Category Archives: Project 2 Visual skills

Part 1 – exercise 1.4 – frame


The final exercise of this project makes use of the viewfinder grid display of a digital camera. 

Take a good number of shots, composing each shot within a single section of the viewfinder grid. Don’t bother about the rest of the frame! Use any combination of grid section, subject and viewpoint you choose.

When you review the shots, evaluate the whole frame, not just the part you’ve composed. Take the same approach you used to evaluate the point and line exercises: examine the relationship of elements to the frame. Composition is part of form and formal analysis will be a useful skill for your exercises and assignments as you progress through the course.


Set 1

Ex 1.4 - Set 1

Set 2

Ex 1.4 - Set 2


I found this exercise a little awkward as I’m not used to just looking at a small part of the frame and ignoring the rest.

Set 1 has as its subject the no-parking sign. The top row works the best for me because there is some sense of a leading line – either the top of the hedge or the road. The middle row works less well because there is less of the leading line to assist the composition. Finally, the bottom row looks just plain strange. Therefore I should enter this row into a competition immediately 🙂

The 2nd set focuses on the bronze sculpture. The top row again works the best for me with a preference for positioning the sculpture top-left as this makes the stone plinth much more visible and I think the contrasting textures and colours also work. The middle row looks “cropped” – that is, like we’re missing something useful from a larger frame. The bottom row doesn’t work at all and just looks poorly framed.

The top-left image of the 2nd set nicely shows the effect of balance as described in Poore (1977) where a relatively small object near the edge can balance a relatively large object which is positioned more centrally. This effect becomes much weaker as the bronze is positioned in different places in the frame.

Individual Images / Set Exercise

The final part of Ex 1.4 asks the following:

Select six or eight images that you feel work individually as compositions and also together as a set. If you have software for making contact sheets you might like to present them as a single composite image. Add the images to your learning log together with technical information such as camera settings, and one or two lines containing your thoughts and observations.


Ex 1.4 - Set 3

In this case, I did a tour of a local apple orchard. As in the earlier part of this exercise, I composed around just a small part of the grid and ignored the rest. It was quite a surprise that they actually work as a set (in my opinion). There are common elements such as colour, textures and subject matter which are enough to bring the individual images together, while I think they will work as individual photos.


Poore, Henry Rankin (1977) Pictorial Composition – An Introduction. Dover Publications Inc.

Part 1 – exercise 1.3 – line


  1. Take a number of shots using lines to create a sense of depth. Shooting with a wide- angle lens (zooming out) strengthens a diagonal line by giving it more length within the frame. The effect is dramatically accentuated if you choose a viewpoint close to the line.
  2. Take a number of shots using lines to flatten the pictorial space. To avoid the effects of perspective, the sensor/film plane should be parallel to the subject and you may like to try a high viewpoint (i.e. looking down). Modern architecture offers strong lines and dynamic diagonals, and zooming in can help to create simpler, more abstract compositions.
  3. Review your shots from both parts of Exercise 1.3. How do the different lines relate to the frame? There’s an important difference from the point exercises: a line can leave the frame. For perpendicular lines this doesn’t seem to disrupt the composition too much, but for perspective lines the eye travels quickly along the diagonal and straight out of the picture. It feels uncomfortable because the eye seems to have no way back into the picture except the point that it started from. So for photographs containing strong perspective lines or ‘leading lines’, it’s important that they lead somewhere within the frame.

Images (1)

Ex 1.3 (1) Ex 1.3 (1) Ex 1.3 (1) Ex 1.3 (1)

Images (2)

Ex 1.3 (2)


Lines, lines, lines! Once I started seeing them, I couldn’t stop!

The first set of four images were shot to create a sense of depth. This is enhanced by getting closer to whatever it is that forms a line. The 2nd image (the wooden bench) gets a little soft in the distance due to the medium aperture (f/5.6) selected in auto mode – normally I would have selected a much smaller aperture to increase depth of field. The last image (the reflection in a safety mirror) is a bit tongue-in-cheek but still shows the effect of depth. In all cases, the eye is led along a line and ends up not so much as a destination, but a border – typically a dark bit of foliage. In this way, the eye isn’t drawn out of the frame.

