Point of Departure


‘Point of departure’ is a term used quite eloquently by a number of photographers including Ralph Gibson. A look at some of his work will give an idea of the concept of it.

This image of a petrol spill on the road and the neighbouring image of a face made out of the textures and elements on the beach, depict how mundane subjects can be seen differently. Photographs by Ambarin Afsar

Making the Photograph Interesting

Point of departure is exactly what is sounds like… a movement away from the norm. For a photograph to appear interesting, one needs to follow basic guidelines of subject placement, composition, lighting, apparent movement, implied lines, etc. A perfectly composed image might look very good, but when there is a single element in the scene that moves against these guidelines in an interesting or odd way, it adds a sense of tension or drama to the image. This is the point of departure.

Be Mindful Of…

In a sense, the point of departure is a carefully planned error, but because it is deliberate, it is not really a mistake. Therein lies the distinction. A mistake cannot be called a point of departure, but on the rare ocassion it can be made to look What Is There’s nothing like an old camera displayed on a shelf to spark off a good conversation. Of course, it would be better if there is a real story to go with it! like one with creative cropping and editing. On the other hand, having too many elements in the frame break the rules will simply lead to a distracting, confused image.

One can create a point of departure not just by breaking compositional rules, but also by showcasing the subject in an unusual way, or doing something the subject is not expected to.

This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of Better Photography.