I’ve broken this into two sections as it has got a bit long!

Composition is the basis of every genre in photography and is one of the first things to think about and experiment with.  I took ‘A’ Level art and have always been grateful for the basics that taught me and for the encouragement I had from my teachers to visit galleries and look at all kinds of paintings.  I took away what I learnt in that field and started to look at work by well-known photographers – it was quickly evident that the same kind of general rules applied. !  It is a bit like learning to drive – first learn out which gear you need when, feel a bit tense about that and then relax as it becomes second nature.   Having said that breaking the rules sometimes give the most amazing and wonderful results for that way creativity can lie.

I’m going to write a quick list of some of the elements involved.  They are not set in stone and will change according to the field you are exploring. Also as time goes on you will add your own to them.  Remember to just enjoy too! Ask yourself before you start ‘What is composition?’  I guess my own answer is that it is making a choice from various visual elements and attempting to form them into something which interests and speaks not only to me but to anyone looking at the image I am trying to produce.

1. Start off by thinking about exactly what you are hoping to say and identifying what it is within the image which speaks to you of this.  Make that part of your image your focal point..  If, for instance, you want to show a reflection in water make sure it is clear and obvious to the viewer probably including the object contained within the reflection as context.

2. Crop in as tightly as you can.  It is easy to try to include a wide (and often beautiful) landscape but you may be trying to feature just a part of it.  Try to make sure that this intention is crystal clear by cropping out any extraneous background.  I sometimes carry a mount card with the aperture in it cut in the same proportions as the image my camera takes that way I can try various ‘views’ before I commit myself.  This came from the era of using film which was much more expensive if mistakes occurred than it is now with digital media.

3. Try different angles.  Shoot from low down – I carry a plastic sheet to lie on!  Or shoot from above – balance on a style or use a small step ladder if you are taking portraits of groups of people.  I remember seeing photographers running through the Venice Carnival with step ladders over their shoulders and it wasn’t until I saw them in action up their ladders that I realized they were getting really clear shots without having to include or avoid the hundreds of bobbing heads that were there too!  Mind you I don’t actually see myself going that far – it would feel too invasive to me.

4. It is easy too to get used to using your camera in a horizontal format – many of them are built in a way that seems to make that a natural choice.  When you go out on a shoot try taking each of your pictures (for a while) both in horizontal and vertical.  It will help you get used to a different form of framing, perhaps for instance, in vertical including a large expanse of sky or more of the foreground.  Just experiment and see which works best for you.

5. Check the edges of your images and make sure there is nothing unwanted intruding.  The tail end of half a donkey or rubbish left behind in the grass.  Although both these sort of things can be fixed in Photoshop it is easier to get rid of them at source.  Just take it slowly and look all-round the viewfinder or the rear screen.

6. If you are shooting outside and the light is difficult in that your screen becomes almost impossible to us try buying a loupe which will cut out the reflections and the excess of light so that you can see the definition of your shot.  They are mostly made of soft rubber and can be held against the camera for just the length of time you need. You can hang one on a cord round your neck and just use it when necessary.

I’m going to stop now and continue the next part in the next blog because I think this is enough to take in in one go – it certainly would have been for me at the start of my photographic work.

Solva Low Tide