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[Part 2] Changing the Essence of a Photograph with a Secondary Subject

When producing photographic works, it is important that you pay attention to both the main subject and secondary subject. Two photos with the same main subject but a different secondary subject are interpreted in an entirely different way. In the following, let's see how a professional photographer selects a secondary subject according to the different scenes. (Reported by: Masatsugu Koorikawa)

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Depict the bustle of the port with a secondary subject

The main subject in this picture is the suspension bridge in the background. In order to bring this out, I selected the cluttered pier connected to the port in the foreground as my secondary subject. My aim in choosing such a secondary subject was to express the bustle of the harbour.

I took this shot at a time when the pier was not brightened by the sunlight to prevent it from standing out too prominently.

[Example 1]

A: (Main subject) Large suspension bridge

B: (Secondary subject) Pier

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 127mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/11, 1/500 sec, EV-0.5)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto

To create light-dark contrast in this scene, I purposely chose a time of day when the port in the foreground was shaded. Doing so creates a visual effect that allows the main subject, which is the suspension bridge, to stand out in relief.

Create a softer depiction with a blurred, foregrounded secondary subject

In Example 2, I made the grass in the foreground the secondary subject. This shot was taken from a more distant position compared to Example 1. Doing so created a foreground blur effect in the grass, thus adding a soft touch to the entire photo. You can see a clear reflection of the suspension bridge on the water surface, and the impression it gives is very different from the cluttered ambience of Example 1.

[Example 2]

A: (Main subject) Large suspension bridge

B: (Secondary subject) Grass

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 155mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/5.6, 1/2,000 sec)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto

Make colour the secondary subject

This graffiti art on a wall along the coastline was rather attractive, so I captured the wall as the main subject. The sky, the sea, the graffiti, as well as the clothes of the passerby were all blue in colour. Matching the colour of the secondary subject with that of the main subject helps to add impact to the entire photo. Such coincidental encounters alter the essence of your shots dramatically.

[Example 3]

A: (Main subject) Wall

B: (Secondary subject) Blue graffiti, Blue clothes of passerby

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF17-40mm f/4L USM/ FL: 22mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8, 1/1,500 sec)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto

The blue colours of the different elements, namely the sea, sky, wall, and human subject, blend well in the image as though there had been some kind of chemical reaction. This effect helps to draw the viewer's attention toward the point of convergence at the centre of the image.

The absence of a secondary subject creates a lonely-looking image

If you take a picture using the same angle of view and aperture value as Example 3 but with no secondary subjects, you will get a lonely-looking landscape shot, such as in Example 4. The visual effect of the colours, present in Example 3, are absent, and you can't sense the presence of any story. You can only feel the perspective effect, but the impression it gives is considerably different from that of Example 3. However, if it is indeed your intention to convey a sense of solitude with the image, then it is a good move to omit the effect created by the colours.

[Example 4]

A: (Main subject) Wall

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF17-40mm f/4L USM/ FL: 22mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/8, 1/1,000 sec)/ ISO 400/ WB: Auto

Masatsugu Koorikawa

Born in Nara. Besides taking portrait and merchandise photos for camera and music magazines, Koorikawa also releases works with the waterfront of Tokyo Bay as the theme.

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