Rhetorical Appeals in Photography

The most creative way for me to express myself is through photography. People never understand why I brought a $700 camera, or why I edit all my pictures before posting them or putting them in an album. After reading Wyoski’s article, I can understand my passion better now because pictures are part of communication. By choosing different color schemes, brightness levels, and captions, I can evoke emotion through my picture.

When I find a picture of someone laughing or having a good time, I tend to add playful color schemes in the picture. For example, I might add a highlight to the picture allowing viewers to see the emotion in it. Many times, when I am having a good time with friends or family, we tend to make goofy faces, evoking positive, playful emotions. Other times, I take a serious picture of someone in deep thought, and in this case, I might make it black-and-white. By making the picture black-and-white, I automatically cause it to become serious or maybe even sad. All these techniques help me develop pathos in the pictures I take.

The obvious pathos deals with what is directly in the picture. For example, in the pictures of me making goofy faces, it is apparent to my viewers what I am feeling in the picture. However, the pathos in a picture is not always that obvious. When I develop a picture of someone in deep thought, it can mean many things. Since my audience is not visible to me, or in some cases might not even know me, they can assume the picture to mean many different things. That is where rhetorical colors of pathos come to play. “Color is analyzed in terms of hue, saturation, and brightness” (Wyoski 275). By adjusting the hues, saturation, and brightness of my picture, I can allow audiences to feel depressed, anxious, or even happy from this one picture.

Since I am only an amateur photographer, gaining ethos is difficult. However, I have learned that the way in which one takes the picture can help establish ethos. Nowadays, there is the development of a popular method of self-portrait. People snap a picture of themselves, mostly from their phones, and then post it on popular websites such as Facebook or Twitter. The problem with this method is that everyone can do it, so the pictures I take in this manner are not as appreciated. While people might like this style, they know that there is not much creativity involved to provide strong ethos.

On the other hand, when I take pictures from my professional camera, it takes a lot of time to adjust the lens, point the flash in the right direction, and find the object of focus in my picture. With this camera, I can blur the background focusing my viewers’ attention to a certain object, I can invert colors, or I can take panoramic pictures. All these features help add creativity and talent to my photos. These pictures are well appreciated by my audience, and they always end up asking me if I can take pictures of them. In fact, with my professional camera, I was even able to do a photo shoot for a wedding, which definitely helped me establish ethos as a photographers. For me, the way one takes the picture itself is enough to create ethos.

I agree with Wyoski in saying that logos are probably the hardest to develop in visual rhetoric. The pictures I take are for entertainment purposes rather than for fliers, advertisement, etc. Therefore, there is no thought pattern involved with photography. At times, I will add captions to my picture. These captions can be famous quotes or lyrics, which does provide some transfer of knowledge. However, this is very rare, and photography as a form of art rarely uses logos.

It was very interesting for me to read about the rhetorical appeal in visual rhetoric. I know people always say photography is an art, but there is never an explanation about how it is art. By showing my friends the ways in which I use ethos, pathos, and logos in my pictures I can finally answer the question of why I take so many pictures.

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