If Subject is the connection to the outside world and Light is the connection to the moment, then Composition is most certainly the connection to yourself. If Composition is the connection to yourself, you cannot be instructed in how to compose by someone else. Well then, you might wonder why there are so many people out there sharing instruction, engaging in conversations, and giving “tips” on Composition. The answer is that though we should not expect to receive compositions externally, we can expand our understanding of Composition and gain awareness of ourselves through discourse with others.
What beginners in photography (really in any endeavor) rarely do is think. Clearly that is a bit harsh and somewhat of an overstatement, but hopefully you can see the truth in it. The phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” helps us relate photography to writing. If you’ve ever tried to write a paper of at least a thousand words, then you know that it takes careful planning, attention to detail, understanding of audience, creativity, revision, and much more. A picture that lacks that same kind of care and thought is like a thousand word essay filled with run on sentences, loose trains of thought, backwards arguments, clutter, and repetition. In short, a photograph’s capability to portray information is only valuable if the necessary effort is invested in its creation.
Yes, you can go off the deep end and become way too analytical in your photography, thinking and thinking only to produce insipid results. Photography is an art form that is often at its best when practiced as a reaction, but we must have some intention of becoming fully engaged with our minds before engaging our shutter button fingers.
1) Try to determine if you have a goal for your photograph before you bother turning on your camera.
2) Mentally prioritize aspects of a scene in terms of importance to your photographic goal.
3) Think about what the camera will notice that you don’t, and make a careful check for problem areas.
4) Run through a checklist of “rules” with which you are familiar and decide “yes or no” for each.
5) Plan on trying a variety of compositions, if you’re not 100% certain that you can make the best choice in the field.
6) Don’t forget to have fun and relax as soon as you know you’re ready.