FREE On-Line Digital Photography Course

"Do You Dream In Colour?" (Disconcerting Composition)

This might not seem, on the face of it, a disconcerting composition. And yet it disturbs me profoundly.

Learning my craft in the tricky tailwinds of the rule of thirds and other such arcane devices, I have an almost pathological fear of the geometrically suspect. And yet.

And yet, I'm an artist, which means that although I'm concerned by the fact that her face (because she is a person, you know) is almost dead centre in the picture, something tells me that this is how it must be. How she must be. And that's enough.

Key points
In fact, the only reason I had problems with the composition was because I couldn't reframe the original without chopping out something I didn't want to lose.
I wanted the column behind her. I wanted a reasonable amount of balancing column for her to gaze into, wistfulness oblige.
Theoretically, I wanted her more to the left, or more to the right. That goes without saying...
And I didn't want to chop the top of her head off! The more I looked at it, the more I was feeling a panoramic (in other words: long, landscape) composition. Which would also solve my composition problems. Almost. Unfortunately, whatever I did, she still ended up with her face slap bang in the middle of the pic.
There was also another extremely strong compositional element though: the flower (a real one, found in her hair, not placed there by me, although I could be capable of such an act..). This does respect the good old rules which demand something lying along one of the thirds of the pic, and yes, it's true that, visually, it's normally more pleasing that way!
You can break the rules much more effectively once you actually know them...
I did play around with this pic after I took it, but I didn't mess too much with the colours, and certainly didn't pick out any area and colour it specifically, or black and white it out. If you look carefully at the columns you can still see the hints of beige or cream which tell you that it really is a colour pic.
A graveyard is an ideal environment for playing around with natural contrasts between colour and black and white. The cemetery is rich in opportunities for weird and wonderful photos.
It's up to you to see them, as you stroll past nonchalantly, your super-sexy mega-zoom lensaroony slung casually over your shoulder... if you don't point it at something amazing, you ain't gonna get the shot.
Depth of field
Look at all those variegated lines of grey in the pic, all gorgeously out of focus. Without them, the picture of the girl's head wouldn't be half as eye-catching or moving.
For something to hit you, there has to be something else that doesn't! The girl is sharp because what is around her is fuzzy. The flower is particularly sharp. Did you notice? Maybe it was intentional.
Luckily, we photographers have a choice. We can decide what we want to focus on!


It's a statue. She doesn't move. And even less than most, coz she's in a graveyard...
And yet she emanates such compassion and longing that it's difficult not to be moved by her.

Photo Ideas
  • Take some pictures thinking only about where you put the subject in the picture. Some will be dead centre. Others will be hanging onto the edges of the frame. Up to you.
  • Mess around with colour. Try to find a very colourful object which you can contrast with an almost monocolour background. Play with it.
  • Position your camera any way you want; juggle your lens any how that jogs your fancy, but don't leave her longing... (in the end, she doesn't care... so search the angle that says the most profound thing about a statue possible)
  • Make sure that what you want to be in focus is (focus challenges!) and what detracts from the photo is definitely OUT OF FOCUS.
Then comment on this lesson with a link to your best result - we all want to see them!

  • composition - a photo, a composition, a moment, can be expressed as well in a horizontal or vertical composition, even if the subject seems to tell you it has to be only one way. By doing what doesn't seem the most obvious, your photo may be stronger
  • colour - a graveyard is the ideal place to contrast colour with lack of colour... without faking it
  • depth of field - make sure what you want to be in focus IS in focus... and what you don't want in focus... isn't!
  • emotion - it's where you find it and what you make it. a photograph is a dead piece of paper or a bunch of coloured pixels on a screen. It doesn't matter if the subject is alive or dead... the person looking at it isn't

~ Comment on this lesson in the Photo Blog ~

This lesson belongs to the following sections...

~ under development ~





Photo Course ~ Contents