Shape and form are two of the most commonly misunderstood elements of composition in photography. Again this idea is very simple but effective when used well.
So what is the difference between shape and form? Shape is simply the two-dimensional outline of an object or subject. Form is similar to shape but has three-dimensional aspects created by light and shade. Form adds depth and volume to an image, not unlike texture it makes us feel like we can reach into the image and touch the object. So we need to decide, what is more interesting to an image? What makes this image unique? Is it the shape or the form? Lighting is one of the ways we can add depth to an image. It is the highlights and shadows that allows us to create form. If an image is lit from the front, it becomes flat and two-dimensional. Whereas, if an object is side-lit or has ambient lighting, it has more substance.
In the image above, there is both shape and form. The man has no dimension, but the staircase leading up to him does. This is an example of ambient or available light which envelopes the scene adding highlights and shadows.
Next time you are out on the street photographing, notice what the light does to your subjects. Does it add dimension and form or do they appear as two-dimensional shapes.
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