Composition – The sum of the whole is greater than its parts

This week was all about composition, the things to avoid and things to include.  Avoid anything that intersects or merges with your subject, how often have we seen a photograph of someone with a pole or a tree growing out of the top of their head? Anything that distracts the eye weakens the image, like an untidy background or too many colours and textures in the image.  Lastly, be careful of cut-offs, especially when cropping people, if you have to crop then avoid cropping at the joints like wrists and ankles.

So what goes into making a strong photograph?  In Brookes own words, “a good composition enables the photograph to arrest attention, make a clear statement and is pleasing to the eye.”

The things that I found most challenging about the homework this week were:

  • Metering for the light, I made a LOT of mistakes,I mean a LOT!
  • Remaining calm when under time pressure and trying to change settings and focus points quickly
  • It is very stressful and unnerving to take candid street photographs, it took me about 20 minutes to calm down and start thinking properly about the shot before pressing the shutter.

As my Dear One would say, “Enough lollygagging we don’t need to know the ins and outs of a maggots rear end, get on with it!”.  Here is my composition homework for this week, I was in a such a quandary as to which photographs to choose that I decided to choose an intitial “three” for critique but then added four more just for fun and well…. because I liked them so much.

This first image is of a lady at the Goodlands produce market buying chou-chou vegetable.  If I were to crop this image I would have cropped the red cooldrink bottles on the left of the image, I feel that they are distracting.  I enjoy the way the poles frame the couple and the interaction between the buyer and the seller.

EXIF data: 1/320s, f/2.8, ISO 200

The next image is of a sugarcane loader going into a canefield and the road leading into the mountains.

EXIF data: 1/400s, f/5.6, ISO 200

My third image for this week is a rack of dresses for sale in the main street of the village of Goodlands.

EXIF data: 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 200

Here are my just for fun and because I loved them images:

A racehorse having fun in the sea.  Sarah, I changed this slightly from the original and used a teeny bit of fill light.

EXIF data: 1/200s, f/2.8, ISO 100

Another shot of the Goodlands market, I was trying to get the stall owner and the eggs but this man kept getting in the way so I took his picture anyway and ended up liking it and the way he is looking directly into the camera…

EXIF data: 1/200s, f/2.8, ISO 200

My friend is an assistant trainer and I was privileged to watch the racehorses swimming in the sea and practicing on the track near the beach. I love the energy in this panning image, I know I cut the horses tail off but I think it creates the feeling of the horse coming into the frame at great speed.

EXIF data: 1/30s, f/4.5, ISO 100

And lastly, sugar cane fields leading into the mountains…

EXIF data: 1/80s, f/16.0, ISO 400

I’ll leave you with this thought from Bryan Peterson about composition, “There is no better time to crop a bad composition than just before you press the shutter release.”  Next week we talk about light.

4 thoughts on “Composition – The sum of the whole is greater than its parts”

  1. These are GORGEOUS!!! I can’t get over the canefield photo. I have been so impressed by all of your shots in this class! You have so many beautiful scenes to shoot, but you also have such a great eye to really capture just how beautiful the scenes really are. I hope you keep posting after this class, because I am so looking forward to seeing all the photos you take.


    1. Thanks so much Shella, Mauritius is definitely colourful. We are moving back to South Africa early June this year so I’ll try to get some memorable shots before we go.



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