Tom Langford is an event and commercial photographer, professional retoucher, and a website designer.
schedules for TV programs start with a one-sentence summary of each
show called a logline. The art of composing both a photograph and a
logline share a lot in common: They both have only a second or two in
which to catch your attention, present the essential points, and
interest you sufficiently to look more deeply.
Looked at in this
way, it’s possible to see that there’s more to composition than just
making a nicely arranged picture. The story comes first and the
composition has to communicate to the viewer the important elements and
the order in which to view them. Fortunately it’s not rocket science and
with a little understanding your photography can improve considerably.
a picture taken recently by Marjie Goldberg of a stormy scene at
“Casey's Pass”. She has always enjoyed photography but started shooting
more seriously last spring and now submits her work to publications.
is enthusiastic about photography and keen to develop her skills. These
are essential requirements if you are to enter the world of
professional photography. Picture editors sift through thousands of
shots and they will discarded immediately any that don’t stand out. You
have to be able to see your pictures as others see them and to do this
you need to be able to shoot pictures that communicate clearly.
love the craft of visual communication. Every picture tells a story and
the photographer’s first job is to decide exactly what story they want
it to tell. They then have to choose an efficient composition that
indicates the important areas and the order in which to view them.
picture draws attention first to the prominent tourist sign, followed
by the waves, then the modern housing development, and lastly to the
bright red struts of a bench and the large foreground rocks. It’s not
clear what the story is here. It’s difficult to believe this is a
picture just about an attractive tourist sign. Neither does it seem to
be a picture about the wonderful crashing waves because it doesn’t give a
prominent view of the turbulent sea. The composition does not clearly
indicate what this story is about.Composing a story
words “Casey’s Pass” combined with the stormy ocean are very evocative.
There’s the sense of turbulent history, of events and times long past.
This location may be historically important but is now overlooked by
modern housing. Times have changed but history lingers.
not be the story that Marjie had in mind, but let’s see if we could
communicate it just by choosing a more effective composition.
I would prefer to emphasize the drama implied by the waves and spray.
do this I would move further back from the sign and recomposing to
include more sea. The perspective would then be altered and the waves
would look larger in comparison to the sign. The sign can be cropped
too. It’s the heading that’s important and you don’t need more than a
few words of the text to suggest the historical theme. I would also take
the shot from a slightly lower angle to show less of the modern
Afterwards I would crop the shot to remove everything
that does not add to the story, such as the bench, the big rocks and at
least half of the tourist sign. I have roughly retouched the shot below
to indicate how the composition could have looked by taking these steps
now tells more of the story that I would prefer it to tell. This
efficient composition now puts the sea first, followed by the sign, then
There are many different stories that you could
capture about Casey’s point. For instance, on a sunny day with a serene
sea this same picture could be used in an estate agents brochure to sell
apartments. The trick is to first decide exactly what you want your
picture to convey and then use the composition to specifically
communicate your vision.
Remember the analogy with loglines: Be clear, brief, to the point, and don’t include anything not absolutely essential.Constructive
Feedback: Aspiring photographer can send pictures to be used in future articles for constructive
feedback. Send one picture only, at a small size to suitable for emails
Not sure how to send a photo by email at a small size? Look at this Brief Guide to Picasa: www.langford.co.il/courses/PicasaGuide.html
Langford is an Event and Commercial photographer, website designer, and
professional retoucher. He teaches photography courses for beginners
and improvers. Details at:http://www.langford.co.il/courses and http://weddingseventsisrael.com.