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  • Writer's pictureKuldeep Awasthi


Updated: Sep 10, 2020

subjectivity in a photograph is a pivotal element. sine qua non of photography, majorly in street and black and white genre but extensively valid and applicable in every genre.

Emotions, summed up word for all the feelings whether constructive in nature or destructive, whether love, hate, grief or joy. Emotions always played a pivotal role in our life and they to the very much extent defines major portion of our life. Who we are, whom we like and for what we are living this life, everything is defined by our own set of emotions and so does in a photograph. Subjectivity of photograph majorly defines its viability. Set of emotions a photograph contains define the value of photograph in viewers mind. Sometimes, there are subjective elements in a photograph like, holding hands, tears, joy, need or love which attracts the viewers attention and sometimes there are objective elements which helps to generate the subjectivity in a photograph like, angle, tones and contrast used in landscape, architecture or minimal photography.

"We humans manifest the subject as per our own imagination but when the subject is telling us what to manifest then we are just environed in the photographic loop"

The cruciality of the emotions in a photograph is axiomatic one and without it, a picture can't stand on itself. What makes it appealing apart from it's texture, contrast, ambience, tone and hues is the subjectivity of the elements. No photograph can deny the need of the subjective value. My own point of view says, every photograph contains it's own subjective value and it varies from person to person. For some there is no subjectivity at all in a picture and for some it is the most subjective thing they had ever found in their life.

It's either you as a photographer who defines its subjective value or it's the audience who is viewing it and manifesting their own results by applying their intuitive thinking.

Subjectivity is limitless and so our own imagination. It doesn't matter whether you bring the subjective value to the photograph or not, anyhow picture will create its own subjectivity in viewers mind, e.g.- The Image shown below.

This photograph of a tree contains least or no subjective value for some viewers but for some who in their recent days went close to the nature like spending time with the family in tree shades or playing games with friends or for some who are trying to remember their childhood by seeing this or for some who are feeling alone and this single element is providing solace in their lonely life or many infinite ways as our human mind can imagine, this photograph from no subjective value can easily be converted into more and more subjective value as per the need of viewers manifestation.


In Street genre, subjective value is the key element of the photograph, defining the subjective value create an impact in viewers mind and defines the viability of the photograph. Hence, the viability of the photograph is directly proportion to its subjective value. So, how we will define the subjective value of a photograph ?

Short answer, by capturing the emotions between different elements. Intensity of elements, connectivity between elements and the genre we choose with the right set of tones, angles, contrast, hues, ambience etc.

Long answer can be defined in many parts such as,


More intense the set of emotions is in the elements, more will be the subjective value of a photograph. The intensity of elements is defined by the concentration or force of the emotions radiating in our daily life around us in a most mundane way and we walk past them daily without even noticing them. Everywhere in this world, from our own home to our office we go daily to the streets we choose to go home or in the parties or clubs we go, the intensity of emotions is always present in a very casual way and it only takes one eye to raise and the timing to manage in order to capture the intensity of emotions.

Your own manifestation to the subject and your own alertness to capture the moment where the intensity to the element is in a perfect ratio will help you to provide subjective value to the photograph.

This brings us to the second part of the subjective value.


The alertness while holding an eye on the subject is very essential for capturing the moment where everything is in perfect order and the subjective value is properly connected with every elements of the picture. The moments where emotions lie are the transient one, especially on streets and one must be able to apply quick judgement to observe and capture the subjectivity in a photograph.

Sometimes, it's just a matter of second or microsecond by which we miss the perfect ratio of subjective set in a photograph and we regret our own sharpness to identify and capture it properly but the art of perfect timing much depends on how easily we can observe the moment.

"The art of observation doesn't comes easily, More you encounter with the set of emotions in your own life, more you will understand it and will be able to observe easily it in others life"


You can't leave any element in the picture alone without defining it's subjective value or the relation with the other subject otherwise it will create a crack or blank hole in the photograph and will attract the conundrum in viewers imagination because they will repeatedly look for an explanation for the crack in their mind and either they will make their own explanation for it and will try to fill the gap on their own or they will draw negative criticism to it.

Connectivity of elements within the subject and to the subject are both equally essential and one must try to bring the closest possible connection to define the intensity of emotions.

For finding connection between element try to be more close to their set of emotions and try to feel what they're feeling right now and when you connect with their emotional paradigm, you will understand when is the right time for you to capture it in a perfect moment and all that is left now is your timing to click the button.

Intensity of elements, sheer observation, timing to capture, elements association all together provides the subjective value to the photograph but we can't defy the techniques and objective terms to capture the photograph. Angles, tones, contrast, post edit and pre setup all are complimentary for defining the subjective value.

There is the last element also who adds the subjective value to the photograph in his/her own set of emotions, the viewer. Viewer make the whole subjective value of a photograph complete by establishing a pure connection between the picture and his/her own life.

Quoting Ansel Adams,

"There are always two people in every photograph: the photographer and the viewer."


Subjective value is always been the important subject, not only in photography but also in various other fields whether art, political, philosophical or entertainment. Subjective value define the essence and no one can ignore the need of subjectivity. In photography, subjective value is defined by the photographer and by the viewer as a whole. For photographs to be appealing and intense, subjective value should be higher, always try to look for the correlation between the subjects you capture and try to behold the intensity of emotions between and within the subjects.

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