World Through The Lens




PHOTOGRAPHY COMPOSITION
By Janet Wood

Have you ever taken photographs and then, when you uploaded them to your computer, wondered why on earth you bothered? Yet at the time they appeared okay; the colour, lighting, setting, all inspiring you to snap away happily.

The problem is what we record on film is often not what we admire in a composition, but a representation of a number of factors. By this I mean, our eyes scan what we are looking at, the brain digests the information, separates the parts that interest us and tells us this is pleasing to the eye. Unfortunately, what can happen is when we lift the camera we immediately ignore what we have just discovered and click away without a second thought. All too often we try to fit too much information into our pictures, not wanting to waste any of what we can see. This usually results in photographs that can either be too messy, too distant, sadly lacking in subject, or just downright boring! When ideally what we should have done was concentrate on the bits that caught our attention in the first place and photograph them to their best advantage.

Whether youíre trying to capture children playing or a flower in your garden, move in closer to get all the detail. Itís like cropping your photos before it even reaches your computer. Also, if your camera has a macro setting, use that to get in super close and capture details your eye would normally miss. (Click here for Macro photos examples) Also, when you get in close try tilting your camera for a different viewpoint. Diagonal lines or photos taken at an angle can be more interesting. (But not always! Check your view finder carefully.)

Naturally all the above takes some thought, experimentation and time. But the results are far more pleasing and well worth the effort.

black cat
This is a photo of a cat. However, you may be forgiven for not noticing, given all the surrounding clutter.

black cat face
Here I have concentrated on the cat and it makes for a far better picture.

vehicle suspension
Closing in on part of a subject can help.

elephant face
It can give a photo a sense of power and presence.

snow on flowers
Look for the unusual.

top of volcano
Make use of props.

Before starting to photograph I ask myself several questions which usually include the following;

Which orientation will suit the subject best - Landscape / Portrait.
And which lens is the best to use? E.g. Standard, Wide, Telephoto, Zoom, etc
What type of film will suit the subject best? E.g. Colour, black and white.
Will altering my position help? E.g. A shot from above, below etc?
Are there any intricate patterns to draw the attention?
Can I make use of any natural lines to lead the viewer into the picture?
Can I frame the photograph with something interesting?
Will the use of a foreground object add impact?
Will walking around the subject offer more interesting views?
Will moving in closer cut out unnecessary clutter?
If I fill the frame will it give a feeling of presence, action, power etc?
Will isolating interesting parts of the subject help?
Will the use of props help?
Can I make use of different lighting effects?
Would the use of a filter add to the overall effect. E.g. Soft focus, colour, warm up.
Can I use my 'depth of field' to effect. E.g. To blot out unwanted background objects.

gravestones cemetery
A zoom /telephoto lens can add compression to a photograph, giving it an intimate feel.

blackpool pier
Whilst a wide angled lens can add drama to a suitable subject.

castleton peak district
The dramatic peak helps to catch the viewer's attention.

snow scene
Here the bridge and road lead the viewer into the picture.


Use whatever makes the subject happy.


Use black and white film besides colour.

It’s surprising how just a simple change in angle/position can offer you so much more in your photograph. Picking up things you hadn’t noticed previously. For example, reflections, different surfaces, textures, colours.

TIP: Bright sunlight can create harsh shadows on your subjects, but by using the fill-flash on your camera it will help reduce these shadows. So give it a try, as your photos will be more colorful and balanced.

TIP: Another tip is to turn your subjects around (if possible) so the sun is at their back, then use your flash. You can get some fantastic results with this technique and no squinty eyes due to the bright sun!

TIP: Donít let cloudy days make you stay in. Try and take advantage of the diffused and subtle light that cloudy days offer. Cloudy days are nature's professional studio giving you soft light, without shadows. Overcast days also help to enhance reds, yellows and greens and these colors will look really striking when compared to a gray sky. Use the weather to your advantage.

TIP: The more pictures you take, the better your chances are of capturing a truly stunning image. Increase your odds by taking many photos. One of the joys of digital photogrpahy is that you can simply delete the ones you donít like and take another.

TIP: Try taking five or six consecutive photos with a 50% overlap of the subject matter, then use an imageing software programme such as Photoshop, Paintshop Pro to join them together in order to create a panoramic picture. This is great for mountain and hill scenery, beach shots or summertime horizon shots.

TIP: If children or animals are playing, or taking part in an activity, don't take just one shot of them posing / looking at the camera. Take a series of five or six shots of them in action and create a storyboard of their fun/game/sport in your photographic album.

portugal beach algarve
Looking down on a subject

cleopatra's needle obelisk london
Looking up.

dead tree
Looking up.

cave algarve portugal
Use surrounding features to frame a subject.

portrait
Try varying your lighting effects.

african sunset
If possible, shoot at different times of the day.

bride
Place your subjects in different positions other than the standard poses.

worn pillar
Look for unusual detail and concentrate on that aspect.

Try as many different aspects and techniques as reasonably possible until you find the one that compliments the subject the best, even consider what time of day/night will best suit a subject by capturing the best light. Early morning sunrises and dusk often provides the best light for scenic photographs when the sun provides the best lighting angles and lets you capture properly exposed highlights and shadows. It's amazing how different light will make your shots much more vivid.

The summer is one of the best times to take photographs. The sun shining brings out all the life and colours of the world coupled with friends and family relaxing and enjoying themselves, itís the best opportunity to capture the memories of a lifetime and many of the steps that I have mentioned will help you to take amazing photos that you can then use to make a beautiful photo album or a stunning piece of wall art.

So next time you feel in the creative mood remember; bend, crouch, lie down, look up, climb, fill space, view all around, frame it, get closer, isolate, lead in and consider using filters and flash where appropriate. And remember shoot, shoot, shoot - don't skimp on your photography, you may never be able to capture the moment again! Photographs of children are particularly precious as they are always changing, growing and don't say young for very long.

Happy shooting!

Copyright Janet Wood 2001


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All my library stock photography is represented by Alamy.com who provide image buyers with a single source for all their photographic needs, supported by innovative technology and strong customer service.

Stock photography by Janet Wood at Alamy
Ancient Egypt Photos by Janet Wood at Alamy
Royalty free images by JanetWood at Alamy"





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