Flickr Group of the… Whatever

As a pretentious, artsy-fartsy photographer on Flickr, I have to pretend to know what I’m doing. I especially have to pretend to know all the really important rules of photographic composition (like the rule of open fifths and diminished sevenths…) Of course, you really don’t have to know the rules, you just have to know the jargon. “This photo follows the rule of thirds, but lacks negative space and is tonally jarring with poor bokeh….” If you through out the bullshit jargon quickly and confidently you will convince most everybody you are a peerless expert.

Now, if you really want to understand composition its another story entirely. You have to, I’m sorry, actually study. Like, you know, read stuff.  Another way to learn is by looking at, and learning from, other people’s photographs (you can’t learn from your own, of course, because each and every one is a masterpiece…) As you study more and more well composed photos you gradually learn what to do as well as what not to do.

This Flickr group – It’s the Composition, Flickr – is a good place to start. Certainly not every photo in the group is well composed. Many are, to my eye, at least, lifeless. But there are many well composed images, too. Your homework assignment is pick a string of ten images in the group, study them, then pick the ones you believe are well composed, and then give the reasons why…

Here are a few photos from the group I think are well composed (or not) and the reasons I think so.

Horses – 12. the two horses make an interesting subject. Notice how the image follows the rule of thirds. The placement of the smaller horse to the rear gives the photo depth. The blown out sky, with its blank whiteness, does distract, however.

You Go First Darling. This a quiet little masterpiece. Everything in the image pulls your attention to the walkers (placed according to the rule of thirds both vertically and horizontally). The image is composed of dozens of diagonals and implied triangles. Black and white is perfect for images like this.

Sobran Energias. This energetic photograph pulls in the viewer with the child’s expressive face and the riot of  strong colors. Notice the compliance with the rule of  thirds. To my eye the color could be more saturated and the contrast should be greater.

Mid Winter Sunshine. I may get in trouble for saying this (photographers do not take kindly to criticism), but this image is flat and lifeless. The branches seem haphazard with no discernible pattern. The blank blue sky is equally dull.

Rusty Pipes. At first glance this is similar to the previous photo. In compositional terms it is entirely different. Here the novel subject matter, the diagonals, textures and differing colors make this an attractive and compelling photograph.

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