Visual Literacy

Now that the 2014 Spirit of Triathlon Photo Contest is officially launched I want to write a few blogs about some of the attributes of great photos.

My January 3 blog I talked about the incredible number of images posted each day and wondered if one picture is still worth a thousand words and how do we maintain the storytelling integrity of our images.

Visual Literacy is the ability to read a picture. Perhaps this is what the saying One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words was intended to mean. If we have the expectation that the viewer of our photo will read the picture, then we have the obligation to do the best we can at giving them something to read!

In Sports and Action photography there is the constant challenge to be sure that our images portray action and not merely random activity. There must be purpose and direction to your story.

Your story may be of the details of an event or the context of the venue, but it must at least get the attention of the reader and tell them something – something that will make them want to see more, learn more and be willing to invest their time.

Here are a couple examples of each:

The first shot, which I found in a folder that I hadn’t deleted anything that had shot, can be entitled Random Spectators Standing Around, Looking Different Directions and Bored! Not much here to really get anyone’s interest.

Bored Spectators!

Similarly for this next image, from the same folder of should have been deleted files. This time we have athletes standing around not with any particular direction or energy.

Age Group Athletes pre race.

In this next image we have two athletes running along the spectacular red rock background at the Ironman St. George 70.3.

Ironman 70.3 St. George on May 4, 2013 in St. George, UT
Luke McKenzie matching TJ Tollakson on the run in St. George, UT.

Finally we have Brent McMahon celebrating his victory at the 2013 Ironman St. George  70.3, enjoying his final few steps as the crowd shows their appreciation of his effort.

Ironman 70.3 St. George on May 4, 2013 in St. George, UT
Brent McMahon taking the win in St. George.

As you are selecting your images to submit represent the Spirit of Triathlon, keep in mind how you are telling the story. After all, we are all story tellers – make sure it is a story that will interest others.

Get your photos that tell the best triathlon stories and ENTER HERE.  After you enter, tweet your photo with the tag #SpiritOfTri

If you are lucky enough to move your photography to a professional level and are interacting with clients on a regular basis, your understanding of visual literacy will become increasingly important.

In an ideal world, all of our clients would also be at least moderately visually literate but as photographers it is in part our job to listen and try to best interpret what they are telling us.  At a planning meeting last fall, a client told me they wanted more Overhead Shots. I explained there were very limited places that an overhead shot could be obtained and five out of six of the possible locations were on the shot list. After a few more questions I understood what they really wanted – high angle, long lens shots showing lots of athletes.

In the end, it is our job to get it right!

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