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.)
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.
‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens.
Since I first wrote this blog and published it I have figured out how to add text in Photoshop; so I have now included this finished book cover to my work.
24-120mm f/4. 1/160 Sec, f/6.3, ISO-125, WB-Sunshine, Flash 1/4 amber gel.
Equipment used 2 x speedlights, Pocket Wizards, 1 x softbox, 1 x Chinese lantern, 1 x Gobo, 2 x reflectors. 1 x amber Gel.
Great Expectations plan Click on this link to open the pdf for my mind-map.
In this exercise I have chosen to take a still-life approach to creating a cover illustration for a book. The book I have decided to use as my inspiration is ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens.
Synopsise: First published in 1861 the novel’s story is of Pip an orphan being brought up by his uncle and aunt and on a course in life to become a blacksmith. However, when still a young child fate throws him in the way of an escaping convict whom he has to help and soon after this event he is called upon to regularly visit a strange, recluse, rich spinster (Miss Haversham who was jilted on her wedding day and still only wears her wedding dress) and her adopted daughter Estella with whom Pip falls in love. He later learns that a mysterious benefactor has named him as an heir to a great fortune but he must first give up his present life and go to London to be educated as a gentleman. Believing that the mysterious spinster is his secret benefactor and that her adopted daughter is intended for his wife he willingly gives up his life with his uncle and aunt and goes to London to become a gentleman but having become a gentleman he reaching his 21st birthday fate has yet another twist in it’s tale for Pip….
The elements for this photo are all relevant to the characters and events that I have just described and I used the mind mapping technique to help choose and find the elements for the picture.
I started with the title of the book and looking up the meanings for the two words in the Oxford Dictionary gave me ideas of possible imagery symbolisms. I then added the names of the main characters and looked at connections between the symbolism ideas to strengthen the final choices.
My first attempts included a sea chest represents the expected fortune, the iron file represents Pips humble origins and the convict, the lace handkerchief and lace glove representing Estella and Miss Haversham, I also included some bonboniers to represent love and the expectation of marriage. My first mistake was to take some pictures in landscape format and the realized that it would not be suitable for a book cover; so I had to re-shoot tilting the camera for portrait. After re-taking the images I then felt it lacked something In order to make the picture interesting; so I searched for and found an old rusty chain that could represent the convict. Happy with this I I made another attempt.
However, on reflection I realized that I had moved away from the brief of this exercise. The brief was to have no more that three elements that would strongly contrast against each other for a simple image still life to provide a very simple symbolist type of message. I slept on it and removed the sea chest, the lace handkerchief and glove. I then had the idea to create a shape of a heart using the chain, placing the iron file sticking out of the heart shaped pile to resemble a dagger and to contrast the chain and the file I added the bombonier. I now have only three elements, the chain representing the convict, the file representing Pip and his connection to the convict and the Bonbonier that represents both Miss Haversham and Estella for whom Pip dreams of marrying as part of his Great Expectations. The way that I have arranged these elements is intended to also suggests love, heart ache and betrayal which are all elements of the book. I positioned the gelled speedlight inside the soft-box to direct the light down the length of the file to create a good texture and used the reflectors to fill and soften shadows.
I am happy with my final result which allows enough space and a suitable background for text and is in portrait format for the book-cover. The amber gel has produced a nice antique colour-cast which I believe adds additional interest.
1 – Quality of light.
2 – Subject isolation.
3 – Composition (relative arrangement of the items in the frame).
4 – Idea / Story.
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.
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.
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.
In this exercise, I am looking at the theory of balance in composition and I have taken six images from my photo library that I think have some elements of balance which I have indicated on the photos and also added a drawing of scales to suggest which form of balance ratio they represent.
The above images all have a large subject close to the centre and a smaller object opposite nearer the edge; so similar to the balancing of two objects of different weights on a fulcrum, as illustrated.