Week 1: Photographic Composition

WOW.  This week was so busy, yet somehow I found time to experiment with photographic composition.  But, before I get into the photos, there’re a few things I’d like point out about my this project entry and those to come:

  1. The photos I’ll be featuring each week will be posted to my Flickr sets. This week, look to my first set to see the compositions I’ve created.
  2. I’ve also started a “Trial & Error” set to demonstrate some of my “failed” photos. (Although Ira Glass is an audio storyteller, I feel his words of advice (e.g. “failure is a big part of success”) can be just as applicable to photography.)  Heck, there’s no way the 186 pictures I took this week were all good!
  3. I’ve decided it’ll be most effective to comment on specific photos through Flickr descriptions, so be sure to view the “Detail” view of each set to read a more detailed commentary of my photographic journey!

Okay, now onto the good stuff!
To begin, there’re many approaches to explaining photographic composition, and this week I decided to followed Tom Ang’s guidelines.  I originally planned to combine advice from several sources, but Ang’s advice was the most coherent and seemed suitable for a week’s worth of work.  The following are examples of some of the photographic compositions I attempted this week.

    Diagonal VIDiagonals “lead the eye” to a particular point the frame and, according to Ang, more effectively impart “energy” into an image than horizontal lines can convey.

    Pattern II

Symmetrical compositions are good for simplifying complicated images, but the photographer must avoid creating symmetrical images that appear too “contrived.”

    Pattern III

Patterns “interact with the rectangle of the picture frame” and can be geometrical or irregular.

    Framing I

Framing (e.g. a “frame within a frame”) can “concentrate the viewer’s attention on the subject” and even suggest a photo’s geographic setting.

    Radial I

Radial compositions create a sense of liveliness in photos, “even if subjects are static.”

Other examples of photographic composition listed by Ang include overlapping and triangles.


While I primarily captured photos according to Tom Ang’s advice, I’d like to share other photographer’s thoughts on composition:

“All you need to know: Composition is the elimination of all unnecessary elements” –Paul Comon

“Although there are plenty of rules that can help guide your compositions, it is important to realize that there is more than one way of framing up a perfect shot” –John Hedgecoe

I think the combination of Comon’s general rule and Hedgecoe’s general advice nicely summarizes what I learned this week.  There are no hard and fast rules to creating a “good” composition, but there are tried and true guidelines (such as Ang’s) that help point you toward photographic success.  That being said, some of my first Daily Shoot images cannot be simply categorized as symmetrical, radial, etc. (e.g. the ceramic squirrel or the bamboo), but I don’t think it necessarily diminished their effectiveness.

Something I found helpful in assessing a composition was comparing the coloured version of an image to its black and white counterpart. When I was sorting through my pictures, sometimes I would remove the colour to see what the B&W version looked like.  I found this approach was particularly helpful when reviewing the photo of radial tree roots.

Radial I

In sum, I’d say week 1 was successful, but it also made me realize just HOW MUCH there is to photography.  Radial symmetry was definitely the most challenging compositional form to find, whereas diagonals were everywhere once I started looking for them!

PS: I have a new theme!  As much as I loved my old stepping stone header, I think the plain layout does a better job of emphasizing my pictures. I’ve also added two new pages to track my Daily Shoot and Digital Story entries.


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