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CCYL 18: Improve your eye for composition

Since most of us are stuck inside our homes, I decided to rerun a series I did several years ago, called Cee’s Compose Yourself Lesson (CCYL).  This is not a challenge, but I suggest you play with new ideas or ways of looking at taking photos.  Hopefully this will fill your day with a little excitement and joy.  Please feel free to play along and join in the fun.

Improve your eye for composition

We’ve been talking about a lot of different aspects of photographic composition.  Today’s session will cover an advanced technique designed to help you improve your eye for composition.

We’ve talked about how objects are arranged in the frame.  Let’s take things a step further and see how the geometry of your layouts affect your end photograph.  How do the larger elements group themselves in a good photograph?  This is easiest to understand by looking at examples.

Our minds are geared to recognize shapes, wired that way at the deepest level.  When we can recognize shapes and see them balanced on the page, we feel good about the image, even if this happens at such a deep subconscious level that we aren’t aware of the analysis going on internally.

These pictures contain lots of familiar geometric shapes:  circles, triangles, rectangles and squares, along with prominent straight lines.  Easy to see and recognize, right?

Mother Nature is the expert at using geometry, as this shot of the underside of a water lily pad shows us.

And this picture of a church has obvious geometry.

But what about this picture? Do you see how the man makes a wonderful triangle?

Let’s try another one.  This cargo ship is piled full of lots and lots of rectangles, but can you find the triangles in the shot?

If not, I’ve highlighted a few of them for you.

I love this shot of a horsewoman and a wrangler having a private moment together.  Your mind reads the emotion of the scene, but what else is your brain recording?

Do you see how the two triangles of the hats and the rectangles of the faces mirror and balance each other?

Here’s an easy one, my cat Freddie and a daffodil.

Did you see all the triangles and circles?

This is a foggy day on the Old Columbia Highway.

Notice the wall and how the peaked rails mimic the pyramid tops of the posts?  Look at the straight lines of the wall on the left, the road markings and the wall on the right.  See how all of those lines converge in the one bright spot at the top of the page where there aren’t any trees?  Your brain is seeing all of that, even if your mind isn’t telling you about it.

Let’s add a little more complexity.  Here’s a shot of two grannies texting.

I’ve marked in green the rectangles of the phones, and in blue where the rectangle formed by the woman’s glasses and the lines of her face mimic the hands in the lower left.  Finally, notice in red the two white boxes broken up by the vertical black rectangle of the street lamp.

Are you getting this?  Having fun with it?  Here’s another example.

The red boxes show where we have a dark rectangle beside a light one.  The blue boxes show a dark rectangle on top with a lighter one on the bottom, while the green boxes reverse that, with light on top and dark on the bottom.

Just two more examples and then I’ll turn you lose to look at some of your own favorite pictures.

The first set of pictures shows three green rectangles spacing out each other quite harmoniously, all tied together by the white fiber being spun onto the bobbin, represented by the red arrow that ends in the blurry, spinning bobbin.

Finally, let’s take a look at a worker bringing in bunches of dahlias from the field.

The first thing you probably saw is that big circle of colorful dahlias, but look at the echoing circle of the man’s arm coming up to his head.  Look at the straight, parallel lines of the stems.  This picture has plenty of rectangles, too.  We see the three rows of flowers in the fields, and also the dark and light boxes at the top of the picture.

I’ve gathered a list of challenges and their hosts.  So if you know a challenge host, please direct them to my blog.  Feel free to contact me anytime.  I hope everyone will be able to use my lists.

Qi (energy) hugs


25 replies »

  1. Did I hear you say that composition will come naturally after a while and that sometimes it OK to break the rules? I think I heard that. 🤍


  2. Timely lesson, Cee. In a photo I took recently, from different angles, etc., I spent some time trying to work out which was best and was using the rule of thirds to decide. Are they exclusive when choosing one of many?


  3. This is a new concept for me. I shall have to look at some of my photos and see if I can apply what you have given us here. Thanks Cee!


    • Have fun. It’s just fun to think like this. It will add dimension to your photos. 😀 Start with your favorite photos and figure out why you like them 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, Cee. I got the easy ones at the beginning, almost all of them. I had to struggle more when they turned human, but I like what you’ve done. My favorite was the old Columbia Highway, but I did not see the converging point until you drew it in. Seriously. I can see that is the difference between having good pictures and excellent ones.


      • I can see that, and I never realized how handicapped my vision for pictures is. I try to frame pictures and use the rule of thirds, but the shapes are totally new to me. So do you see those shapes before you shoot the picture. I didn’t see most of them until you drew them. But I can see why some pictures resound with viewers and some just drop dead.


        • I’m lucky I’ve always had a photographic eye. Have I improved over the years, yes. That just years of experience and years of looking at other people photos and deciding why I like or don’t like a photo. I’m always studying photos and trying to improve. This course I had on my blog, starts at the very basic and each layer adds some complexity. This particular class was one of the hardest to put together. If you look for shapes often enough it becomes second nature. THen combine those shapes with the rule of thirds, you will always have a wonderful composition.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I love it. My dad taught photography at a community college in San Diego after he retired. I picked up some of his techniques by osmosis and by experimenting over the years. But for me, it is a fun hobby. Some of my pictures are really good, in my opinion, but none good enough to sell. I’ve tried. I’m not worries about that any more. I love what you are doing with blogging, and I am so glad to get to know you better and learn from you.


            • I don’t sell them either. I did pretty good on Redbubble back in the days where it was for photography and not everything in the world. But I’ve not tried to sell any photography in years now.

              Liked by 1 person

              • I would not be good at earning a living blogging. I’ve tried affiliate blogging and a few other items. Nothing has been successful. I’m happier taking the pressure off of myself and having fun blogging. Fortunately, I have retirement income and I saved on top of that.


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