24.07.2020 An holistic eye

Date: 24th July 2020
Location: Isle of Wight
Category: Foto Fridays

… for composition

Last week I spoke about a technique I use to free myself from photo anxiety.

But there is more to taking a photo, than just having an idea or subject matter in mind and hushing our inner critic’s voices.

First steps

I’m sure, that most of us as photographers have at some point or another, taken courses / read books / downloaded guides about how to compose photographs using The Rule of Thirds, negative space, leading lines as well as using some of the more classic art based visual elements like contrast, texture, shape and form. If you’ve done this, you’ll know what I’m talking about. This is the natural progression from learning how to use the controls on your camera.

When we start out, I think it’s important to try these things and get familiar with how they affect the image that you are taking. This is exactly where I started 26 years ago, way back in 1994 when I began learning about photography.

However, my experience has taught me though knowing how to take a photo technically does not make a powerful or impactful image. As photographer David Du Chemin says, at some point we must “learn to think creatively, not merely technically”.

Finding your visual voice

If we want to develop a style or photographic voice (as David Du Chemin calls it in his book The Visual Voice), what needs to happen next?

I’ve mentioned more than once that for me as an holistic photographer, the common thread expressed visually in my images is the detail – my visual voice is detail. How did I arrive at this point?

At first, I tentatively took on board the technical and classical composition techniques. And my images were so often clunky, uninspired and lacking impact. But I practiced and practiced some more. Since 2014, I have done this almost every day without fail. Something can only become second nature if you do it frequently and with intention. Think about sport or playing a musical instrument.

Walking tree man

Over time, I’ve come to know the controls of my camera like the proverbial back of my hand, meaning I don’t need to worry about that aspect. It has become second nature for me to look for the details in the world around me and compose the images of these details using a juxtaposition of elements, expressed through the contrast of light and shadow, through contrasting textures and shapes, through filling the frame.

Visual expression through detail

Unpacking what I’ve just written there means I compose with these aspects in mind:

  • Light / shadow / reflection
  • Texture / pattern
  • Shape / line / form
  • Space / perspective

Detail and composition with visual elements. That’s my visual voice.


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