Tag Archives: composition

Formal elements in art and composition

From the world of art and the compositional analysis of paintings, the formal elements are: line, shape, tone and form, texture, space and colour.  (Basics Photography 01, Composition, David Prakel, AVA.)

line DSC_6326-Edit-resized

shape  Wedding-5825

tone & form Low_Res-7603

texture  Patterns-8-resized

space  DSC_5785-Edit-resized

colour  DSC_6325-Edit-resized



Exercise – Tungsten and fluorescent lighting

In this exercise I waited until the evening light was closely matching the output from the tungsten bulbs in my apartment and took some portrait pictures with the white balance adjusted to three different settings to compare the resulting images.  The settings used was daylight, auto and tungsten.  The idea behind this exercise is to have a better understanding of the control of white balance and create ideas of how white balance can be used to manipulate the mood of an image and also to consider what more artistic options may be available by using white balance as a tool in the composition process.


Daylight (1 of 1)

In this image the overall effect is a warm golden yellow tone.  Nikon D800e, 50mm f/1.8, 1/30sec, f/1.8, ISO-640, +1 step exposure compensation.


Auto (1 of 1)

The auto white balance has produced a similar image to the daylight setting, perhaps more orange to the tone.  Nikon D800e, 50mm f/1.8, 1/90sec, f/2, ISO-1250, -1 step exposure compensation.


Tungsten (1 of 1)

The tungsten setting had created a very cold blue tone to this image.  Nikon D800e, 50mm f/1.8, 1/90sec, f/2, ISO-1250, -0.5 step exposure compensation.


Using fluorescent type technology energy saving bulbs to light this room, I took the following photos using the settings options of white balance from Auto, Fluorescent, Fluorescent A6 and Fluorescent B6 on my Nikon camera.  Nikon D800e, 24-120mm f/4 @ 120mm, 1/60sec, f/4, ISO-6400.

WB-Auto, colour temperature 2900.


WB-Fluorescent, colour temperature 3950.



WB-Fluorescent A6, colour temperature 4550.


WB-Fluorescent B6, colour temperature 3350.






Exercise – Rain


In this exercise I had to produce a single strong attractive image that would leave no doubt that the subject is rain.  This would be used as the front cover of a magazine.


I began by making a list of what rain meant to me in order to find ideas for the elements required.  I then made a short list of magazine subject matter in order to connect the subject with the theme.  (Normally of course the magazine would be the employer and therefore the task of imagination would be only limited to the elements.)  From my list I decided to use gardening and for simplicity chose to use wellington boots and an umbrella photographed through my patio windows that I first sprayed with water to create the rain drops on the glass to emphasise the rain.  My barbeque was the original inspiration for both the choice of magazine style and idea for composition (Thanks to the Great British weather barbeques are closely associated with rain) so I arranged the wellington boots and umbrella next to my brick built barbeque.  However, I did not consider it important enough to the composition of this image to produce a photo that clearly defines the Barbeque as an additional element; so if it is recognised all the good and if not it’s not important as the boots and umbrella are the important elements to be linked with rain.  By chance, the day I worked on this photograph it actually did rain anyway; so this helped by providing a nicely wet patio for the reflection from the umbrella.


I first took photos composing the image in a conventional portrait format but I felt that the images lacked something. I found by tilting the camera the images looked more interesting creating a more dynamic composition.


24-120mm f/4, @112mm, 1/100sec f/20, ISO-6400, WB-Auto.  Adjustments made in Lightroom (no cropping) and text added in Photoshop.

Tutor’s report and reflections for assignment 2

Tutor Report Shain Mullins 512659 TAOP asst 2

I found this assignment very challenging but I am now starting to think and see in a new way.  My lesson brought forward from my last assignment was that I needed to do more background reading to help me understand what was being asked of me.  Therefore, before starting this assignment I purchased and read: The photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman; Composition, Basics Photography 01 by David Prakel and Design Principles, Basics Photography 01 by Jeremy Webb.  I wish that I had found these books before doing assignment 1 as on the whole I was way off the mark from what was expected and what I imagined was asked.   These books helped me to understand this subject and has started me to think and see in a new and more artistic way.

I actually first thought that plants would be an easy subject as they are all around us; but Mike has pointed out in his appraisal I quickly began to realize that it wasn’t going to be so easy after all, but I persevered and I am happy with the results.

As I began to take pictures I used the idea of artistically composed images that I would imaging you may find framed on the walls of a Garden Centres Café, which later influenced my idea to print large and on reflection was unnecessary.

Single dominant point.  Dominant_point-5-resizedOn reading Mikes comments, I now can see that if I had applied the golden section principle I could have made a better composition.  I believe that the second (middle) colour image in my blog that I illustrated as one of the three that I didn’t use was closer to the golden section and may have been a better choice.  Single point-b-resizedReason for this is that in my opinion the positioning and direction the rose faces would make for a better balanced picture as it is pointing in towards the empty space; so making use of it by drawing the viewers eye across.

