I’m finally getting around to posting part 2 of this three-part series.
This is the second of three posts where I will be sharing some of the rules of composition that guide me when crafting my images. The first post focused on composition rules related to space. Today, we will talk about composition rules related to subject. Then I will end up the series with a discussion on composition rules related to style. Of course these rules aren’t exhaustive. I also don’t think I’m breaking any amazing new territory but hopefully these rules will be something to stimulate your thinking and give you some insight in what goes into my thinking when I’m crafting the images you see before you. Hope you all enjoy!
This post could go along the lines of where I say here is the best subject to photograph but that is not very helpful and honestly in my own photography I have multiple different subjects that interest me. So with that in mind my first “composition rule” regarding subject is to find a subject or multiple subjects that interest you and shoot them to exhaustion. Dorothea Lange said, “Photographers stop photographing a subject too soon before they have exhausted the possibilities.” I think she is right. When I first started my primary subject was sunset seascapes. I must have shot several thousand images of the Huntington Beach pier and one thing that i discovered that each shot was unique and brought something new with it. The sunset changes second by second. The light changes as it reflects off the water. The tide changes moment by moment. As I started to really study and see these shots something new would call out to me. Sometimes I would be drawn to the sky. At other times I would be drawn to the sweeping scope of the scene. Then there were moments went the minute details of the light reflecting off the wet sand would unfold before me calling out to be captured.
My second rule is seeing the details allows others to see it for the first time. The details that come in the subjects we choose to shoot often make the most interesting images. I took a day photo expedition to Sequoia National Park last fall. I went up there particularly looking to take some photos of Moro Rock. I imagined coming home with an image of this gigantic rock formation that would rival Ansel Adam’s photos of Half Dome. As I was climbing the carved stone steps up to the top the steps themselves became the details that made the most interesting image of the day to me.
My third rule is see the ordinary in a new way allows others to see it for the first time. It surprises me how often we overlook amazing subjects because we are used to walking right past them and not looking at what we are seeing. The process of slowing down and looking at the ordinary opens our eyes to the beauty that is really all around us. I love to walk down to the beach and often when I’m on my walk I come across these cool little succulent plants. They are pretty but are they really worth taking a photo of. One day I decided to take a photo walk through my regular daily journey. I’m glad I did. When I slowed down to shoot what I pass normally I came across this great image. By taking the time to make a macro shot of this plant I discovered these water spots that really make the image.
There are a ton of more rules that I could probably share but I want to close with one more. This rule revolves around whether or not to shoot in black and white or color my answer is to be willing to do both because you don’t know what each option will bring out until you try them. When I was in Maui in 2011 I took a photo of this amazing tropical flower. As I was processing it I looked at it both in color and in black and white. When you are looking at the black and white image the texture is what jumps out. When you look a the color image the vibrant colors are what jump out at you.
Please share your rules for dealing with composition and subjects for all of us to learn from each other. Stay tuned for next weeks post where I close out the series talking about composition rules related to style.