A photograph captures a
moment in time which
can never be repeated.
The way you capture the
moment is the way it
will be seen, enjoyed,
How will your photograph
truly capture what is
Remember the old phrase,
“A picture is worth a
What do you want to say?
Think about the
There is an infinite number of artistic
choices you can make. Never stop
with just ONE idea!
• What is the universal message of the
• What does it imply or say?
• What makes the photograph worth taking?
• Theme creates the BIG IDEA behind a mere
Pat Sabatine’s Eighth
• What is the subject?
• Where is the subject?
• Where should the viewer look?
• What is most important
• How do you emphasize one part of a
photograph and downplay another?
Red Jackson in the Harlem Gang
Joel Sternfeld, McLean, Virginia
• Simplify the composition
• Nothing weakens the theme
• Nothing in the view-finder competes with or
distracts from the subject, but adds to the
• What is really important?
• How much is needed to support your theme?
• Are you capturing too much? Does it take away from your emphasis?
• Are you capturing too little? What else in the viewfinder supports your theme?
• Suggestion: Start in close and step back to include as much as needed
• Which way will BEST include what is essential to the photograph?
• Which way will support your emphasis?
• Which way will take away from what is important?
• Try BOTH!
• Creating visual boundaries
• What information is needed to get the point across?
• Generally, try
NOT to crop at
• Instead, crop
Point of View
• How does your point of
view emphasize the theme
or subject matter?
• The photographer can
allow the viewer to see
from someone or
something else’s point of
view (like a bird, a bug,
water rushing down a
drain pipe, etc.)
Bernice Abbott, El at Columbus Avenue and Broadway
The focal point may stand out from the
background because of a distinctive contrast.
Selective Focus (Depth of
• In order to include the background, while isolating the
subject matter as the main focal point, use a short depth of
field (small aperture number = large hole)
• Sharpen the subject matter and blur the rest
Michael Wells, Hands
The Rule of Thirds
• A simplified version of the Golden Mean
• Linear objects on lines
• Focal points at intersections
• Not an actual line, but rather, an implied one
• Uses objects in composition to form lines
• A successful leading line will lead the viewer right to the center of focus
• An unsuccessful leading line will lead the viewer in, but will lead
him/her right back out again
Angles and Diagonals
• Create a more dynamic photograph
• Use extreme angles and diagonals, rather than
straight, static lines.
You may find, sometimes, that the subject matter looks boring
when isolated in viewfinder.
Consider including things around the subject matter which
would form an interesting frame.
• Formal Balance
• Static type of balance, where both sides are perfectly equal
• Generally, try to avoid, for it is uninteresting to viewer
• Informal Balance
• Dynamic type of balance, where objects on each side are not equal
• A large object on one side could balance a small one, dark object could
balance a light one, etc.
• We often neglect to get close enough to see texture
• Texture can add great richness to a photograph
• Elements of a photograph that invade your subject matter
• Seem as if they were attached
• The famous pole sticking out of someone’s head