How to improve your photography – shapes within images

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Good photography always starts with a vision of reality, something that arouses interest within the photographer. This then forms the basis of what we call pre-visualisation, where in your mind’s eye you can imagine the finished image.

Lenticualr cloud at dawn over Lake Kurilskoye, Kamchatka

Part of this process is the art of composition and this is something I believe improves with experience. Some say that this can’t be taught and is an instinctive process. However, I disagree as there are guidelines to follow and these can be taught. Once you are aware of what works for you, images appear in your mind’s eye and you then tend to develop your own style.

A good way to see if your image is really working is to study everything you see in your image, perhaps not as a person or scene but as graphic shapes. Here you can see if they work as a whole and fit together. A good tip here is to take an image and then turn the camera upside down to see these shapes. This helps, as it will disconnect the brain from reality and force it to study the shapes themselves.

Outflow form Gand Prismatic spring, Yellowstone

Explore the interaction between these shapes, think about rectangles, squares and curves within your image. A curve will help to draw a viewers eye through the image and lead to what you consider to be the focal point. It can also imply a sense of motion. Especially important are triangles (real or implied) as these are very satisfying to the viewer because they are easily seen and can help to tie the relationships within the image together. Attention is always strongest at the apex of the triangle. Depending on their orientation, triangles can also convey a sense of stability, or else bring a dynamic aspect.

Graphic shapes in images

If you include squares or rectangles, these will also convey a sense of stability and provide a frame within a frame which will draw the eye. The use of these structures can also provide some balance and harmony to the image, especially if aligned with the rule of thirds or the golden section. These devices have been around for millenia and were originally put forward by Greek philosophers. An internet search will provide more information about the geometry of them and their use throughout the history of art. However, care must be taken with rectangles because if they are not photographed square, they may become distorted. The use of these shapes are seen as quite formal which will alter the dynamic within your image.

Dynamic shape in a photo

If you are able to see these shapes and make best use of them, your photography will improve over time and will become more enjoyable in the process.

© Andrew Boschier Photography 2017





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