Two dominant points.  Two_dominant_points-3-resizedThis is my favourite shot and all my families.  In order to get this picture I had to take it from a greater distance than I would have liked and had to enlarge to bring out the image, which sacrifices quality.  Fortunately I my D800 has a with very high resolution; so I was just about able to get away with it for printing.

Several points in a deliberate shape.  Points_making_a_shape-1-resizedYes on reflection the dandelion is a distraction.  I was thinking of including dynamic balance in this composition but the yellow is too strong and draws attention away from the intended subject.

A combination of horizontal and vertical lines.  Combination_of_horizontal_and_verticle_lines-3-resizedThis was the challenge that seriously had me doubting my wisdom for choosing plants, but I thought this composition offered all the elements that I was searching for.  Perhaps I could have found better examples but the harder I looked the less I could see; so I settled for this.

Diagonals. Diagonals-2-resized I don’t know why the printed image is so much darker, but I am sure I can adjust it for making other prints.

Curves. Curves-4-resizedAgain I believe that I can adjust for a better print next time.

Distinct, even if irregular shapes. Points_making_a_shape-2-resized Yes, I got a bit carried away and should have kept it simple.

At least two kinds of implied traingles 1,2 and 3.  Implied_triangle-9-resized Implied_triangle-8-resized Implied_triangle-3-resized Again challenging to find interesting images whilst seeing implied triangles.

Rhythm. Rhythm-2-resized I just couldn’t see rhythm in anything I looked at and this was the best attempt that I could make. I think that the photo I used for Distinctive if irregular shapes may have worked for rhythm distinct even if irregular shapes-a-resized

Patterns.  Patterns-7-resized Interestingly Mike feels that this is closer to Rhythm, I guess as the song go’s I ain’t got rhythm!  Perhaps in time…






Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

When spending a long weekend in Liverpool for the Aintree, Grand National, I visited the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.
Amongst the many paintings, sculptures and photographs, I was particularly drawn to three paintings that used colour or light to great effect.

“Amity” by Bernard Fleetwood-Walker. 1933.
Girl in pastel blue dress with pastel green cardigan and red shoes holding a Dandelion, boy in white shirt, grey trousers and navy hat in hand. The two teenagers are on a hill, pick-nicking; there is a suggestion of sexual tension as the boy regards the flower and maybe also her chest, whilst the girl is looking away with one foot half way out of the shoe. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c4/Bernard_Fleetwood-Walker_Amity.jpg

I liked this picture for the subtle use of complementary colours, the cleaver pose of the two models and the contrasting red shoes providing a possible narrative to the image presented to the viewer.

“Orpheus and Eurydice” by George Frederick Watts.
In Greek Mythology, Orpheus is said to have invented music and was a favourite of the Gods. He met and fell in love with Eurydice the most beautiful women in the world, who tragically dies and descends to the house of Hyades the underworld for the dead. However, the Gods take pity on Orpheus and allows him to enter Hyades to bring his wife back from the dead, on the condition that he does not look upon her beautiful face until they return to the world of the living. This painting illustrates the moment just after Orpheus has succumbed to temptation and looked upon his wife’s face before reaching the surface and she has fallen back into his arms dead.

I liked the use of light and shade in this composition. Eurydice’s face is hidden in shadow; so illustrating Orpheus’ lose of both her soul and beauty. A hard light source is used to illuminate Orpheus and cast a hard shadow across Eurydice’s face to represent death. Very little use of colour, this image relies on light and shade only.

Whilst admiring some 20th centaury painters, I noted that James Hamilton was influenced by Whistler’s thoughts that colour was like music tones and can make harmony.

Colour reference websites

These are useful websites to refer to for useful guidance and advice for using colou as a tool for composition.


Tutorials – Color Perception









The golden section for a Single point

To quote from “The Photographers Eye” by Michael Freeman. Published by ILEX Press Ltd.
The golden section which was known to the Greeks is the best known “harmonious” division and is based on pure geometry.
Golden Section Proportions: Two parts are said to be in the golden ratio if the whole (the sum of the two parts) is to the larger part as the larger part is to the smaller part.

This image was submitted as one of the pictures for my second assignment.
However, my Tutor pointed out that this would have had greater punch if I had used the theory of the golden section in my composition.

When selecting my choice of images to work on and submit, I also had this composition which in hind sight would have been a better choice as it comes close to the theory of the golden section to make a more interesting picture.
Single point-a-resized

Below illustrates the golden ratio in order to find a suitable position following this rule. Note that the directional facing rose and the directional angles and lines from the surrounding foliage also helps to creates a dynamic element to the picture which is best exploited with the rose in this chosen position.

Golden Ratio-resized

If you are using Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop you can find the Golden Ratio option in the cropping tool.

