Tension: Two forces acting against one another.
Take your photography to the next level
Sexual tension: The buildup before a sexual encounter. The “release” after the sexual encounter, and the rest and deep that ensures.
Kinetic Tension: A rubber band being pulled in opposite directions. The dynamic tension, and the release of kinetic energy once the rubber band is released.
Hunger Tension: Hunger, which stimulates movement and activity. Then the feeding phase (eating food) which generally results in “food coma”— a nice nap after a big meal. Note: How lions will sleep almost an entire day after a big kill and feast.
Dynamic Tension in Color Photography
In photography, tension in the “opponent color theory”: the dynamic tension between two opposing colors. The tension with the colors next to one another, adds more intensity of both colors.
For example, a red shape when placed against a green background seems more intense than a red shape against a simple white background. And a green figure against a red background:
Or the dynamic tension between yellow and blue, and blue and yellow:
Or the dynamic tension between black and white, or white and black:
Dynamic Tension in Red, Yellow, Blue
The primary colors of red, yellow, and blue trying to fight one another for dominance. This tension between the three colors creates dynamic energy, and visual force:
Dynamic Tension in Hand Gestures or Body Language
Perhaps what makes picture with hand gestures or active body language interesting or dynamic is the tension in the hands:
The curve as having the most dynamic movement, kinetic energy and flow:
“Something about to happen”
Imagine the picture as a movie: what do you think is going to happen a second or two after the picture?
Dynamic Tension through Eye Contact
Dynamic Tension of Negative Space
Visual tension through negative space —allowing space for the subject to release the built-up tension to “enter” or “exit” the frame.
Principle of DYNAMIC PHOTOGRAPHY: Dynamic Tension. I think this concept of “tension” can apply to all forms of art, photography, pictures, biology, economics, and almost everything in life.
Basically the “opponent” theory is this:
In life, we need an opponent.
For example, with working out and physical exercise, our “opponent” is gravity. We must fight against gravity to become stronger. In fighting gravity, we have to expend our energy, and build our muscles.
In sex, I don’t think that an orgasm or ejaculation could happen without sexual tension. NO tension = bad sex.
Also, in movies, dramas, novels, and thrillers — you always need a “bad guy”, some sort of difficulty the hero needs to overcome, or some sort of tension or danger. Or else the movie has no fun, no “climax”, or resolution.
In real life, we must have difficulties, challenges to overcome — or else life would have no excitement, fun, or meaning.
In photography, we must make pictures that have some sort of dynamic tension. Some sort of “visual opponent”— whether that is opposing colors, opposing geometrical or compositional tension, or perhaps tension of emotions or gestures or eye contact.
A practical insight: to become stronger in life, a better artist, or anything — add more tension. And then conversely, add more rest, relaxation, and recovery time.
As humans we cannot add infinite tension, without rest, recovery, and relaxation.
With muscle-building, after intense stress and tension to our muscles, we must rest and sleep a lot to let our muscles rebuild, and also eat a lot of protein and fat to recover, and rebuild our muscles.
With work, work really hard and intensely, but also schedule time for you to rest, relax, and “do nothing”— in order to continue being productive.
If you drink a lot of coffee or caffeine, give yourself ample time to take naps or rest, to compensate the “come down” after the “caffeine high”.
More thoughts on dynamic photography and life to come.
Further reading in dynamic photography:
Take your photography to the next level
Dynamic Photography Composition 101
Dynamic Photography Composition Tips
- How to Make Aggressive Photography Compositions
- 10 Dynamic Photography Composition Tips
- How to Make More Dynamic Picture Compositions
- Unorthodox Photography Composition Techniques
- Deconstructed: Saigon Eric Kim Photos
Take your composition to the next level:
- Center Eye
- Dutch Angle
- Deep Depth
- Leading Lines
- Figure to Ground
- Fibonacci Spiral
- Composition by Eric Kim
Street Photography Composition 101
For distilled lessons on composition, read the free ebook: “The Street Photography Composition Manual.”
Further articles to improve your compositions in photography:
- Composition Lesson #1: Triangles
- Composition Lesson #2: Figure-to-ground
- Composition Lesson #3: Diagonals
- Composition Lesson #4: Leading Lines
- Composition Lesson #5: Depth
- Composition Lesson #6: Framing
- Composition Lesson #7: Perspective
- Composition Lesson #8: Curves
- Composition Lesson #9: Self-Portraits
- Composition Lesson #10: Urban Landscapes
- Composition Lesson #11: “Spot the not”
- Composition Lesson #12: Color Theory
- Composition Lesson #13: Multiple-Subjects
- Composition Lesson #14: Square Format
Learn compositional theory:
- Why is Composition Important?
- Don’t Think About Composition When You’re Shooting Street Photography
- How to Use Negative Space
- Street Photography Composition 101
- The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson
Compositional lessons from the masters of art