BUILDING PHOTOGRAPHS:
the first of four newsletters
about composing stronger pictures
Exploring the elements of composition
How to Use
Visual Building Blocks

As we go into Autumn and Winter there is a chance to practice and grow our photography. Over the next four weeks I'll introduce and explain how to employ four of the essential elements of composition used to make strong pictures. Using these visual building blocks may feel a bit forced or unnatural at first. However, in time they become smoothly integrated into the way we see and make our pictures. They provide a foundation and act as helpful guides rather than absolute rules.

Linear Perspective aka leading diagonals

The image above was made at the Toronto Convention Centre - it's completely symmetrical, that is, all is centered in the frame and we are led straight down the middle of the scene into the vanishing point. This element of composition (linear perspective) allows us to convey the sense of a three dimensional scene on two dimensional mediums like paper or computer screens. It brings a depth and 'life- likeness' to photos. However, this centered approach can lead to images that are stable or stagnant depending on the viewer and the subject matter.

Look at the examples below for a asymmetrical examples of linear perspective that break away from the centering approach.

T his image, made during my Night Photography course, is shot from a low camera position. This creates a line that leads us into the scene from the immediate foreground to the background vanishing point.

The people walking on the sidewalk help contribute to the dynamic tension within the frame. I use a 28mm medium wide angle lens to make this kind of photo. It pulls more of the scene into the image which dramatizes the effect. Working at night in the rain creates truly atmospheric photographs.

NB - To avoid surprises always watch what's going on in the foreground when using wide angle lenses.
T o practice composing with linear perspective, start with architecture, interiors and other manmade structures. Then move onto landscape and more natural forms. This will allow you to get a feel for this element of composition. Small shifts in camera position can result in a different kind of image.The above photo is from the C.N.E.

What is camera position? it is where we place ourselves and the camera in relation to the subject of our image. Sometimes simply moving one or two steps in either direct can change the photo completely. Experiment with this.

EXERCISE : make some images of your street using linear perspective. Use a tripod if you have one and take your time.
More Thoughts on 
Building Strong Photographs

Most of us never study composition formally when we learn photography. Unless we have an arts background,most of us operate intuitively in regards to composition or are guided by the visual language that we've learned all our life from TV, books and visual content on the internet. How do we, then, become more deliberate in our picture making and, in the process, expand the way we see while discovering the world around us through the lens? One way is by 'deliberate practice'. Following are a few guidelines and approaches for this type of practice. Reading about it does not count as practice! Get out there and have fun with it

Tips For Learning Linear Perspective

  • use the examples in this newsletter to thoroughly absorb the basic 'look' of linear perspective.

  • google search linear perspective and vanishing point photography - choose the 'images' option to see lots of examples.

  • practice making this kind of photograph over and over again until you can do it without thinking.

  • use a wide angle lens to explore how to integrate this 'soft technique' into your photography

  • if you have a tripod use it to free up your hands and slow down the process so you can really 'see' what's in your frame.
Thank You
  Many thanks for taking a look at my newsletter. You're welcome to email me with suggestions for future content, feedback, or just to say hi and keep in touch.

all the best 
Michael
contact Michael 
office 416 778 6521
mobile 647 286 1705
m ichael@michaelobrienphoto.com 
www.michaelobrienphoto.com