Recap: Pictureline Seminar–Conquering Composition

I want to take a quick moment and thank everyone who came out to the sold out event last night at Pictureline Inc. As always, it was a fantastic experience with a wonderful audience that was engaged and full of energy. If you didn’t make it out last night, you can check out my presentation above, thought it obviously won’t include my commentary throughout the presentation. As always, many thanks to all of my sponsors that help to do what I do! Thank you Arcteryx, Suunto, Mountain Khakis, Singh Ray Filters, Manfrotto School of Xcellence and Mark Miller Subaru!

Composition and the Visual Journey

The Visual Journey by AdamBarkerPhotography

I talk often about creating a visual journey in each image for the viewer. This image of a group of friends out for a stroll underneath the Brooklyn Bridge serves as a good illustrative example. Have a read below as I break down exactly how I’ve constructed a visual journey through the inclusion and arrangement of particular compositional elements within the scene.

1. It’s natural to begin the visual journey at the bottom of our frame. This applies to both landscape and portrait orientation. Most often, I will place an element at or near the corner of the frame, taking the viewer from the very edge, into the meat of the frame. This is obviously accomplished with the fence, starting in the bottom RH corner of the frame.

2. The fence takes us directly to the anchor or main subject of the image, placed strategically in our LH thirds intersect. What makes this subject so much more appealing is the area of high contrast in which the people are found. Backlit mist creates a bright area, against which their shapes are starkly defined. Our eyes will ALWAYS travel to the areas of highest contrast in an image.

3. From the subject, the eye travels up to the Brooklyn Bridge. This was placed strategically in the upper LH part of the image–again helping the viewer to explore and digest every inch of our photographic frame. The bridge also serves as a perfect top counterbalance to the fence in the bottom part of the frame.

4. The bridge leads us directly to our secondary subject, or counter subject–the shapely pylons and archways over the bridge itself. Naturally, from there, the eye heads back to the bottom RH corner, and the visual journey starts once again.

Ideally, this visual journey will connect itself from beginning to end (as we see here), requiring little effort from the viewer to dive back in for a second, third and fourth time. Sometimes this is done through proximity of compositional elements (as seen here). Other times, it can be an out and back sort of thing. However you do it, give the viewer an obvious start and finish.

Exceptional images are like Thanksgiving Dinner–you just can’t help but go back for more. Make it easy on the viewer by creating a visual journey through the thoughtful and strategic placement of subjects and secondary or counter subjects in the frame.