Tag Archives: Pattern

Simple ‘Principles’ of photographic composition

Photographic composition happens on two levels.

First you should work to understand the scene at the basic level – the ‘elements’ that catch the eye and draw the viewer in. Then you should think about how to construct the overall composition. A photograph is all about the impact you create in your viewers mind. Composition is about constructing that impact.

The principles of art, design and photography

In Easy introduction to ‘visual elements’ in photographs we examined the elements of a photograph. The visual elements in a scene are the components that enable us to distinguish objects from one-another. They are the patterns we see from which we make sense of the world.

Organising the visual elements into a coherent photograph requires a higher level of composition. This is the layer of design. It is the layer that artists, including photographers, use to create an overall composition. One that lies above the native elements of the scene.

These principles pull together the elements in the scene. There are eleven of the “Principles”. However, some are so intimately mixed that people sometimes combine them. They are all in there however, they are presented. Here they are:

  • Balance: The state of creating visual equilibrium between elements in the picture.
  • Contrast: Conditions within the picture that emphasize differences, conflicts, opposition, between the elements.
  • Emphasis: The establishment of a focal point, or centre of dominance in a picture.
  • Variety: The visual interest that draws a number of different elements together.
  • Unity: The concept behind the picture, the comprehensiveness of the scene, the oneness of the message.
  • Harmony: Overall visual continuity achieving the unity in the theme; the wholeness of the elements; simplicity; uncluttered; conditions that emphasize similarity, peace and flow.
  • Proportion: Controls the size relationships of the different elements or components in the scene.
  • Rhythm: The use of visual elements to induce regular movement, a visual repetition or tempo.
  • Movement: Can be either a combination of elements to depict action/movement; or a dynamic design to draw the eye through the picture.
  • Pattern: The repeating of one type of element to create a picture (or form a major part of one).
  • Repetition: A combination of elements used many times to create a harmonious whole.

More after this…

Examples – a slide show!

It is difficult to take these principles out of context and understand them straight away. Here is a short slide show by Chandler Studio Art. The examples pull the concepts together. However, you should remember the ideas from the post on Easy introduction to ‘visual elements’. Because the ‘Principles’ pull them together. The author revises the elements in the beginning and asks you to remember them again at the end, before summarising the Principles.

Click the bottom arrows to move back or forward on the slides. Use the four arrow symbol (Right end) to expand the slide to full screen size.


Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
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A composition trick from classical art in under seven minutes

The ‘Rule of Thirds’ is beaten into second place.

The improvement in a picture set to the rule of thirds is amazing. Suddenly the picture becomes dynamic and the proportions appear pleasingly laid out. The Golden Ratio is the Rule of Thirds on steroids and is the subject of the video today.
More after this…

The Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio (GR) has been around for a long time. Modern artists and photographers use the GR as a simple principle for their composition. The particularly aesthetic proportions are universally recognised. Some of the worlds greatest artworks are composed using the principle. The Greeks also used GR proportions in their architecture. As we learn from the video there is also a natural history associated with the GR going back millions of years. Our very DNA  External link - opens new tab/page is set in the same proportions. The GR appears throughout nature too. To our eyes, it represents a wonderfully aesthetic proportion that appears in so many things around us that we barely see it. You will be astonished where it appears. And, it is a great help when doing your photographic composition.

“The golden mean” Uploaded by angigreek

Simple ways to create photographic abstracts

Photographic abstracts

• Photographic abstract •
See the world a different way by looking for non-representational images to make.

The key to photographic abstracts is observation

The material for photographic abstracts is in the world all around us. With a little practice it is easy to see them. Your view will unfold with a through looking at the component parts of things.

Abstracts can be almost anything. Most often they are the properties, attributes or component parts of something else. Where we see the whole of something – the abstract is found in the parts. Where we see a car, the abstract is found in the pattern of rust. Where we see a fence, the abstract is found in the texture of the wood. It may be found in the pattern of the fence too. The photographic abstracts shows the essence of something. It’s not always the whole of it. Or, it might be the whole of something, but a part of something else wider, larger, or more inclusive. In the reality of abstraction we are looking for something that is not necessarily the actual picture shown. Most often that means making an image that does not represent something. These non-representational images bring out form, shape, colour, hue, light, shadow – almost any attributes of the world of imagery. But, this is the point, the image tends not to be about what is represented, but what is the experience of the image itself.

photographic abstracts bring out things that are found in patterns, colours, shape form, lines, angles. These and other things contribute to the essence of a thing. The inner beauty of something is often not in seeing the whole, but appreciating its parts. And, it is also about knowing that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Photographic abstracts show that extra view.

Training your eye to see photographic abstracts in the world around you takes time. Once you start looking for non-representational imagery you will find them quickly and everywhere. Look out for the experience of what you see in the textures and forms, colours and hues – do not look to show a straight forward subject.

