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Phlogger aka Andrew Walmsley

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What to put in a picture – lessons learned

Hi all,


I wanted to provide some feedback and advice after my year in photography.  There are so many areas for people like yourself to learn about, techniques and ideas, but here’s the secret –


It has taken me many months to learn this art of what to put in your picture, at first you want to fill your screen, see all the colours, show all the detail.  Let’s face it, this is only normal, you are exploring something new.

The Technique

This is no secret formulae, it is not about this piece of tin (something we say in the I.T. industry when we relate to something a computer).

nikon f1.4 lens

The answer is art, you may call it a rule or whatever you like, i have no idea as I never attended art school or have ever been creative in my life.  This thing I am talking about is COMPOSITION and the oxford dictionary states this as:

“The artistic arrangement of the parts of a picture”


To mean composition is the decision what you put in the picture, the bit where you decide when taking the picture how much “stuff” you want in and don’t want in.  It can relate to colours, lighting, objects, people, technical elements of the equipment you are using, the time of day, your mood.  This is what i love about composition, it can mean nothing and everything in photography and is far more important than any camera, the thing attached (called a lens), it is implicitly linked to your creative genius.


When it goes right

So like i say there is no formulae, but the masters say it is about a vision, thinking of what the image should show, what it means and how people interpret it.

lady on street with babyConsider this photo as an example of success, I have chosen how much to fit in the frame by choosing an appropriate lens to fit to my camera.  I also thought about what I wanted to show and what was the focus of the picture, but I had constraints.  You have to be careful not to bother people and the beautiful sunshine can interfere with how fast you set your camera and how much detail is to be shown in the picture.

Sure i made some choices for creativity in this photo but ultimately i was limited by fear of bothering a human being, but I hope you can understand my only focus is what all photographers look for and all parents see – the eyes (she couldn’t take her eyes from me following their movement).

I am sure a professional (like some of those I follow) would say the composition is poor, as using a different angle I may have acquired a better angle and had less interference and other people in the shot.

When it goes wrong

So sometimes it just does not work out, what you could see with the eye is not conveyed in the final picture.  Maybe it was down to not planning, maybe it was poor execution, settings on the camera, weather or something unexpected or you were just wrong!


This photo is taken straight from the camera, so no alterations were made and provides an example of poor composition.  You might wonder what I was trying from this shot, but i could see two people enjoying themselves and nice features.  Let’s consider what let’s this image down:

  1. the massive metal thing on the left
  2. a tree affecting the background
  3. something in the bottom of the picture (it’s actually a canon)
  4. the camera is not looking at them
  5. what is the message?

As a person I am full of self doubt, a person finding his way in to the artistic element of photography, someone who often rushes and too often critical. After 1 year i have tried different cameras, lenses and techniques, but I am still human and make mistakes, sometimes i get it right.

I would like to thing my pictures show my journey of learning of photography, sometimes they tell you far more about the inner Phlogger than yourself.  Think, each photo is taken for a reason and only the best one’s are put forward and shared, but equally I don’t mind sharing the mistakes.

I believe composition is THE art of photography, it is far more important than any other element.  Those of us from non arty backgrounds find this difficult to understand and put in practise, but it can be achieved.

Hell I am only one year in and learnt so much, there is so much more to come – including my film photography (remember the old days of getting these developed)…


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