The Current Issue
Nikon Owner Issue 13
e-COMPOSITION by Simon Stafford
These days it seems that more and more activities are becoming enmeshed in the electronic revolution that appears to gain pace with each passing day; we have e-mail, e-banking, and e-commerce to name but a few. Simon Stafford introduces you to e-composition!
These days it seems that more and more activities are becoming enmeshed in the electronic revolution that appears to gain pace with each passing day; we have e-mail, e-banking, and e-commerce to name but a few. So I would like to introduce you to e-composition!
Now there is no need to panic – I am not suggesting that I have discovered a short cut to perfect photographic composition that abandons a photographer’s skills in favour of some automated digital process!
It was during a photography workshop a few years ago that a couple of students struck up a conversation with me about composition, and in particular my approach to framing a picture. I recall we talked about “compositional tools” such as linking elements within a picture by using a pattern or shape, and “rules of composition” as in the familiar “rule of thirds”, whereby you divide the frame area into thirds using two horizontal and two vertical lines, and then place a key element of the composition at one of the points of intersection. However, as we talked I soon realised that over many years, almost sub-consciously, I had developed, honed, and used the same system to compose virtually every photograph I had taken.
Inspired by our dialogue I returned to my camera and decided to note down each stage of this process from first seeing the potential of a scene to releasing the shutter. By thinking back to my earlier conversation and analysing my own actions I broke the process down into five distinct phases, and ever since, whenever I have taught on workshops, I have suggested to students that they may wish to consider the following, which I call my “five-e” maxim to photographic composition.
Our visual perception of any scene we study is almost invariably linked to some form of emotional response as well. This emotion may be stirred by the nature of the overall scene, a particular element within it, or even something as simple as a single colour, shape or texture. Whatever it may be, the first step to successful composition is to distinguish the particular aspect, or aspects that you find appealing.
After this initial response you need to take time to go beyond a mere “look” and begin to “see”; it is during this phase that attention to detail will allow you to identify the essential elements that you wish to retain within your composition, and begin a process of filtering out the unwanted/unnecessary residue.