Introduction to Composition and the Assignment - Lines
(The assignment is at the bottom of the page)

Basics: Composition

A good rule: Don’t center all of your photographs! Explore these guides for composition.

Rule of Thirds: The frame is divided into 9 equal segments, three rows and three columns of equal size, resulting in 1:1:1 vertically and 1:1:1 horizontally.
The rule says you should position the most important elements of the image along these lines or at the points where the lines intersect.


Golden Compositions:  "Golden Ratio"  of 1:1.618.
Golden Ratio: 1:1.618:1 vertically and 1:1.618:1 horizontally.
AKA: Golden Mean, Phi, or Divine Proportion.

In the 12th century A.D. a mathematician named Leonardo Fibonacci devised a series of numbers that will produce an aesthetically pleasing composition. This composition is known as the Fibonacci Spiral. (This one has been around for a while.)

Based off of the Golden Ratio there is also the Phi Grid, similar to the Rule of Thirds but the middle lines are closer together. This uses the math of the Golden Ratio to devise the grid.

Golden Spiral or Fibonacci Spiral:  The spiral can be flipped horizontally and vertically. It is found throughout nature and is pleasing to the human eye.

The Golden Triangle again uses the golden mean and works great with diagonals in the composition.


- There are many ways to guide your compositions. Look this one up. You might find it valuable:   Root-Phi Armature.
- Draw it out on a blank page and write a short explanation. Add this to your notebook.
- What do you see to be the value in these composition tools?
- Make an image using each of these compositional guides and include the image in your notebook.


- Balance: Place your main subject off center. Balance the weight of your subject with another object of less importance or size in the empty space. Think of it as Visual Weight.
- Symmetry: Arrange elements on either side of the center of the frame. It could be a mirrored image, or it could be balanced color. What else can you think of?
- Leading Lines: Your eye is drawn to lines. We have more on that on another page.
- Frame within a frame: Use a doorway, window or even a frame to reframe your subject inside of the camera frame. Look to nature to create a frame within a frame. These will appear everywhere once you start looking.
        - Use the diagonals in the scene.
        - Look for triangles in the scene.
- Color: Yes, we photograph in color but color can be an important element adding to the content of your image. Look around. Where does color add an additional layer of meaning to a scene?
- Fill the frame: Get close! As Robert Capa has said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Get physically closer. Engage your subject.
        - Leave some breathing room for implied movement.
        - Have an odd number of elements in the frame.
        - Simplify the elements in the frame.
- Simplify the background: You can achieve this with depth of field. Could the empty space be the content? Use negative space.
- Isolate the subject: You could use depth of field to achieve this. How else might you isolate your subject?
- Play with perspective: Viewpoint - bird’s eye view. What about a low level view?

Whenever I can, I look for places up high to photograph from.  There are many locations. Start looking.

- Layer the foreground, middleground and background.
- Use light and contrast to move the viewer’s eye. Look for shadows and reflections.
- Juxtaposition in the frame: Use two or more elements in a scene that can either contrast with each other or complement each other.
- Center the dominant eye of the subject when making a portrait.
- Look for the unexpected.
- Birds always sell! Just kidding, well???
- Experiment, break the rules, it might work.

What else can you come up with?

Shapes, Form and Space:

Shape is  2-dimensional, an outline.
Form is 3-dimensional, adding volume and shape.

Circles, squares, triangles, ovals, rectangles, diamonds, polygons, curved, irregular, geometric, organic.

When out photographing look to use shapes and form to define your images. Explore the photographs you have already taken and look for these elements. Can you identify them? Now when photographing, look for these elements within your frame. Use them to help define your content, what you want to say with your image.

Blank areas in the frame can be shapes. The shapes can be negative or positive space. Space contained by a shape is positive. Space outside of the shape is negative. You can use this space to direct the viewer. Active space is in front of your subject. Dead space is behind the subject. Both can be used effectively. Explore this!

A shape contains your image, horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait). This is a choice you decide when making your image. With a horizontal frame your eye moves side to side, with a vertical up and down.

Must you photograph a landscape horizontally?
A tall building vertically?

1) You can highlight a shape by backlighting it, creating a silhouette.
        -What is a silhouette?
2) As the day moves on, shapes can change with the moving light. Check back in with a location where you made an image earlier in the day. Has it changed? How?

“Trust that little voice in your head that says ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if…
And then do it.”
– Duane Michaels


Pattern and Texture:

Texture is the surface detail of an image. Texture depends on light and shadow. Explore texture at different times of the day. The direction of light hitting the texture defines it as soft or harsh (side lighting will bring out the texture). Your camera angle when photographing texture can also enhance or diminish the surface detail. Go explore. Texture is everywhere.
Texture is an element in a photograph but not normally the subject. Texture can add meaning to the greater image. Study your images looking for texture. Does the texture add to the content of the images? How so?

