How to capture attention with one compositional element

When something is unexpected is pulls the viewer into the shot.

When something is unexpected is pulls the viewer into the shot.

Most of the world around us is normal and as we expect.

When something is different or unexpected it changes our view of what we see around it. Suddenly our view is drawn to this new thing in our view.

The unexpected as a compositional element

When we take a picture we try to put into it something that is notable of attention. From a record shot to an extraordinary scene, the picture is there because it provides some sort of interest. Most things we photograph are found in a normal situation. When we find something that is unexpected it is the normal that surrounds it that makes it stand out. The unexpected is a contrast to the expected. It is that difference that makes the interest for the shot.

Go looking for the unexpected

As the unexpected is a strong compositional element seeking it out is a great way to find something to photograph. On the other hand if you want to find unexpected things you have to look in places where the unexpected might happen. One way to do that is to find sources in the media. Television, news, radio, events, local activities, community activities and one-off happenings are great places to find things where something different or unexpected is going on. Art events are great fun too. If they are held in public places there are usually some fun but unexpected things going on. Keep your eyes open for event and activity information and look for adventure in these places – the unexpected will find you!

Create the unexpected

Some of the worlds greatest photographers have become great as masters of creating unexpected things in their photography. Interesting scenes in unexpected places is one favourite. Check out Benjamin Von Wong – Photographer who has made a career out of unexpected happenings in his photographs. Be sure to check the portfolio pages on his site. There are some great and inspiring ideas for creating the unexpected there.

Objects in situations where they are not normally found creates the unexpected. To create something unexpected, take an ordinary everyday item. Put it into a place where it is not normally seen. Then take some great shots of it. A table place-setting in the middle of a road – how normal is that! A clock in a car engine – odd. Game of chess floating in a river… Try to think of the oddest combinations of ‘item’ and ‘place’. Then put them together. You will create the unexpected by an odd match.

Don’t absorb it – do it

Passively absorbing the world around you and then taking a photograph of it will yield a low hit-rate of successful photographs. Look for the extraordinary, the out of place, the contrast. Create the odd, the out of place, the different. Your compositions will be improved, so will your impact.

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