Insight into photographic abstracts

If all that sounds difficult then you need to give your eye some experience. Examine some of the abstracts available online. Here are some links to look at photographic abstracts…

Simple ways to produce abstracts

To get into making successful abstract images you need to make a simple start. The complexity of many images can easily confuse the eye. So to get started, open your eyes to the simple things you see.

Take a bicycle. Complex in its whole, but photograph just the shadow from the back wheel on a sunny evening. A whole new world of angles, light and tone is revealed. The subject may be clear – it may not. The point I am making is, the interest lies in the result of the wheel creating a shadow. The power of the image is not in the bicycle itself, but the impact of its relationship between the sun and the actual structure. Check out these examples for some insight Bicycle wheel shadow images on Google | External link - opens new tab/page.

The key word I just used is “relationship”. Often abstracts explore relationships. A non-representational image is about understanding the relationship of the parts to the whole. That, and expressing the feeling that it imparts to the viewer. The power of an abstract is to connect to the emotions of the viewer and provide something deeply appealing, but which examines the relationships of the parts. Producing an abstract is about finding ways to explore the relationships of the parts in ways that are not a plain, representation of the subject.

So, try looking for ways to show the subject of your interest without showing the subject itself. Try some of these ways of looking…

  • Looking for a part shot of the whole.
  • Show it as a shadow.
  • Light it in a unique way.
  • Explore only parts of the subject.
  • Show the shape or form, but do not show the whole.
  • Look at the graduation of colour, shadow or light.
  • Go really close – just for a part.
  • Show the image in part through something else.
  • Show something that looks like something else.
  • Explore the texture of your subject.
  • Spotlighting just a part of your subject.
  • What is the relationship between tone and colour?
  • Show one thing in relation to another – an unusual pairing

You can probably think of many more approaches to making an image. To get your creative juices flowing take a few days to review other peoples ideas about abstracts. Look through some of the example links I have given here.

As you can see some of the ideas in the list above are starting to get more complex. Explore with simplicity first. Then later explore more complex mixtures of ideas about your subject.

Trying to show the essence of something needs thinking about in new ways. Look at this list of the Elements of Art

  • Form
  • Line
  • Colour
  • Space
  • Texture
  • Light value (lightness/darkness)
  • Shape

Each of these attributes of your subject can reveal new insights. Try exploring only one or two of these at a time. This will reduce the complexity of your approach. Your image will reveal a great deal about your subject but from a new, simple perspective. Describe your subject using the simplest possible elements of what you can see in it. Then you will have picked out a true abstract.

Finding out more about photographic abstracts

Abstracts fascinate photographers. The idea of expressing something without actually showing it in its complete form is really satisfying. Abstracts allow you to express yourself and say something new about your subject that no-one else has ever said. Abstract photography is one of the few ways you can really get a deep insight into your subject yourself, at the same time give a deep insight to your viewer. It gives you a license to express yourself more than almost all other aspects of photography.

If you want to find out more about the subject there are few good books on the market. One of the real insights into this subject is The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography. It is a really interesting book, with historical insights and well positioned photographic insights too.

I recommend this book to help you get a feel for the subject of photographic abstracts. As a photographer you will enjoy the pictures as well as the understanding you will gain by reading it. For me it helped an understanding of the context of photographic abstracts in popular art culture. But it also released me from it. In modern terms abstracts are an open subject. Today photographers have largely escaped the cultural context and are free to use the techniques without the strong cultural constraints of the past. So read the book and get into the ideas. Use it to expand your horizons.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

10 ways to bring out the point of interest

"Drag bike" Selective colouring is a great way to bring out your point of interest in the shot

“Drag bike” – Selective colouring is a great way to bring out your point of interest.
Click image to view large

Focus the attention of your viewer using these great techniques.

The most important thing about your image is the part that you want your viewer to see. A great image needs to concentrate their attention and hold it in the shot.

Next time you are ready to take a photograph – pause for a second. Think about composing your picture so you direct the viewer at the most important part of your image. The ‘point of interest’, ‘focus of attention’ or a ‘focal point’ is where the viewer finds satisfaction from looking at the image. It makes sense that you use one or two techniques to point the viewers eye right at the reason you are taking the shot.