Pattern is a repeating object, color, or shape. Pattern can be manmade or natural. What patterns can you think of? Write down or sketch ten patterns. Use the space below.

Breaking the pattern can make an interesting image. Start experimenting with composition, angle, filling the frame, distance, and exposure. Pattern, like texture, should be an element in the image, probably not the content. Get snapping!

Texture and pattern details are great for composite images. I shoot texture and pattern, placing the images into a folder so when I need a surface it is in the archive.

“Allow yourself to be surprised by your mistakes.”
-Fer Juaristi


Assignment: Lines

One quote I think about when shooting:

"If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff". - Jim Richardson


Assignment: Lines
Line, Shape, Form, Pattern and some Texture.
Lines, shapes, texture are basic concepts in photography. Start by looking for lines. They are everywhere: Power lines, structural lines, railroad tracks, tunnels, buildings and many more. Take a moment and write down ten ideas where you will find lines to photograph.      

Horizontal, vertical, diagonal, irregular, jagged, converging, curved, implied lines.
Lines lead the eye! Lines can lead us to the subject. Lines can direct the story. Lines can connect elements in the image. What else can a line do?

Leading lines are lines that appear in a photograph that have been framed and positioned by the photographer to draw the viewer's eye towards a specific point of interest. These lines often draw the viewer's eye in a specific direction or towards a designated portion of the photograph

A leading line takes you to a point of interest in the frame. A path tends to lead you to a vanishing point.

Implied lines are visual guideposts that photographers use to compose their photographic work. These lines are not actual lines projected onto a photograph. However, if one looks at the spatial composition of a photo, one might observe a vertical, horizontal, diagonal, circular, or S-curved contour line that serves to arrange the subject matter.

Technical things to explore when out making images:
1) Explore depth of field. Set focus 1/3rd of the way into the scene. Take the same image at f/22, f/8 and f/2.8.
If you have a zoom your largest aperture may be f/4 - that will work. Make good exposures for each aperture. In the comments tell me what you see happening in the image?
2) Make an image at eye level. Then make an image from below eye level, maybe a foot off the ground. If you have a stepladder, what happens up high? How does this change the image?
3) If you have a zoom lens shoot an image that is as wide as the lens will go and then as telephoto as the lens will go. What happens? Talk about how you reframed the scene and what you learned from this exercise.

Photography is about being curious and trying things. If you wonder, try it. Exploration is good!

Images should say something more than just being a technical exercise. So when looking to make these images, find lines, shapes and textures that tell a story, have content, express an emotion.

“I have no talent. I am only passionately curious.”
-Albert Einstein

Watch THIS:

Kirsten Clarke - Impact of Lines in Photography

Kirsten Clarke - Horizontal Lines - 12:46

Kirsten Clarke Vertical Lines - 16:36

Kirsten Clarke Diagonal Lines - 16:14

Kirsten Clarke Converging Lines - 8:51

Kirsten Clarke Curved Lines - 9:58

Kirsten Clarke Architectural Lines - 12:23

Kirsten Clarke Mixture of Line Types - 5:20

Kirsten Clarke Manufactured Lines - 3:07

Kirsten Clarke Dachau - 2:16

Kirsten Clarke Human vs Nature - 2:13

Kirsten Clarke Facades - 0:49

Another on Line - General

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
— Elliott Erwitt

•You should shoot a minimum of 100 images to select your 10.
    -The focus of this project is LINE. As you look for line, take note of shape, form, pattern and texture in the frame.
•All images must be shot and conceived for this project. No old images will be accepted.
•You will choose 10 images to edit in Adobe LRMobile.
    -All images must be edited.
    -All images must be properly exposed and in focus.
    -All images must have a strong composition, cropped or straightened if needed.
    -Cloning or healing if needed.
    -Use a profile, color or black and white. Use a preset if desired.
•Create an album for those 10 edited images and submit the URL through Canvas.
    -Your files must contain Metadata.
•In the comments:
    -Tell me how many images you made for this project.
    -Tell me any thought about the work including any questions you might have.
    -Tell me how you used line in the image.
    -Add where you see shape, form, pattern and texture in the frame. Be specific as to which image you are talking about.
    -Tell me the specific edits made for each image.

-The album must stay live for one week past the semester’s end. Any deleted album will delete your grade for the project.

Technical Skills:
Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO, Focus, Composition.

To study LINE, shape, form, pattern and texture.
To explore the visual impact you can create using line in making the image through an exploration of place, lighting, depth of field.



Images by Kirsten Clarke.




Books Kirsten Recommends:

Photography and the Art of Seeing: A Visual Perception Workshop for Film and Digital Photography 
Paperback – October 10, 2004 by Freeman Patterson  (Author)

Photographing the World Around You: A Visual Design Workshop
Paperback – September 1, 1994 by Freeman Patterson  (Author)

Kirsten mentioned and uses the Hipstamatic App - Here is a link