Floating Color Tulip

The Power of Form in Art and Photography

Perhaps it is confusing to see the difference between a shape and a form.  A form is nothing more than a shape with 3 dimensions. So,

  • A square becomes a box.
  • A circle becomes a sphere.
  • A triangle becomes a pyramid
  • A biomorphic shape becomes identifiable as something in nature.  Think of why a kidney bean is a kidney bean.  It has the same shape as a kidney.

It is important that any fine art contains at least a shape or a form in every picture.  Why?  Since a form is a 3 dimensional shape it performs the same job as a shape but in a more realistic way.  It communicates an emotion or a message that the artist wants people to see.

When a person draws a flat circle and places the continents on it, people identify it as the earth.  But it lacks depth. Sure, we can name the shape, find the meaning, but it’s only when you turn the circle into a sphere that an entire new dimension shows in our 2 dimensional drawing.  That portrayal of the earth as a 3D image gives it more realism.


Sphere CC by Lemonade_Jo
CC by Lemonade_Jo

How do they do this?  In drawing, shapes become forms by using shading.  Photographic art accomplishes this with light with lighting. This fact becomes the focus point where the two forms of art differ.  In drawing you have to create a form out a shape by adding shading to the drawing to give it that 3rd dimension.  In photography, it happens automatically.  A photographer must manipulate the light creating the form to get the effect they wish.

Because you are taking pictures of an object in 3D and your camera is creating an image in two 2D, you can instantly create a powerful form in a realistic way instantly.

Hanging Grapes by Andrew Chianese
Hanging Grapes


However, the real power of fine art is the ability to take an image and highlight a particular form in the photograph to give it more significance than any other.  We can do this by using the aperture setting and creating a depth of field in our image.  We can highlight a sphere, make it the center of attention, and place it in crystal clear focus while turning everything else into a blurry mess behind it.

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