Lesson 4 – Consider Your Composition

James – this lesson builds on the previous one and is about the composition of your photos, a topic that deserves way more print than this brief letter can offer.  Let me summarize it like this.  Composition is about how you ‘compose’ (put together, arrange, frame) what you see through the viewfinder.  It’s also about asking what makes a ‘good’ photograph.  Borrowing from a key lesson I learned at the New York Institute of Photography (nyip.edu) …

  • A good photograph has a clear subject. Every photograph is about someone or something. It may even tell a story about the subject. Whoever looks at the photo immediately sees this subject. It is clear and unambiguous. We sometimes call the subject a theme.
  • A good photograph focuses attention on the subject. The viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to the subject.
  • A good photograph simplifies. The photograph includes only those elements that draw the eye to the subject, and it excludes or diminishes those elements that might draw the eye away from the subject.

So what are those elements that make up composition and make a photograph ‘good’?  It’s all of those items in the frame that focus attention on your subject – light, colors, textures, balance, lines, shadows, spacing, distance, and much more.  All of them collectively form your composition.  Think about them when you’re about to take a photo.  And one more thing.  Before you press the shutter button, ask yourself – is this photo interesting, something you’re proud of and would want to show others?  If you reflect on all of the items in this lesson, I know you’ll be taking really ‘good’ photographs in no time.  More to come.  I’ll send another lesson in a few days.

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