10 Techniques directing the eye to the point of interest
  • Crop: The cropped shape of the picture is an important way to help the viewers eye find the ‘point of interest’. Letterbox shaped crops help the viewers eye to run across the width of the picture; square crops help direct the reader to the centre of the shot; landscape views are so common that they help the reader be unaware of the crop; Portrait views alert the reader to the vertical things of interest. A crop is a great way to help the readers eye, especially when used with other techniques below.
  • Position: Where you place your point of interest in the shot can affect how prominent it is or how the eye is drawn to it. A good introduction to positioning is to look up the Rule of Thirds. That is a basic rule of composition that gives the eye a dynamic reason to look at the point of interest.
  • Size: A large subject or point of interest is a great way to make people look at it. Big and bold and your viewer will hardly miss it!
  • Focus: The use of depth of field is really effective. The human eye naturally sees what we directly look at in focus. So we tend to concentrate our viewing in the area of sharpness in a picture.
  • Movement blur: Capturing movement creates blur. In my picture above the bike is travelling very fast. To capture it like that I have panned my camera. The background is out of focus. The sharpness and blur create a contrast that draws the eye to the sharpness. Alternatively, you can photograph something moving that you want to become blurred as the focus of attention. Classic movement blur is often created at the fair in the evening. Fast movement with brightly coloured lights wonderfully blurs the merry-go-round in a longer exposure. The strangeness and strong colours draws the eye to the patterns.
  • Colour: Using colour is a great way to draw the eye. Strong primary colours (red, green, blue etc.) are especially good at catching the eye. One bright colour against other lesser colours also directs the eye. Contrasting colours can be a good way of highlighting a particular point of interest too. Colours are best used to make the point of interest stand out from the background.
  • Selective colour: The absence of colour in part of a picture and the selection of one colour or an object in colour is a great contrast in the picture. That difference – greyscale to colour – will strongly make the point of interest stand out. An example is the picture above.
  • Shape: The use of shape is a way to draw the eye too. Again you can use a contrast. One round object in a group of square objects really captures the attention. A strong geometric shape in a picture where there is no other strong, well defined shapes pulls the eye.
  • Pattern: Where there is pattern there is focus. Our eyes are good at picking out patterns. Sudden, clear formation of pattern in a picture where there is no otherwise clear pattern focusses the attention on the pattern. The opposite is true too. Where there is a breakdown in a pattern the eye is drawn to the difference and questions why the change or break in the pattern.
  • Lines: The eye naturally follows lines in a picture. So, you can use lines both as the actual point of interest, and as a way of pointing at the focus of attention. Implied lines can be useful in the same way. A line that strongly points to something else is another way to capture the attention.

It is important too, you are careful not to make the picture too complicated or cluttered. To much to catch the attention will have the eyes whizzing around the picture and not able to settle on your point of interest. Likewise, it is best to use just one or two of the above techniques. Too many and the eye is confused with what direction they should follow. Composing your picture is about subtle messages and directions to help the eye. The last thing you want to do is to confuse or misdirect your viewer.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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The Rule of Odds – Uneven Composition

The rule of 'odds' - a rule grounded in our concepts of pattern and chaos.

The rule of ‘odds’ is grounded in our concepts of pattern and chaos. We find it easy to pick out a pattern. If the pattern is broken or shows anomaly it is more interesting. The eye is drawn into the picture. Odd numbers are just a little off the comforting pattern of evens. They draw the eye too. Click image to view large.

It’s a little ‘odd’ – but ‘even’ is not as interesting!

The rule of odds relies on the human sense of pattern to capture the attention the viewer. Our brains work well with pattern. We see pattern in almost everything in the world. So it is natural to see it as a central part of composition. When there are small groups of objects or people the rule of odds becomes a valuable attraction for the eye.

Why does the rule of odds work so well? There are several reasons. The eye is pleased by symmetry. Evenness represents symmetry. It represents balance… it’s about plainness and organization. On the other hand an odd number steps out of the realm of organization and plainness. When we see an odd number it is natural and compelling for our eye to seek the missing component to even it up again. We look into the picture to try and satisfy the pattern.

Some pictures, like the one, above obviously have nothing in them to fulfill evenness. There is no fourth dice here. However, the number three creates another simple pattern. The Triangle is also attractive to us. Placed in a position that creates a triangle three objects form an implied shape that attracts the eye. It is symmetrical, yet it is odd.

The rule of odds is not just about ‘threes’. The eye is drawn to odd numbers in small groups where we can see the oddness of objects at a glance. Five, seven, even nine are all numbers that pull the eye toward them. Once objects become too numerous to be immediately and obviously odd in number the appeal is lost. The eye does not search to fulfill the pattern. So the rule of odds works because of the simplicity of low numbers – it relies on quick recognition of the situation to draw the eye into the picture and keep it working to find the balance.

The rule of odds plays out its role in composition in many ways. If you are looking to make a bigger impact then find a way to place an odd number of objects into your picture. An odd number provides more interest, more reason for the eye to search the picture. Remember, the ultimate aim is to draw the eye of the viewer into the shot and keep them looking and finding interest.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

How can hidden lines help your pictures?

Geometetry in your pictures works to help you see patterns. It draws the eye into the picture.

Geometetry in your pictures helps you see patterns. It draws the eye into the shot.

Look for patterns and geometry in your shots… capture the eye

The human brain is an extraordinary filter. We see things in the world around us that capture our attention all the time. Often it is a pattern that fires our imagination. We may not even be aware of it. We are programmed to see patterns in the world, and we are very good at finding them.