The second set of images have a much more abstract feel, depending on how identifiable the subject is. Horizontal lines seem stable (photo 030). Pure verticals (e.g. photos 036 and 041) seem dynamic, but perhaps also a little unstable. A mixture of lines (photos 031 and 046) gives, as you’d expect, a mixed result and both may be as much about texture as they are about lines.  Freeman (2007:74) has this to say about such mixed images:


Together, horizontal and vertical lines are complementary. They create an equilibrium in the sense that their energies are perpendicular to each other; each acts as the stop to the other.

The jumble of lines given by the rooftops in photo 048 were interesting while I was taking the photo, but the end result is actually confusing because the lines don’t go anywhere, so it’s easy for the eye to be led out of the photo, especially by the left to right rising line of the rooftop which intersects with the chimney.

Diagonal lines (e.g. 042 & 050) have a sense of energy and movement. Freeman (2007:76) states that “of all lines, diagonals introduce the most dynamism into a picture.” It is quite obvious that there’s a vast difference between the shots with a diagonal element and those which consist of only horizontal lines or verticals or even a mixture of the two.

Learning Points

Lines are powerful dynamic drivers in a frame. The eye naturally picks up “leading lines” and follows them. They can be used to direct interest in a frame and to encourage the viewer not just to look, but to explore. Care must be taken, though. If a line just leaves the frame, so does the eye and somehow something seems to be unresolved.

Framing vs. Cropping

My Definitions

Framing = the choice of what to include in the photo. Governed by lens choice and camera position in relation to the subject. Chosen by the photographer when making the photo.

Cropping = selection of part of the (framed) photo perhaps to exclude something or to focus attention in a certain way.

If/when I come across a copy of American Photographs, I will be sure to check the preface to see what Leonard Kirstein wrote.


Freeman, Michael (2007) The Photographer’s Eye Lewes: ILEX

Part 1 – exercise 1.2 – point


  1. Take two or three photographs in which a single point is placed in different parts of the frame.
  2. Take a number of images in which a point is placed in relationship to the frame.


Set 1

Set 1

The first set of images are kind of trivial, but show a point-like object (a handy ball from my neighbour’s kids) in different parts of the frame. Dear centre is predictable and boring, as expected. Freeman (2007:66) suggests that ” … placing a point right in the middle of the frame may be logical, but it is also status and uninteresting, and is rarely satisfactory”. Slightly off centre somehow has a dynamic to it which makes it more interesting (but only relatively!). Placing the object right at the border looks unbalanced and unstable and I can’t help but see the connection more with the frame.

Set 2

Set 2

These photos shows what happens when another point is added. In the first case, the 2nd object is placed on the intersection of thirds in the square frame (see also my Golden Ratio posting). In the 2nd case, I wanted a more extreme view. In both cases, there is an implied connection between the two – your eye just wants to draw a virtual line between then. Präkel (2006:41) points out how ” … we create shapes from simple group of objects and that this is described by psychologists as ‘closure'”. The 2nd photo seems more unbalanced and less harmonious to my eye than the 1st, however the connection between the two is still there.

Set 3Set 3

This set shows the effect of leading lines – straight ahead in the first and obliquely in the second. In these cases, the point takes in a much bigger role in the photo than if it was isolated as in Set 1. The overlaid arrows trace the route that I believe that my eyes follow in scanning the image. The 1st image is quite obvious. The 2nd image has an element of following the diagonal on the left extreme of the paving, but there’s also a very prominent diagonal which starts in the lower middle of the frame which, if followed, means my eye then heads left at some point to meet the ball. Interestingly, when my eye reaches the ball, it stops as if the ball is itself a barrier. The somewhat dark hedge behind also helps to stop the eye, in my opinion.

Other Traced Photos

Tracing Example 1

Photo by Darryl Godfrey

Tracing Example 2

Photo by Michal Iwanowski – Rioviniu Gatve, Vilnius, Lithuania, 2013 from Clear of People (referenced in Jesse Alexander’s book Perspectives on Place).

The first photo is a series of points connected by a line. My eye traces right to left rather than the more conventional left to right. This may be because the twig intersects with the frame. The darker area top-left holds my eye within the frame. The 2nd photo has a clear, large “point” (the house) in the extreme right, but my eye starts at the lower left and proceeds along the path to the intermediate point, the person walking, before continuing. In this way, it seems that it’s possible to take the eye on a journey between points along a path.


  1. Freeman, Michael (2007) The Photographer’s Eye Lewes: ILEX
  2. Präkel, David (2006) Composition Lausanne: AVA