In the previous post about photo composition, I stressed the notion of clutter leaving the viewer of your photographs confused because they don’t know where to look.  All of the clutter leads to no one particular focal point.

The photo above is a particular type of image has become popular over the last few years especially with the rise of social media.  The idea is to tell a story with various objects in a single photo.

The idea is fine though this image is cluttered and it tells a lot of stories.  The person is a writer, a traveller, an explorer and a photographer of the world.

The photo isn’t objectionable, but while viewing this, the eye wanders because there is no clear focal point.  There is not one place for the eye to go.  There is not just one story to follow.

But, what if ….

What if the only objects left in the photo are:  the eyeglasses, the pencil, the map and the blank journal?

The image has been simplified, there is a clear focal point (the journal and pencil) and our eye goes directly there.  Including only these objects makes the photo composition stronger and the image is simple.  No clutter.   And, instead of being a jack of all trades, you’re a writer; maybe even writing the next best selling travel book.

Another element to consider when composing your next image : Shadows.

Shadows can also be used for a simple but dramatic effect.  Shadows tend to give a feeling of anticipation and often a cinematic effect, which is a good thing.  Don’t shy away from shadows.  Experiment and learn to use them to your advantage for a strong photo composition.

This image shows a strong contrast of light and shadows and is very dramatic, I might add.

Why does this work?  Yes, the contrast and bright sunlight are incredible, but the lines take the eye directly to the woman waiting to cross the road.  The lines are created by the light and shadows.  Lines are very useful tools in photo composition and we will discuss this in a future blog post.

Let your eye begin at the bottom right corner, then follow the line to the woman.  Your goes to the exact place the photographer wants you to look.   Mission accomplished.  This is a very strong composition simply by using light, shadows and lines.

What is not to like about the above photograph?  The young man beating the drum is fantastic, especially with the lighting.  The upward projection of the shadow on the wall is brilliant.  The eye moves from the lower left to his hands, then to his face and finally onto the wall. This particular image is a prime example of strong photo composition.  Wouldn’t you love to take a travel photo like this?

You can, practice and play around with shadows next time you’re out with your camera.

Silhouettes are often overlooked because we are told not to point our camera toward the light.  There is a rule to break.  The photography gods will love you for it.   Putting your subject in front of a light source will help you achieve silhouettes and often helps you to tell a compelling story.

A sense of mystery can be achieved like in this photo of the man standing on the edge of the water. Are these puddles of water? I think they are. The mist rising also helps with this story and gives it the sense of mystery.  What is the man doing? What is he thinking?  This is very strong composition and achieved by using a silhouette.  Have a look at the image.  You can clearly see the light is in front of the subject.

The photo below is superb and it sort of reminds of the Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, Psycho. Perhaps this is an interpretation of that iconic movie.  The silhouette of the hand with a vague appearance of a body in the background gives a sense of unease and even despair.  The image sort of a spooky story isn’t it?  There is no clutter whatsoever and so this simple image has a strong composition and is a winner for that.

I love the dramatic image below as it is so powerful.  The silhouette of the man is nice, isn’t it?  The positioning of the light with a bit of a burst right at his eye is simply stunning and effective for great photo composition. Many stories could derive from this very simple and strong image.  Notice there is zero clutter and the subject in the scene is off-centre?

Below, we have another photo with a very strong composition.  The golden sunlight bursting through the silhouetted trees is magnificent.  The horse riders are an added silhouette bonus.  I especially love the dust reflecting in the air.  The photo composition is superb and serves as an example of what brilliant travel photography should be.

Textures can be effective in photo composition because if the texture is something we recognize, and if the texture is right, a viewer might get the sense that they can actually feel what is in the image.  Some textures are identifiable so a viewer can relate to them easily; thus, they feel as if they are a part of the photo.

The leaf in the photo below, for instance – very simple and almost all of us know what it feels like to touch a leaf so we can immediately identify with the image.

Do you feel as if you can peel the paint off of the wall in the photo below?  I can. The colours and the texture of the wall are quite beautiful even if a bit derelict.  Think about it.  Wouldn’t a portrait of a person in front of this wall be stunning?  A similar looking wall could be found in almost city you visit.

The image below is cool and tells a story. The car in the background and the man appearing to run or leap onto the road is very interesting. The texture of the gravel in the foreground, however, tells us the man better be careful or he might hurt himself if he hits the pavement in the wrong way.   What story does this photograph tell you?

Patterns are always interesting because of the repetition.  Our brains react positively to repetition and patterns.

Sometimes patterns are predictable such as in this photo of two women standing below a series of closed-circuit cameras.  One after the cameras line the wall another with a lot of sameness and a muted brown background.  Is it a great image? The photo is fun in a way, but I will let you decide.  What I do know is the eye can easily move across the image because of its symmetry.

Patterns can also be unpredictable as is shown in the image below.  The circular and angular patterns in the window are fantastic but what is even more brilliant is the blue-hued light cast into the room.  Not only do we have an effective use of patterns, but also a strong use of light.  Both the light and the amazing patterns make for a strong composition.   While the photo is static, it’s very exciting to look at.

Simplifying Your Images

Each of the images we have viewed is very simple with regard to photo composition and all have a strong composition.  Practice will help you recognise these situations which will, in turn, lead to a nice composition for your photos.

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