When composing, look for lines to associate.

When composing, look for lines to associate. If you can get lines to hold a pattern with strong geometry your composition will have a more compelling impact.

The geometry in a picture is not always obvious. First of all look to join up points of interest. Lines can be made by the eyebrows, the eyes themselves, the mouth, the nose, the connection with other aspects of the picture… in fact a lot of things. So what you are looking for to create strong lines is anything that has a prominent part of the picture. In the portrait here, we are looking at lines with the eyes/eyebrows. The eyes are always strong. The mouth is a strong feature too. So if you can line up these things with other prominent features of the picture you are revealing the strong points. That’s right, its simple. Lines are strong in a picture because they catch the eye. I have identified the eyes and mouth, the sides of the head and the lines from the hand to the mid-point of the eyes as strong aspects of the picture. There is no mystery here. You need to look for prominent points and edges. The way they create implied lines, join up or connect is what creates a pattern.

The use of geometry is a very old technique in composition of paintings. It can also enhance our photographs.

In the second picture (above) I show how the portrait has been dissected by lines that pull out the geometry. Of course in a photograph we don’t have the luxury of perfect alignment. Painters can map out thier work ahead of the actual painting. Photographers have to look at the subject-scene and do their best to analyze how it holds together, or work the scene to achieve a well proportioned pattern.

In the case of the portrait I have shown three sets of lines. First it is unusual to get a dynamic relationship out of a centre line. However, in this picture the mid-line of the face, the knuckles and tie all line up. So to emphasize it I have featured this in a central position.

Of course a more dynamic relationship comes out in pictures with strong diagonals. Faces on the diagonal are quite powerful. Our eye is trained to know faces very well after years of social interaction. So when they are not in an upright position our eye has to work harder to resolve them. This is good. The eye lingers and goes around the face. It takes into account the different aspects of the face and the way it is inclined within the frame.

Not only have we got a face on the diagonal but we have a close relationship to the rule of thirds. In this portrait it is not a perfect correspondence. However, the proportions are reasonable and there is a pattern.

There is nothing perfect about applying geometry to photographs. The photographer usually has to guesstimate the lines, thier association and the way they may work to give impact to the picture. However, it is up to you to find ways to do that.

Geometry in mathematics is all about perfection and calculation. In photography it is about finding ways to pull out pattern and emphasize the strengths in the picture. Our eyes look for patterns and when we find well proportioned geometric relationships we are pleased and intrigued. It is another way to bring more impact to our pictures.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Patterns… break the pattern

Pens... When you have an established pattern, break it.

Pens... When you have an established pattern, break it. The whole point is not to bore your viewer, but to draw them in. Make them think about it, let them see it for what it is, and what it is not.

Break the pattern – capture the eye

Pattern is a funny thing. The human eye is great at picking out patterns. We see them in everything. It is probably one of the elements that makes us human. However, when we see a pattern our eye is quickly satisfied. We lose interest. So, do you want your viewer to lose interest in your pattern?

Photographers love to work pattern shots because they know patterns are eye catching. I look at a lot of images every day; sometimes hundreds. When I see a good pattern shot it draws me into the shot. The geometry, the symmetry, the perspective, the lines… well, all these things, and more are appealing. If the pattern is uniform I almost immediately lose interest. To keep the attention of the viewer you have to give them some reason to keep looking into your pattern. So give them a puzzle. Often, and for good reason, it is best to break the pattern. If the eye sees a pattern the work is done. If there is an incomplete pattern, or an anomaly then the pattern is broken. Why? What happened? What’s wrong? How did that occur? Suddenly the viewers mind is in turmoil. The questions follow and they look around the pattern for confirmation, answers, insights… whatever. The point is they are drawn into the picture. You have made them engage with it and internalize it.

Photographers forget they are working for the viewer. There is no other reason to take a photograph, even if it is a pure record shot. Hopefully, at least one day, someone is going to view it. If you never look at the shot again, and no-one else does either, you have not succeeded in communication in our image language – photography.

Communication is about engaging an audience. Pattern shots are a category of image where you can force your viewer to question what is going on in the shot. At once you can catch the eye, show a subject, appeal to the viewer, engage them and intrigue them. On the other hand you have lost their attention if they glance and move on.

So, when looking at a pattern look deeper than the pattern itself. Look at the variations, the subtle differences. Check the light, examine the graduations. Count the tones, identify the differences. Know that pattern inside out. Look for where it is the same. Look for the obvious ways it can be different. When you know your pattern inside-out, arrange the shot. Optimize the pattern, maximize where it breaks. One single instance of a difference is enough to stop the eye. And that is the aim – stop the eye; create a question. THEN, you will be showing the true meaning of that pattern to the eye of the viewer.