lines are; roads, fences, board-walks, bridges, bricks, lamps in a row, buildings, doorways, window panes, rivers, shorelines, waves, sand dunes, trees, tall grass, cliffs, rocks, and sun rays.

The most useful place to find a leading line is on a road as they give a feeling of motion, depth and dimensionality keeping the viewer interested in the image. Fortunately for me, I am going to have the lines of a road leading the viewer’s eye to my main subject; a person on her phone. After researching this composition I have discovered this will be a valuable asset for my image.

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