Elements of a Winning Photo – One

Hickory Leaves
Hickory Leaves

As the story goes, locate which features or elements make for a winning image and the rest is simple. Most photography doesn’t work because there is too much going on. In nature itself, there is actually an abundance, even it at times it seems like an  over abundance of confusing elements.  The successful photographer will find ways to tame this unruliness to his or her benefit.

In our first example, a 200mm lens was selected to help isolate the subject, the aperture is 5.6 and an EV of -1 was selected to better allow the lighter colors of the image to come forward. Moving closer to the subject also allows the background to fall away – That’s often where most of the distracting clutter occurs.

This works for at least two reasons…

  1. The viewer has a less cumbersome smaller selection to relate to.
  2. Many viewers have not seen certain elements of subjects up close – that detailed.
Red & Green are very keene.
Red & Green are very keen.

Here is another subject presented in a similar way… but selected for the color combination primarily – Red and Green combination. They are almost always eye catchers. In this case; however, three leaves seem to go together best. Odd numbered items – one item, three items, five items – usually work best in an arrangement. The problem with two items in a photographic arrangement is that the eye often will go for one element to another, in sort of a ping-pong fashion. Unless care is taken to place them in diagonal corners like this…

There is also another subtle effect of three items… Triangles! If one uses the edges of the frame and the edges of the leaves (diagonal), a rough triangle is formed. Triangles can be strong graphic elements.

This image was made with a 90mm short telephoto lens. Used wide open, f/5.3 in this example, and getting close, any distracting background falls away.

Door knocker Naxos Greece Photo by Carol Grytten
Door knocker Naxos Greece Photo by Carol Grytten

The last example, a door knocker made in Naxos, Greece by my wife Carol, uses some of the same design elements, including the more obvious triangle with a smaller triangle at the bottom which further strengthens the image  with repetition.

The Photographers Tool Box…

Place these Elements in your imaginary tool box, or write them down on individual cards and carry them with you until they become second nature.

  • Select only one element to represent a scene
  • Use a Telephoto Lens to isolate
  • Get closer to the image to drop background
  • Underexpose to drop background
  • Red & Green are Keen
  • Think Odd numbers use 1,3, or 5
  • Think Triangles
  • Think Repetition

Just by using these elements our work moves to another level. It’s a great way to begin designing images that will attract a larger audience. Add other design elements to your Tool Box, then reach in and pull out the ones that solve the problem of story telling.

We should never again be able to say, “I can’t find anything to photograph.”

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