Assignment 2 – Elements of design

Assignment 2
Chosen subjects: flowers & plants
Single point dominating the composition
Choosing a subject that had a fairly plain background, I then played around with positioning the subject in the frame until finding a composition that I liked. I then used Photoshop to colour pop for a more interesting effect.
I have positioned the rose in the bottom left hand corner to deliberately create a dynamic tension by drawing the eye away from the centre of the picture where the viewer’s eye would naturally want to rest and thus making the eye flick unconsciously back and forth across the picture. Below are some alternative compositions that I considered before making my choice.
Single point-a-resized

Single point-b-resized

Single point-c-resized

Two points
A classic example of a geometrically divided frame, the sharp image of the bee in the foreground, balances well with the bright yellow Dandy-lion of the secondary dominant point in the background. I took this image very quickly getting as close as I could without scarring off the bee and then I had to crop the picture in Lightroom to complete the desired effect. I used the theory of balance by framing and cropping moving the bee closer to the edge of the frame whilst the larger point followed closer towards the centre to the picture / fulcrum and thus producing a visually balanced picture.

Several points in a deliberate shape
This image of the pattern of tiny flowers forming the octagonal shape stands out sharply against the contrast of the blurred green background of the foliage and again I have balanced this with the yellow dandelion on the right hand side to create an attractive picture. Each flower could be considered a point making a small octagonal that in turn is making a larger point to make a larger octagonal. I used the dandelion in the background to add a little colour and balance to the picture.
This image conveys to me both design and order in nature.

A combination of vertical and horizontal lines
Reeds in a pond with ripples in the water extending out to the bottom of the frame, the bank, grass, dark background beyond and the iron railings all providing the elements for this almost graphic design. I noticed that the reflection in the water from the contrast between light and dark creates implied horizontal lines as well as having elements of obvious lines.

Using a macro lens to get in close I have framed this to create a sense of dynamic movement by drawing the eye from the bottom left through the picture to the brighter yellow in the top right. It could even be looked at from another point of view that stamens point down to the bottom left. However, whichever way the viewer chooses to read the image both ways direct the viewer through the picture.


I focused in as close as possible to this rose, framing and later cropping the image to emphasise the curves of the rose petals for my desired effect.
By placing the centre of the rose in the top right corner of the frame, I have divided the frame in a geometrical manner to create a sense of dynamic movement from the folds of the petals to radiate out towards the bottom left hand corner of the picture.


Distinct, even if irregular, shapes
An implied British Lion.


I when looking for this composition, I wanted to find something in nature rather than a deliberate still life. In my search I found a pattern of flowers that if I reframed I could create an implied shape.
distinct even if irregular shapes-a-resized

At least two kinds of implied triangles.
I have use three methods to create implied triangles the first by cropping and using contrast, I have created two implied triangles with a third obvious triangle.
In my second image, I have used perspective by photographing down the length of the tree lined avenue to create four implied triangles.
In my third and last, I have simply used camera angle to create two implied triangles between sky and ground.




To achieve the desired effect that I wanted, I focused in as close as I could on my subject and then cropped the resulting image to create the impression of rhythm. Using the idea that most people will naturally view the image from left to right I chose a subject with a repeating pattern that both draws the eye across the picture whilst also encouraging it to look up down as it moves from left to right. I this image the colours direct the eye up and down the photograph whilst the shapes direct the eye across the picture.
This creates to me a feeling of warmth, movement and direction.


In this composition I wanted the create a pattern so I selected a number of small colourful flowers and I deliberately framed them so that they just fit to the edges of the frame in order to create a sense of continuation for the pattern.


Exercise – A sequence of composition

In this exercise I visited a local market in Spain to practice spotting potential images and practising a practical process of composition in a real world situation where opportunities for images appear and vanish in a matter of seconds. My first attempt at this exercise was using my DSLR however, I found that the camera drew too much attention and I also felt vulnerable. I therefore decided to return on another day with a smaller less conspicuous and less valuable camera which was a small Canon digital point and shoot “snapper”.
Taken as I entered the market I wanted to capture an image of a variety of shoppers as they came from the street.

Two friends greet each other at the entrance. The Spanish markets are a very sociable affair and it is not uncommon to witness friends and family embracing each other in greeting.

As I walked through the market I took pictures as discreetly as possible in order not to be noticed and try to capture natural moments.
When passing this stand with the sunglasses, I thought a picture of the glasses laid out might make a nice image.

Two shoppers look on as a Spanish crippled busker plays his accordion.

Jewellery on sale makes a for nice patterned texture and the fruit make brightly coloured triangles.

The candid view of shoppers and market stool holders photographed as quickly and discreetly to avoid being noticed which required more luck than judgment for composition.

This last photo is my favourite and I had a few seconds to spot the subject and compose and shoot before the moment was lost.
Seeing this man texting, I noticed the bag with the heart behind him and the flowers in the foreground that all suggested an amorous text to a girlfriend. However, it was pure luck that his friend chose to look over his shoulder just as I was composing it! Pity I didn’t have my DSLR for a better shot.